Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In Manila: Dapitan Finds (First of two parts)

Somewhere in the heart of Quezon City (Philippines), lies a mother lode of housewares and accessories. Not to be confused with the Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte, Dapitan Street in Quezon City straddles the city of Manila boundary. Sort of like a cross between a flea market and a tiangge (Filipino for bazaar) Dapitan Arcade has become popular for its rows and rows of stalls selling local handicrafts and decorative items.If you are willing to head out early in the morning, you can get there before traffic builds, and before the parking spaces fill up. The entire market is indoors in a gymnasium type situation, so there is no air-conditioning. However, the sheer amount of beautiful things filling up shelves to the rafters more than makes up for this slight inconvenience. Plus, I think this adds to the exotic bazaar experience.
Dapitan Street is located near Welcome Rotonda the boundary between Manila and Quezon City. You can also take a jeep marked Mayon from a Burger King joint along Quezon Avenue. The arcade is near the town hall, on the right side of the road

There is a wide variety of items made in every material you can think of: wrought iron, ceramic, paper-mache, metal, carved wood, terracota clay, and baskets in a variety of plant fibers. Vases, figures and baskets are stacked and sort of dumped there just like so, therefore a keen eye and some patience is required to sort through the immensity. A bulk of the items are export overruns, (pieces that did not make the export quality control). There are slight defects in some of the items, but mostly negligible and easy too overlook because of the great prices. The prices are really affordable and the store keepers are nice and accommodating. You can also haggle for a discount.

Willow lanterns for around Php 1000 or $23

Assorted baskets in water hyacinth, rope and Abaca fiber.

Colorful hanging spheres made from rope

These may not have made it to Pier 1 Imports or Pottery Barn, but they looked great to me!

Most of the items in Dapitan Arcade are also sold at retail prices at pricey home stores and department stores in the country. My sister-in-law who scored a lovely perforated ceramic vase for around Php700 ($16) was pleasantly surprised to find the exact same piece sold at Our Home Php2500 ($59)!

Long before the advent of porcelain and Chinese influence, the art of pottery was already alive and well in the Philippine islands. Travel up to the northern most parts of the island of Luzon, and you will find antique pottery done in the traditional styles of the tribal communities there. These days, contemporary pottery is remains to be an art form. Heavily influenced by different local and foreign pottery traditions and technologies, several potter/artists and groups produce glazed ceramics in the style of antique wares. This pottery style has also been introduced to the urban public through the establishment of pottery schools and regular pottery exhibitions/shows in art galleries. It has captured the upscale market that regularly supports the works of these artists.

One of the most interesting finds here are these ceramic balls. I'm still not sure whether I like them or not, but I have not argument against their cute appeal. They look great stacked in a tall clear vase, or in a basket on the coffee table where they can be picked up and held. So what is with the appeal? Well, these balls used to sit in bowls on tables for a reason. During the Victorian era, carpet bowling was all the rage. Refined ladies and gentleman would gather in the parlor and set up these carpet balls like pins across the rug for indoor bowling. Perhaps for easy reach, they were kept in bowls with the dents and marks of games added to their appeal.

Above: Ceramic balls selling for around Php 30-50 per piece (about $1 each!) at Dapitan. Below: (Most probably) the same ceramic balls selling for 6 for $38 at upscale Williams Sonoma.

Above: An abundance of glazed white serveware and teapots at dirt cheap prices. Below: Tall urns and garden ceramics.

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011

This time last year, Fine Design posted an article on International Women's Day. Last year's commemoration focused on calling attention to the hardships displaced women face due to armed conflicts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur. It's 2011 now and these issues are far from resolved; in fact, we can now add Libya to that geographic map. In any place or time in history where there is economic and political hardship, women (and children) are the most vulnerable. They are the most at risk for hunger, abuse, poverty, and all other forms of marginalization that makes it hard for them to prosper or even just to achieve their fullest potentials.

This year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. This year's theme is: "Equal access to education, training, science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women." 

There are various organizations today that work to help uplift the condition of women in impoverished and war-torn parts of the world. They provide income-earning opportunities, access to tools such as cell phones and the Internet. Access to such tools, along with education and training, can help women to break the cycle of poverty, combat injustice and exercise their rights. Most of all, it empowers them to do something to improve the health and well-being of their families.
Rwandan women weaving their famous baskets
Here's an old but nonetheless still shocking stastic. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, about one million people were massacred. After the genocide, 70% of the survivors were women. These widows who lost their husbands to war, now have to support themselves and what was left of their families. Still more are raising children alone because they have lost their husbands to HIV-AIDS, which afflicts some 250,000 people in Rwanda, a country with a population of less than 9 million. The money made from these beautiful baskets provide critical income for these women and their children. 
One such  organization is the Path to Peace Project. Perhaps you have seen those colorful woven baskets sold at places such as Costco and Macy's among others. The Path to Peace project has dramatically changed the lives of many Rwandans not only through the sale of the baskets they create but also through having a sense of purpose through this industry that they have. The Rwanda Basket Company is another example. The vision of the Rwanda Basket Company is to empower the impoverished women of Rwanda to rise above their subsistence level existence by providing them with the training, tools and support needed to sell their baskets in the west. While aid creates dependency, fair trade benefits everyone and is more valuable because it comes from what people are able to do using their skills, using their knowledge, using their strength.

