Joan Cantemprante, co-founder of contemporary homeware store Guava Sketches shares what the perfect home is for her.
The Perfect Home
Our place of rest, our individual refuge where we mostly spend our time, where we wake up to a brand new start, where we bond with our loved ones, and where we end our day at ease. It is a space that should bring us comfort and peace, an environment that allows us to be at our most vulnerable, our truest selves. Without these factors, our abodes can hardly be considered as such, you might as well be staying at a stranger’s. However, the criteria for what makes a perfect home differs from person to person, some particular about their furniture, the order, and organization of their things, or even the tone and color that dictates their space’s overall atmosphere.
For Joan Cantemprante, co-founder of Guava Sketches, a store that showcases a wide selection of homeware pieces featuring Scandinavian and Asian brands, her basis lies first and foremost with the people she is with. After all, what is the worth of a mansion that contains the finest furniture if the ones you love are not there, what is the point of it? Aside from this, she recalls the house they inherited from their grandparents before. A dwelling that felt connected to nature through the various windows installed around the area, brought about a sense of warmth that she holds dear. It is this desire for coziness in her space that would not only inform her perception of the ideal home but would also serve as the inspiration behind her latest venture that tries to capture the warmth she had previously felt through the selection they have curated.
It’s something really personal, the things we love that we wanted to hopefully try out in the Philippine market.
Building Guava Sketches
Her journey. In the middle of a nationwide recession, a freshly graduated Joan Cantemprante who took up advertising management at DLSU struggled with landing her first job because various ad agencies were not hiring then. Luckily in 2003, she found a position as a sales associate at paul smith, launching her career in retail. A reserved and rather shy individual who was initially uncomfortable in her new field, she would eventually grow confidence after receiving guidance from her superiors, specifically on how to assist customers and understand fabrics. Eventually, she would move on from the position in 2005, becoming a trainee OIC at Balenciaga, and an OIC at Fred Perry. She would also land a position at her third UNIVERS d’homme et femme brand, acting as the Store Manager and Brand Manager of Comme Des Garçons up until 2016. It was in 2015 that she together with her sister began selling merchandise on Instagram, bazaars, and pop-ups. It was the year after that they decided to make it official, prompting her to leave her job, and giving birth to Guava Sketches.
Putting it all together. With her sister Jennifer who is a financial accountant in Singapore, the pair thought to make their love for bright Scandinavian and Japanese homeware pieces into an actual business. Starting only on Instagram, bazaars, and small pop-ups, they would eventually land their own shop in Greenbelt 3. However, as the area was due for renovation they moved to Greenbelt 5 in 2019, their home as of late. Joan takes care of the operational aspect of their venture, with Jennifer taking charge of their overall finances.
As for their name Guava Sketches, Joan initially intended for the name Alf instead, the Swedish word for elf, “they were gift givers!” she explained. Her sister found this a bit too straightforward and alternatively, she took inspiration from the Guava tree in her old house where she would play and hang around during her childhood, and Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis, her favorite track. These two bits of pieces of her would then form the two halves of their name.
The rationale behind the selection. Why Scandinavian and Japanese pieces? She shares that she encountered them from her mom who is an interior designer, and she also followed online figures such as Fine Little Day and Elisabeth Dunker who all appreciated these. Aside from recognizing their aesthetic appeal through their eye-popping colors and playful designs, she valued the functionality these brought to the table. Nowadays however, they’ve also begun to showcase locally-made products that also share the same personality that they’ve grown to love.
During the conversation, our editor mentioned how this particular selection provided an interesting perspective on our typical perception of items from those countries. Usually, products from MUJI or IKEA are clean, and minimalist and deal with neutral and dark tones such as grey, black, and brown. Cantemprante in return states that in reality individuals there live in such cold climates that they try to inject a little bit of warmth into their homes.
As you enter their shop you will see this ethos brought to life. Adorning the otherwise concrete space are wooden tables and shelves housing their wares. Nothing there is simple, from cups to tables, to clothes, to bags, and home decor, each item has its own personality that exudes warmth and screams not boring.
Doing their part for the environment. A lover of nature in her own right, she has also decided to showcase that through their business, most evidently through carefully scrutinizing each brand that they would showcase in their collection, ensuring that they give the proper care and respect to the environment. Aside from this, they’ve also done so even with their packaging, which she shares was the hardest part. Jokingly praising the utility of bubble wrap, she mentions that they found great difficulty especially with delivering fragile items. They’ve gone to great lengths to search for the most environmentally-friendly approach, going as far as to try methods such as honeycomb packaging, double-packing, and of course eco bags. While there are now more available products for the job, their dedication to look for alternatives at a time when it wasn’t so popular and cost-friendly speaks for itself.
A haven in the midst of strife
Like many businesses, Guava Sketches encountered adversity during the pandemic. They experienced a massive drop in sales, Cantemprante illustrates, “Pre-pandemic, although we had a website, sales accounted for around 30% there, and 70% at the physical shop. This reversed during the pandemic, 30% from the shop, even decreasing to around 20% at some point.” In the face of an uncertain situation, they had to find creative ways to boost sales, improve marketing, and manage inventory, all while remaining cautious of a virus that has claimed the lives of many. Luckily they found refuge in their small community of retailers who all kept each other afloat, giving much-needed updates and advice on how to best navigate the crisis.
Joan Cantemprante has found various forms of homes throughout the years. Her childhood house, her prior jobs, her community of retailers, and currently Guava Sketches. At these different points in time these homes have provided her with the care and opportunities she needed back then. Now at a place that supports what she loves and is passionate about, there is no doubt that she is in the right hands to continue sharing her vision for the ideal home with anyone looking for a little warmth in theirs.
Photography by JT Fernandez
Creative Direction and Produced by Nimu Muallam
Shot on location at Guava Sketches in Greenbelt 5