Elegance in an eclectic mix

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Interior designer Chat Fores shares her ideas on how to have a stylish home.

Unlike many precocious preschoolers, Chat Fores already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. What’s more, it was not a career choice that was common at that age group.

“I wanted to be an interior designer at the age of 5. My mom would make me read her copies of Architectural Digest. I just fell in love with all the pictures and how each space was dressed up.”

Because of this influence, her childhood idols were Vicente Wolf, John Saladino, Juan Montoya, avid Hicks, Michael Taylor and Peter Marino.


Her mother encouraged her interests, she says. She was made to take art classes in Sining Kamalig and took up pottery with John Pettyjohn.

“At the age of 12, my birthday gift from my mom was a small budget to renovate my room on my own,” she recalls. “Interior design has been a part of my everyday life…even before I took the course. I was given the freedom to fix up the house when I was bored during my high school summers.”

After graduating with an Interior Design degree from the Assumption College, she joined Leandro V. Locsin and Partners to train under the architectural department. “The six-year training I had with the firm, I considered my extended education,” she adds.

In 2002, she struck out on her own, launching Chat Fores Design Studio, which has grown to service many residential and hospitality clients, including the lobby and all the amenity floors of the Gramercy Residences and Trump Tower, and an ongoing project with Novotel.

Elements of surprise

When it comes to her design philosophy, Chat admits to loving a little drama. “I like putting in nice surprises in different spaces. I believe that there is no right or wrong in design. It’s very subjective. The main goal in designing a space is to create a comfortable interior that’s beautiful. What’s important is that the client is happy.”

She also likes to veer away from a cookie-cutter approach.

“I believe the homeowner should have their personal touch in their home even with an interior designer involved. I advise my clients that items need not come from just one era. Do not be afraid to mix things. A very modern Cappellini console can go very well with a Grecian bust. What is important is to follow the basic
elements in interior design: form, lines, proportions, color and harmony.”

Popular design styles really depend on the client’s age and lifestyle, she explains. While common requests from her clients are midcentury modern mixed with older pieces or very clean contemporary furniture with some Asian touches, she really coaxes her clients to infuse their personality into their living space.

“I don’t really believe in trends. I design according to the client’s needs then I inject my design aesthetics. I do believe in investing in nice things such as furniture, art and decor that will last a lifetime.”

Speaking of nice things, she says that the most expensive details she has included in her designs are definitely decorative. “More or less, it’s usually the artwork. Then there have also been furniture pieces such as sofas, dining tables or the chandeliers. Sometimes, it’s a small piece such as a gem-encrusted Faberge egg!”

Shoestring changes

Of course, not everything has to cost a pretty penny. She has these tips for homeowners who want to update their living space look on a budget.

“First, fix the lighting. Try to get a warmer mood for the home. Then, make sure the colors you have aren’t too mixed up since this can make your home look dated. Try to rearrange the furniture. This normally does the trick if you just reposition pieces. Try to avoid clutter by removing unwanted stuff. Try to build a better collection of furniture and decor slowly. Pick nice art that need not be expensive. While you are at it, get artwork that you really like and are not just forced into. This can be done slowly since collecting pieces shouldn’t be done abruptly.”

She is also a treasure trove of ideas for moving into your first home. “First think of comfort. Don’t force yourself to like things because they are trendy. Pick furniture that is of good quality. Decor should be timeless or if not, then dramatic. Choose pieces that create an impact. They don’t have to be a lot…even just a few impactful pieces can make a difference.”

Make furniture work for you

If that first home happens to be a condo unit, she advises looking for storage space options.

“You have to make your furniture work for you. It has to adapt to comfort and storage. Beds now can be lifted to reveal a storage space underneath. Dining tables can be folded back into a wall and turned into a shelf. Desks can be pulled down to reveal a bed.”

Utilize every space you have, she urges. If the ceiling is high, you can use the upper portion as storage space. Strategic lighting can create drama and make the place look bigger. Use of mirrors can enhance pieces in the space, she adds.

Taste: the difference

Color combo-wise, peach and mint green does not work for her at all. She looks for something crisp such as bottle green, electric blue and violet as accent colors to her usual favorites of cream, taupe and grey. The designer believes that taste is inborn. “Although, I also think that this can be honed or developed even further through exposure—one must read a lot, travel, watch movies and even just shop around.”

Taste need not be expensive, she underscores.

“It’s a matter of choosing the appropriate pieces for the space. Try to go around and shop in different home stores and specialty shops. Read interior design magazines and books and get inspired by beautiful spaces.”
When asked about the best part of her job, she readily admits that it is all the shopping that she has to do.

“I love going to Manilafame and checking out what’s new in the local market. Prizmic and Brill, Firma, Ac+632, and A-11 are my go-to places. I try to find home stores abroad. My favorite haunts are the small shops in Europe that carry specialty pieces that are handmade.”

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