Mind of a Millennial Designer

Meet Paula Concepcion, a millennial interior design graduate from UST. For Paula, interior design isn’t just about beauty – it’s about upgrading people’s lifestyles through space design to achieve harmony and balance.

Paula 1 picture from Paula Concepcion.jpg

Your living or work space has a psychological effect to you and the people around you, which is why she believes proper design is important.  “Function dictates beauty and design,” is also one of her principles, as she notes that making a pretty space is more than just copying a photo – it requires a lot of planning, coordination and calculation to make sure the space is useful and not just visually appealing. People need to design with more than their eyes.

Thoughts on Sustainability:

Paula has an interesting take on sustainability: reduce construction material waste and replacements. Whenever a structure is built or renovated, there is a lot of material wastage. “Where does it go? It just becomes trash.” She shared candidly. The Philippines contributes a lot to the trash in the ocean and part of that trash probably comes from our construction sites.

All construction materials are made from natural resources that are extracted from the earth. Every time someone makes a mistake and needs to change something, or every time low quality materials are used only to be replaced months later, we waste time, money and natural resources. We increase our carbon footprint.

This can all easily be prevented, if construction professionals make some changes in the way they work. If people plan better then there are less mistakes. Decision makers should also consider using quality materials to save in the long run.

“Sustainable design is important,” Paula says, but acknowledges that there could have been more subject matter taught when she was in school. The industry is lagging behind and needs to catch up on knowledge so that more buildings can incorporate sustainable design. If the professional designers don’t know, then who will tell the project and building owners?

Another principle on sustainability she has is making sure that designs look harmonious with nature. Designs that blend in with their environment are her preference in style.

Favorite Project:

Paula has done nearly a dozen projects – residential units and restaurants but is most enthusiastic about Cafe Viola, Tagaytay, which she helped design. It was in this project here she was able to work with someone who was passionate about the same things – using refurbished material and turning it into something new.

Cafe Viola 1
Picture from http://www.pinterest.co.kr

This shared passion made the brainstorming and purchasing process fun. “It was very tiring but also very rewarding.” The experience required her to do international sourcing of materials and brought her to new destinations.

The project was very fulfilling, especially because she saw the project through from paper to becoming operational. Part of the experience that made it so rich was spending time with the actual construction workers. When they saw how their work became something beautiful, they were also inspired and happy. They got better at what they did during the process.

Paula made sure that the workers were treated well, which in turn made them perform even better (despite the long hours).


In this project she was able to maximize her creativity and use her favorite material – reclaimed wood. “In Café Viola we used refurbished wood for the face of the counter.  We found this piece of wood by a railway in manila. It was abandon so we took it and refurbished it.” Its not your usual buy-at-the-home-depot experience by Paula proudly says that designers also need to know how to roll up their sleeves and do some dirty work. The result was a beautiful counter and a lot of savings. There’s less waste if we look for treasures in others trash.

refurbished wood that they found on the train track

Tough Parts of the Job

The most challenging part of being a designer is the planning. You need a 2nd opinion all the time because you won’t see all the angles. With so many moving parts, another set of eyes helps and that’s why having a reliable team is a must.

Even as an educated designer, staying humble is important because occasionally, even construction workers might have better ideas in terms of executing the designs or pointing out practical improvements. “Everyone learns from each other, you can’t be too attached to your design because it might change…and there are always revisions.” What you learn, you can take on with you to the next project, Paula added.

planning with the team - photo from paula c.jpg

To minimize revisions, it is best to think ahead and try to get to know your client, space and environment well. Proper planning will reduce revisions and allow quicker execution and financial savings in the long run.  (not to mention less headaches)

Another challenge that she noticed in the industry are clients that don’t value the services of designers. She says that it might be some customers have received very bad service from or screwed over by other designers in the past, and so they are wary of paying designer fees. Its also possible that most people don’t understand the complexity of interior design.

To counter this, being very professional with details about the project is something that is a must. Explaining things to the client and helping them learn creates value. Its best that all designers strive to be as professional as possible, so that the profession as a whole becomes well respected. “If you’re having a tough time in a project, instead of making mistakes, why no collaborate and share work and revenue with other experienced designers?” is one idea that Paula floated.

How the Industry Can Improve

Paula has many practical ideas for improving the industry, starting with the suggestion that more people get websites. It would make it easier for clients to find them.

Another point for improvement is planning, as she noticed that people tend to rush most projects. Creativity is a process and it needs a certain amount of time before it can come to life. Great and beautiful things in this world always take some time and effort to create. Proper planning can also lead to less arguments. When mistakes in the construction process occur (and they always do) she notes that many of them are preventable with a little more planning and coordination.

A third suggestion is balancing high standards with professionalism and kindness. Although the process can be stressful, it is not a reason to mistreat construction workers, who are key to making any project a success.

Finally she hopes that the industry also pushes standards for construction higher. “Don’t lower construction standards just because clients want something cheaper or faster. Work with client and use your voice; share with them what you studied. Help them learn. Many designers underestimate their own knowledge.”

Message for cons first timers:

For those doing construction for the first time, Paula suggests comprehensive research before taking action. One should also look for a good team or mentor; someone who has the same vision/passion as you for the project to be a success. These will make the project easier and reduce stress.

She also suggests to stay open to learning and listening to others, regardless of educational background.  There is so much to learn – its endless learning. You need to stay humble.

Regarding materials, don’t expect cheap materials to perform like the high end ones. Your get what you pay for.

Paula at her best.jpg

Industry Direction:

When asked about where the industry was headed, Paula said that it was definitely looking good. People are accepting the importance of design. There’s so much demand! We just need to improve as a community of construction professionals so that things are done well. Collaboration between designers and professionals is key to this, and something that Paula thinks millennials will be more open to.

People are also using more refurbished items and trips to places like Dapitan or Bangkal are becoming more popular to get pieces with personality.

Paula currently works at Emesae Design Corp, a company known for large hospitality projects. If you would like to get in touch with her, please contact her at +639985527414 or email at concepcion.paulabianca@gmail.com

If you want to continue the conversation, please email us at avdcustomercare@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you. We are also looking for architects and interior designers to interview.

Here are more photos of Paula’s favorite project.