Even at the tender age of six, interior designer Geraldine Verga was fascinated with design. “I remember my fixation with my mom’s House Garden and Sunset magazines. I fell in love with Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair and Eero Arnio’s Ball Chair from the first time I saw them. I was only 6 years old then!”
Although Geraldine was interested in arts and design at an early age, her years in a science high school gave her a different set of priorities. She ventured far from her earlier inclination and pursued a degree in Business Administration at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. It was during this time that she rediscovered her childhood dreams. “I hung out at the school library and I just buried myself in interior design and architecture books”. However, she did not act on her impulse yet. “I graduated and worked for a couple of years before I finally mustered up the courage to leave my job and enroll at Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID).”
“I realized that for me to become a really good designer, it’s not enough to be self-taught. Going to a good design school hones the skills you have to acquire and establishes discipline because you’re being trained under premier interior designers of the country. It also reinforces your talent because of the friendly competition with people who have the same interests”, Geraldine muses. She thanks her parents for supporting her “second round” of schooling. “I made sure that they got their money’s worth by working hard. My group received the Best in Thesis award upon graduation and I ranked 3rd in the 2008 board exam”, she explains.
Geraldine then worked as a consultant for a realty company for around a year. “It was more on the technical aspect of design which was a major learning experience for me because I worked with different types of engineers, architects and designers”, she explains. After around a year at the company, she was offered a teaching position at PSID. “It was the perfect designer of the month opportunity to give back to the school that has honed and nurtured my talent. I never thought that I could teach, and up to now, there are times when I still cannot fathom the idea but I enjoyed it from the moment I stepped into the classroom”, she says. As a matter of fact, Geraldine has invested so much in her craft that she gets teary-eyed of the thought of not seeing her first batch of students again after graduation.
Apart from being a teacher and freelance interior designer, Geraldine conducts design workshops for friends and colleagues. She turns to her parents, former teachers and design icons to help her stay on the right track. “My father dispenses good and sensible business advice. On the other hand, I take after my mother because she is creative as well. She went to a fashion design school when I was very young and she used to make all of our clothes”, Geraldine explains. She also cites her teachers as role models. “They’re always generous with their design advice. Not only do they teach design principles, they teach good values and professional behavior by example as well.” Finally, she names myHome editor-in-chief Jie Pambid, local interior designers Cynthia and Ivy Almario and Frenjick Quesada and international designers Nate Berkus, Jonathan Adler, Kelly Hoppen and Kelly Wearstler as her inspirations.
Asked about her definition of design, Geraldine simply states that, “Design is about intelligent freedom. I say intelligent freedom because you do not just put in everything that looks good. Otherwise, it’s just mish-mash and clutter. You incorporate a cohesive style along with balance and harmony of all of the design elements.” She also says that everything a person owns should reflect his or her personal style. Never mind the trends, never mind what’s in. Ask yourself what type of space you can actually live and breathe in. A designer only interprets what’s in your mind, you cannot let him dictate how you’re going to move in your space.
Geraldine classifies herself as a utilitarian. “Whenever I design, I always think of the long-term consequences of materials that I choose, thinking about how often they have to be cleaned, laundered or changed. I prefer a modern, clutter-free, contemporary but classic look.” For those that are looking to follow in her footsteps, she says, “God favors the humble. In this industry, you cannot afford to have an attitude. Be firm and assertive but don’t be an ingrate. No one became a success without the help of others.”
Geraldine also says that smart people learn from their own mistakes but wise people learn from the mistakes of others. “You do not have to make mistakes that other people have made. In the design industry, mistakes are costly so listen to the experts because they know better. Sometimes, the young designers get too excited or carried away with their avant-garde ideas that they forget the architectural and structural specifications.”
Finally, Geraldine tells people who want to be a part of the field to discover their own niche. “Don’t be discouraged by the ever-growing population of interior designers. There’s room for everyone in the industry – you just have to look for a market that will patronize your designs”, she says. As for her, she has come from reading her mother’s design magazines to actually being featured in similar titles and she has found her own place and position in the world.
Written by Therese Dehesa
Photographed by Ron Mendoza (portrait), John Daniel Garcia and Karen Iledan (interiors)