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Good design offers numerous benefits, including its potential to enhance daily life, boost business efficiency, empower marginalized groups, and improve public spaces, according to an expert.

In this B-Side episode, Nina Santamaria, principal designer of interior design firm Grupo Santamaria, talks to BusinessWorld senior reporter Joseph L. Garcia about the benefits of good design for business, how lives can be transformed through well-planned spaces, and designing for marginalized communities.


Design cultivates joy

Ms. Santamaria defined good interior design as “use (of) a space that allows you to be the best version of yourself.”

She gave an example of a mother bonding with her children in the kitchen. “You want to enjoy finding what you need easily,” she said. “You want to talk to your kids while you’re cooking? How we will design your kitchen will enable you to do that,” she said, citing elegant solutions like kitchen islands that will allow for easier flow (instead of having a conventional stovetop and work area facing a wall). “That changes the game.”

Designing for business

A well-designed, efficient space reflects a tight ship. “In retail or in offices, good design will really help your business,” she said.

“It’s space planning.” For example, a reception area is sometimes just an afterthought, but she said, “If your clients come inside the room and they don’t know who to talk to, that’s already a turn-off. They’ll leave.”

“You’ll have a better impact on your buyers or your customers.”

Designing for the marginalized

Grupo Santamaria has planned a series of seminars this year to raise funds for renovating spaces occupied by Resources for the Blind and Children’s Joy Foundation as a way to celebrate its 20th anniversary. These sectors, often overlooked in design considerations, pose unique challenges, she said.

“The satisfaction of appreciating interior design is mostly visual,” she said. “We forget that component of ease of movement; ease of flow.”

She said that for many of the visually impaired, they still retain their other senses. “If you’re impaired visually, you have all these senses that we would like to address. It’s really a lot of touch and movement,” she noted.

For her, well-designed spaces for persons with disabilities means, “You need to be able to encourage independence as much as possible.” For the visually impaired, this means designing paths, furniture that aids in self-assistance, the reduction of sharp edges and corners, and tactile markers to aid them when moving from one space to another.

As for the indigent children from the foundation, Ms. Santamaria said that children from the ages of about three to ten have needs in their spaces that they share with children across the world, in all walks of life. “They need to have their own space,” she said. “It’s really healthier for kids, for their own development, to have a sort of (space), whether it’s just a curtain dividing the room or their own little desks where they can express their personalities.”

The purpose of interior design in public life

On a personal note, she said that a well-designed space achieves its purpose “if it makes you feel what you imagine your ideal self would be, then that’s a good space.”

How then do we apply that to the concept of nationhood? In a country riddled with bureaucracy — with old buildings that creak and crack, how does the Filipino become their ideal self? Ms. Santamaria, for example, spoke about the experience of paying taxes in a government office. “If you’re forced to fall in line in such a dirty place with no proper speaker system, and people haggling you…there’s no proper line — you’ll feel really shitty.”

“If you design it in such a way where you’re respecting the taxpayer by providing them with a well-lighted space, proper lines, a nice waiting area, an efficient speaker system…you’ll feel like you’re respected.”

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