The projects employ thousands of weavers who are organized locally in smaller weaving groups throughout the Rwanda. Amazingly, every group consists of both Hutu and Tutsi weavers, women from both sides of the 1994 conflict. They work side-by-side, weaving, talking, working to earn their livings and in the process, building durable, respectful relationships across barriers that once seemed insurmountable.
Courtesy of

Colorful Rwandan baskets,

For information and how to help:

In Orange County, Human Options is an organization that helps women who have faced domestic violence. To volunteer or help, check out their website:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Step Up Your Storage

Plenty of storage options with room to spare to display picture frames, knick-knacks plus other items that need to stay within easy reach. Light, airy and works in any room. These non-traditional shelves and tables are truly a step above the ordinary.

Feng Shui principles say that if two people are using the bed, matching bedside tables add stability and protection in the relationship.

Left: Reynolds table, bottom, right: Travers stepped console,
A lot of people have taken to storing things under their beds that there are now merchandise such as bed raisers (to increase the space under your bed for storage purposes) and thin storage boxes that slide under the bed. However, I found out that Feng Shui states otherwise! According to Feng Shui principles, a bed must  have a good height above the ground. This allows for a balanced feng shui chi or energy to flow under the bed. In addition, you must not have built-in storage drawers underneath your bed!  The reason behind is that, the energy or chi needs to circulate around your body when you are sleeping, which is not possible if the space underneath your bed is being blocked.

In Feng Shui, stairs convey motion and energy or chi from one level to another. Chi is brought up or down and distributed throughout the house using the stairs, and thus the placement of the stairs affects family fortune and unity.

Left: Marseille Stairway accent table,


Tips for Arranging a Ladder Bookshelf
Go from small to large. When arranging a ladder bookshelf, place the larger, heavier items on the bottom, going lighter as you go up the steps. 

Arrange the shelves so that all parts of a collection are kept together. This will help balance out the entire group of shelves and attract the eye toward specific colors or shapes.  

Right: Studio wall shelf,
Create interest. Place one or two eye-catching items on each shelf so that the eye moves throughout the vignette. Strive to create balance by making sure both left and right sides are more or less equal in terms of visual weight. If you have a large piece on the left side, balance it by placing two or three small items on the right side.

Left: Hampshire step table,
According to Feng Shui, Chi can miss the corners of a home and create a lack of energy. By filling an overlooked corner of the house with an object such as a plant, a lamp or a table, energy is attracted. How about a corner bookshelf?

Right: Sawhorse Collection corner bookshelf,

Feng Shui or otherwise, the open design of these shelves take storage and display out of the ordinary.

Left: Logan 4-tier shelf,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Put Colors Together

One of the most refreshing things I see everyday are little toddlers dressed in the most outrageous color combinations. They do not stop to think about which color goes with what--when allowed to dress themselves, they usually pick out whatever strikes their fancy. When she was a toddler herself, my daughter would always declare that 'rainbow' was her favorite color. As we grow older, we somehow turn into color-phobic adults. We paint our homes beige and feel our most dressed up in black. We lose our ability and our moxie to put together fresh, colorful and (gasp!) playful palettes. We resign ourselves to a neutral environment because, "I just don't know which colors go with what."
Looks as good as a box of crayons: A row of colorful houses in Baltmore, Maryland.

Does black go with navy? Does pink go with red? Does red go with purple? Can I mix gray with brown? Yes to all.
Saturated jewel tones go together on a white sofa. Photo credit:
Swirl rug,

When putting colors together, there are two basic things to remember: saturation and tone. Most colors will go together nicely as long as they don't clash in terms of saturation and tone. Saturation is the intensity or value of the color. For example, a pastel peach may be a de-saturated version of a bright orange, and a rich eggplant is a saturated version of a pale lavender. Tone is the underlying color beneath a color. For example, a spring green fern frond has yellow undertones and a dark green pine tree has more of a blue undertone. Colors will go together nicely when they are more or less of the same saturation and similar undertones. Several pillows covered in different colors but in the same intensity will still look nice together. Another option would be to stay in the same color family and vary the intensity of the color, like in a monochromatic scheme. Yet another option would be to have different items of different colors but the same undertone, for example, a green with blue (emerald) undertones and a purple that leans more towards blue than red (eggplant).  The trick is to have one thing that unifies them--saturation, hue or undertone. The result? Interesting, unstudied and never boring.

One color using very slight variations in tone create a cool, soothing and quiet mood.  
Rich and deep purple and orangey gold look smashing together.
 Photo credits above:

Jonathan Adler is perhaps the best designer when it comes to breaking out the crayola colors. His rooms always look put together, and yet gorgeously unstudied. He achieves this in part through the use of unexpected and playful color combinations that look 'thrown together.'

Adler's design for Barbie's Malibu dream house

Adler's own condo

Another one by Adler: Several colors, similar saturation: Vibrant and interesting.
Photo credits, top to bottom: