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Filipino furniture with a graphic style streamlines the home

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 04, 2021 5:00 am

A purity of line.  A focus on the essential.  An efficiency in the use of materials.  Authenticity.  All the hallmarks of the Urban Graphic style check all the boxes that make it relevant for the times.

Philippine designers like Kenneth Cobonpue, Eric Paras for Industria Edition, Vito Selma, Rita Nazareno and Gabriel Lichauco for Mejore have put their own spin on this style, which “is a very contemporary inspiration for urban interiors with a timeless elegance,” according to Elizabeth Leriche, who explored this trend in Maison & Objet’s Digital Days platform.  The theme credits its stylistic references to the art movements of Bauhaus and the Viennese Secession as well as elements from 20th-century modernist architecture.

 Chair by Eric Paras for Industria Edition (

Urban Graphic’s design references were turning points in history, just like the pandemic is influencing design and living today. The Vienna Secession was formed in 1897 by a group that included the symbolist, painter Gustav Klimt, and the architects Josef Hoffman and Otto Wagner who protested against a system that favored conservative artists and discouraged the practice of decorative and applied arts in favor of the traditional fine arts of painting and sculpture. 

 Easy armchair by Kenneth Cobonpue (

Just like Art Nouveau, the Secessionists encouraged an international exchange of ideas and were very inclusive, seeking to democratize art by broadening its reach and making it more accessible and understandable to people of all classes and backgrounds.

 Philippe Starck bookshelf by Vito Selma (

Bauhaus, which started in 1919, was actually influenced by the Vienna Secession’s creation of “total art” that unified painting, architecture and the decorative arts. Founded by architect Walter Gropius in Germany, the movement wanted to unify the principles of mass production with individual artistic vision and combine aesthetics with everyday function.

It resonated during a time of economic turmoil and cultural conservatism, offering the alternative of an optimistic vision of the future. It also offered the freedom of blending elements from different creative disciplines to produce unusual forms with playfulness in style.

 Stella Side Table by Rita Nazareno and Gabriel Lichauco for Mejore (

While offering this freedom, it also brings a streamlined order to the home, which makes it ideal during these times when there is so much uncertainty.  In the Urban Graphic style, the clean lines provide a universe of stability.

 Bullet Floor Lamp by Schema (

“Light structures often underlined in black or steel offer powerful effects of contrasts, associated with games of geometry, effects of emptiness and fullness, superimpositions and interlacing of lines in the service of simplicity of use,” says Leriche.  As an example, she cites Gebrüder Thonet Vienna’s turned and steamed wood furniture with contemporary rounded shapes paired with caning. 

 Damien Chair by Albero Philippines (

In the same spirit, the Stella tables designed by Rita Nazareno and Gabriel Lichauco for Mejore Philippines also use modern lines to update our traditional caning tradition.

Schema Philippines has rounded lamps with wire patterns that offer a decorative form, which can be accentuated by geometrics like the carpets of Rug Society, which follow the Urban Graphic color palette that goes from light gray to a baked orange, terracotta leaning towards hazelnut, sage, mallard green and graphite.

 Gioia sideboard by Stonesets International (

For this theme, it’s also important to mix materials in an elegant and graphic manner like Cider Editions’ tables that contrast open-work metal with marble or La Chance’s marble-top tables combined with smoked glass tops. Nature’s Legacy of Cebu uses different colors of its Marmocast upcycled from agricultural debris together with metal to create geometric patterned furniture and accessories.

Sustainability is also a priority at Noma, which commissions young designers to work with recycled tubular steel, plastic shell and polyester for their armchairs.

 Rumi Lamp by Venzon Lighting (

For lighting, the spare lines of Philippine exporter Venzon Lighting, vintage Serge Mouille fixtures, as well as those of Formagenda are perfect for the Urban Graphic theme.

For the bath, Sopha Industries’ collection of marble basins, furniture and fittings can complete a look that spells absolute relaxation after a long day.  It achieves a graphic rhythm that epitomizes this style of decorating that makes the home streamlined and easy to live in, a haven and refuge from everything that’s going on in the world.