By Joseph L. Garcia
Presented by Philippine School of Interior Design
Oct. 3 to 31
Ronac Lifestyle Center, Paseo de Magallanes, Magallanes Village, SLEx, Makati City

AS MUCH as your personality largely depends on your experiences as a human being, part of who you are is also built up by the things you love and have. In an era of increasingly small living spaces brought upon by megalithic condominiums containing small studio apartments, the Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID) gave its students a challenge: how do you fit a person’s life into 24 square meters (sq.m.)?

18.2 - The Mechanic
The mechanic

This is the goal of PSID’s annual exhibit, this year called Studio24, featuring the work of its graduating students. Each group was given 24 sq.m. to work on in the Ronac Lifestyle Center along Paseo de Magallanes. The exhibit was divided into three main categories: Ladies’ Lairs, Man Caves, and Perfect Pairings. Each category is made up of eight rooms representing archetypes (adding up to 24 rooms in all), examples including: The Romantic Writer, the Goth, and The Newlyweds.

“It’s really answering the need of practically everybody — at least 24 types of everybody,” said Pojie Pambid, the dean of PSID, during an interview with BusinessWorld on Sept. 24. “For instance, if you’re a tattoo artist, what do you need?”

“Another condo is being put up, and then, directly across from it is another condo that’s going to be put up,” he said, discussing where he got the inspiration for this year’s exhibition. “That got me thinking [that] condo living, especially in the city, is not going to be out of style. People who have homes in Alabang, sometimes would have a condo in Makati City, because of the traffic. That’s already our way of life. So how do we make it better?

“This is just my halfway house… but as it turns out, I spend more time there than my real home in Alabang,” he said in a mixture of English and the vernacular. He added, “Everytime we have exhibits like this, we make it a point… not just [to] present good spaces, but… tackle an issue.” In previous years, PSID has done exhibits featuring homes for the disabled, and homes that feature sustainable design.

14.2 - The Spinster Sisters
The spinster sisters

“It’s really an answer to what we feel would be a design problem in the future. Since space is a very precious commodity… for people to be able to afford a space, they have to limit the size,” he said, adding, “This is what we want to be able to prove, to exhibit to audiences that regardless of how small or how big [a space available]… in the hands of good design and good designers, then you’ll be able to really maximize the space.”

When we think of functional spaces and storage, we tend to picture bland cubes which reveal, with the push of a button or the pull of a lever, cleverly concealed sinks, beds, and books. Although these design features were present in many of the rooms presented (such as a TV set that could be pulled down from the wall to reveal a bed), it was a surprise to see that scrimping on space doesn’t mean skimping on yourself: for example, recessed shelves, a bathtub in front of the bed, and a wash stand on the dressing table (instead of the bathroom) saved space and showed the flamboyance of the Classy Dame, in a rich bedroom fit for flamboyant novelist Barbara Cartland.

“You need to choose which ones you’re going to hide, an which ones you need the most,” noted Mr. Pambid. He added, “I think, one of the [reasons] why people hire designers is because they want their lifestyle manifested in what they move into, the space that they move around in.”

Since Mr. Pambid describes space as a “precious commodity,” it’s inevitable that good design begins to factor in matters of economics. In this exhibit, saving space becomes a way for one to save money, as well.

The Retirees
The Retirees

“Small spaces, there’s a negative vibe attached to [them],” said Mr. Pambid. “Instead of a two-[ton] aircon, you can live with a one-horsepower one, and that’s okay. So it cuts your cost,” he said in a mix of English and the vernacular. “Let’s say you’re buying a bed and a sofa. That’s two different costs. But if your bed can convert into a sofa, then you’re just paying for one [item]. That’s the economy of space.

“[It all] depends on what you have; what you need. This is always going to be the key. Based on what you have, and what you need — what can you afford? Because again, that’s where the interior designer will come in… if you can marry the three together, in this 24-sq.m. space, then it’s not only the economy of space, but also it’s aesthetic,” he said. “A small space now becomes an advantage.

“You’re not just selling the unit; you’re selling the lifestyle,” he added.

The exhibit is open to the public.