Cover Flourishing foliage and outdoor furnishings make the spacious terrace extra inviting

President of furniture company Philux and newly minted author Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez takes us through her unique family apartment in Manila, which puts nature and sentiment at the core of its design

“A warm and beautiful home is an extension of your identity,” declares Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez, president of Philippines-based furniture brand Philux. “Thoughtful layering in interiors that blend form, function and sentiment gives meaning to a space.” Wife of businessman Christian Gonzalez, and mother of three beautiful daughters, she takes a very personal approach to the decor as reflected in the pages of her book, Embracing Natural Design, recently published by Rizzoli. Filled with pages of inspiring imagery, intimate musings and advice drawn from her own experiences as well as those of notable professionals, her book is a repository of creative ideas.

The design maven was born into the furniture business; her parents, Max and Zelda Kienle, co-founded Philux, starting out with rattan pieces made in their garage. After a university stint abroad, Gonzalez came back to join the family company and today works alongside her sister, Jessica Kienle Maxwell. The formidable duo have expanded their family business hand-in-hand; however, it was only when she took on the challenge of designing her own home that Gonzalez was able to truly hone her own aesthetic.

Read also: 5 Items from Rosanna Ocampo's Philux Collection

“I find designing a home to be an incredibly creative and tantalising process, putting together the skills of many people to help shape your vision and turn it to reality,” she writes in her book. “Because a home is a sacred, personal space that grows and evolves with your life story, where you can be your truest self, where you feel at peace—inspired and surrounded by the things and people you love.”

Read also: A Minimalist House Built With Eco-Conscious Materials

What is most striking about Gonzalez’s home are the swaths of light that flood the space from all angles. Perched on one of the higher floors of a luxury tower in the heart of Manila, the duplex unit features full-length windows, high ceilings and a spacious terrace, offering a sanctuary of peace in a congested urban jungle. “I love natural light because it brings good energy into space; but when it comes to more decorative lighting, it’s so important to set a mood, particularly in the evenings. We also love our art, so we need to give that soft lighting to highlight the pieces.” Gonzalez worked closely with lighting designers Mark Wilson and Nikki Escalona-Tayag of local firm Wilson Escalona Design to put together what the homeowner calls “a cohesive lighting concept that addressed the needs to the existing architecture”.

When the couple purchased the apartment, there was a significant amount of work that had to be done. From plumbing and electrical works to the installation of more energy-efficient cooling systems, they collaborated with architect Alfred Wieneke to help them navigate the intricacies of the renovation and create a fresher and more modern space, notably by re-engineering the staircase, concealing exposed beams and following an open plan. She also engaged the help of interior designer Isabel Lozano to help with interior finishing and furniture sourcing.

“We knew we were going to stay here for many years, so we really needed to invest in the renovation and the structure. Then we had to think about our lifestyles, and how to maximise the space for the needs of our family. Quality is one of the core values of Philux, and I decided to apply this to my own home. I would rather have a bare space and save up for pieces I truly love. The nice thing is that layers can come over time and be more authentic. Quality pieces can also be repurposed over the years, which is also a reflection of my sustainable ideals.”

This echoes Gonzalez’s design ethos, where nothing is frivolous, and every choice is made with intent and purpose. Not one detail is overlooked, including the light switches from Buster and Punch, which were flown in from the UK. “I loved their retro feel and mixed metal finishes,” she says.

Read more: Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez Reveals Her First Book on Life, Design, and Style

Heirlooms mixed with sentimental travel purchases and hand-painted crafts by her children are anchored by iconic design pieces such as a moss green B&B Italia Camaleonda sofa by Mario Bellini, which sits in the den, and the Russian birch Trancas credenza in the dining area by Kelly Wearstler. “Objects tie your look together; the small details make your space original and authentic. I love the idea of creating a home for inspiration and not as a showcase. The elements in it should move you, and convey aspects of your life, personality and individuality.”

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  • PhotographyScott A Woodward
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