ASKED IF exhibitor Jude Tiotuico saw any trend in the Manila Now International Furniture Show, he candidly replied, “Whatever sells.”
Some outspoken members of the Chamber of Furniture Industries Inc. acknowledged that despite the show’s green theme, many exhibitors focused on salability instead of innovation.
The financial crunch in the West has been throwing a damper on local fairs, reflecting the sharp decline in visitor count. As foreign buyers take a conservative approach to spending, local manufacturers must produce pieces that cater to the market instead of pushing the envelope in design.
This year, the withdrawal of government support cast a dark cloud, making it impossible for small and mid-range manufacturers to join the show.
Fewer manufacturers exhibited at Manila Now this year, and introduced fewer new products than usual as a result of cut-backs in research and development. Many of the materials had to be sourced abroad.
It was no wonder there were no clear directions in design, and that many of the products were rehashes.
Still, there were manufacturers who made the effort to inject novelty and freshness, keeping sustainability issues in mind.
Homage to nature
Ra Kendra pays tribute to organic forms with its pebble collection.
Designed by naturopath Ravi Singh, the fiberglass coffee tables mimic the contours of the riverstone, but updated with copper leaf and gilded finish. Meanwhile, scraps from capiz manufacturers are turned into lighting fixtures.
Rashmi Tolentino-Singh calls it “upcycling,” as the wastes are transformed into functional and aesthetic products.
Updating the classic
Betis furniture is synonymous with traditional, flamboyant handcarving. Betis Crafts and its sister company, JB Woodcraft, have modernized their styles by playing with proportions while retaining their trademark ornate look.
Both companies use local mahogany, a sustainable material, infused with modern finishes.
Betis Crafts has introduced lighter colors such as grey combined with surprise elements, like the color pink, bold rococo patterns on headboards, and Belgian fabrics for upholstery.
For the living room setting, the furniture is stained in warm brown with silver accents and subtle diamond patterns. The upholstery is a modern, neutral shade. The veneer lamp has an old-fashioned design derived from a family crest, but paired with modern fabric lampshade.
JB Woodcraft tapped Swedish artisan and antiques restorer Per Larsson to do the gilding for furniture, done the old-fashioned way, using egg white and rabbit’s glue mixed with 22k gold.
A conversation piece is the reproduction of a baroque pedestal, enlarged as coat rack.
Under the partnership of Eric Paras and Jack Tiotuico, Industria has become known for vintage styles using metals with weathered finish. Mid-century-style chairs are interpreted in jigsaw puzzle patterns.
Paras designed a booth using corrugated board as background to make the vintage-looking furniture pop out. Tiotuico’s award-winning side table has classic shape, using a black iron tin base to hold up the recycled cement slab top. The beige chair is another throwback to the old centuries, with old-fashioned turned legs. The flat metal strips woven into the seat bring it to the 21st century.
New ways with rattan
For Las Palmas, Paras enhances rattan by lightening the shades, and uses the material in new ways. Veering away from conventional designs, Paras bends and uses rattan for fretwork in the cabinet, or as ornate callado design on the mirror frame, or curvaceous base for Art Deco table.
Rene Alcala’s decorative mirrors in capiz shell are spruced up with new materials, such as black glass and kamagong. The shell mirror frames have evolved into boxes and lighting fixtures.
For Peter Paul mirrors, the patterns are bolder, to grab attention.
Mixing salvaged wood with metal is nothing new. But to Far East Furniture, a European company with a factory in Pampanga, it’s all about creating atmosphere.
An exhibit area features “Oasis,” whose key piece is an oversized coffeetable made of old railroad tracks and curved stainless steel legs. In keeping with the recycling theme, the seaters are upholstered in recycled leather and velvet patchwork. Resin lamps are painted to resemble metal.
Carlo Cordaro, designer and CEO of Cebu-Filveneer, uses classic Filipino caning. He uses plantation oak from Slovenia, which has a certification of sustainability. The caned chair works if you don’t use air conditioning.
“I wanted the simplicity and comfort of seating without the sweating,” he says. “In this age of technology, wouldn’t it be nice to curl up on this chair and a read a printed book?”
The side table is made of fossil oak.
Instead of cutting down trees, he uses petrified wood from the soil and stains it with veneer.
Outdoor furniture need not be boxy and boring. Locsin International has produced playful shapes using weather-resistant polyethylene.
Tony Gonzales’ Mayan Lounge capsule is eye-catching, while providing coolness and coziness.
Designer Leo Saño substitutes real wicker for the synthetic version. The chair’s silhouette is made striking by the repetitive circles, while the table base shows the star pattern.
Designer Ann Pamintuan has always favored metal, an eco-friendly material. While most manufacturers produce the same style over, she updates her signature wire framing. Her cross-woven table becomes a wall tapestry, while her latest ottomans are more curvaceous, inspired by the heart and with a more textured finish.