Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — You’d be forgiven for feeling more like a guest than a customer upon entering the showroom of Mozaic Living. The word inviting, in particular, comes to mind, as you take in the sweeping windows that allow natural light to give the area a pleasant brightness and beckon passersby to come in and stay awhile. Another immediate standout is the store’s front door; something’s different about it, you’d be inclined to think. It’s difficult to place, but it might be that it’s wide and made of solid wood, instead of the narrow glassiness found in most retail establishments. It’s a welcoming — and welcome — presence that evokes a sense of home.
It’s a sentiment that echoes that of the shop’s director, Francine Gacrama. “We want the showroom to be a reflection or extension of our clients’ own homes,” she says. In a sense, Mozaic Living is the little furniture store next door, located just off Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong, conveniently close to residential buildings, apartment compounds, and actual houses. There’s a certain inherent comfort in the 200-square-meter space’s white walls and high ceiling, accentuated by a loft that’s of a rather dreamlike quality. Displays take on a lived-in look, complete with coffee-table books (and on actual coffee tables, at that), magazines, lamps, geometrical mirrors, and decor ranging from plants and terrariums to table-friendly sculptures and ocean paintings by the artist Tammy de Roca.
The key pillars
The conception of Mozaic Living was brought about by the drive to cultivate homegrown but world-class products and to support artists, designers, and builders from different parts of the country who all share the same passion. This accounts for one of the store’s two key pillars: community. “We have always believed in the craftsmanship and the budding talent of the Philippines,” Gacrama explains. “For us, it’s about giving artists a platform to thrive and build themselves career-wise.”
The other half of the store’s identity lies in its soul, which Gacrama says can be found in the furniture itself. “When designing and constructing furniture with passion, you soon learn that each piece has its own unique personality,” she says. “And when all your discussions, sketches, and ideas all come to life into this one beautiful piece of furniture, you then start to realize that it is no longer just a piece of wood — it’s now got its own soul.”
Curation and creation
The designers at the store pride themselves in their bespoke furniture, which exemplifies all sorts of styles from different eras and cultures. The ability to adapt to and satisfy their clients’ every whim is serious business. “We want people to know that we have the potential to customize and mix materials without completely sacrificing aesthetic,” Gacrama says. “Our clients’ happiness and experience is our number one priority, so we try to bring their imagination to life by providing customizable pieces that are timeless and at the same time functional.”
For all the versatility and ingenuity, Gacrama notes that since the beginning, there has been one unifying factor at the heart of Mozaic Living, and it’s consistent with the aforementioned pillar of community. “When curating items and various partners,” she says, “the number one consideration we make is: Is this item locally made?” Each piece of furniture is available in limited quantities, created by in-house designers and 100-percent sourced from and handcrafted in the Philippines.
The latest collection, launched in April, combines mid-century and contemporary features. The focus on wood as a material, along with neutral colors and accents, gives the pieces a clean, calming look about them. “The concept behind this collection is to showcase our capabilities and the key pieces that have inspired us this season,” Gacrama explains. It was a team effort that didn’t make narrowing down choices any easier but ultimately paid off, resulting in an array of distinct but complementary pieces.
Standouts include the Felix stools, which can be stacked to form neat, cylindrical side tables; the Dallas hexagon coffee table; the Presley side table, which involves naturally cut mango wood on triangular black metal legs; the Taylor armchair, with its mahogany legs and pastel blue woven fabric; and the Levi couch, which has a rustic boxlike mahogany back and wheat woven cushions. However, the arguable — and, in terms of the showroom’s layout, literal — centerpiece is the Acacia slab table, naturally cut with a unique shape and a laminated finish. The table is surprisingly comfortable, what with a height and sturdiness that’s perfect for both lounging and getting work done.
The lamps, mirrors, and decor are also available for purchase, as are bath and body products by Ysabel’s Daughter. Mozaic Living even lives up to its name by selling decorative trays with real mosaic elements, proceeds from which go to the NVC Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide less privileged children proper nutrition and quality education along with livelihood opportunities for their parents.
A major thing that sets the store apart is its deviation from the often very blatant policy of its peers against perusing the displays. “We encourage that [people] sit on the furniture,” Gacrama says. “We want to give them the opportunity to touch, see, and feel each piece, providing them with a unique experience. We want them to take their time.”
And what better way to take one’s time than with a cup of coffee? Just below the loft stands Caffeined, Mozaic Living’s in-house cafe operated by the staff themselves. “We decided that a cup of coffee was the best way to [bring the design and build community together], hence the birth of [the cafe],” Gacrama says. “It was also a great opportunity for clients and guests to experience the local coffee culture that is steadily brewing.” Remarking that it adds to the homelike feel, she adds, “The addition of the coffee shop gave the showroom a breath of fresh air, a place where guests walk in and feel very much inspired and relaxed all at the same time.” It would be easy, then, to mistake the displays for little nooks to burrow oneself into — and in a way, they are — were it not for the small and tasteful cards carrying the names of the tables and chairs.
The coffee shop is a compact section of the store, with a white-tiled wood-top counter, three tall stools, and only the necessary contraptions. Soft music plays throughout the day. The minimalism extends to its menu, which not only stands framed on the counter but also hangs handwritten from a large roll of recycled paper on the wall. It’s made up of a little over a dozen items, mostly cafe classics and staples. The last item on the list is the milk shake, which brings a touch of whimsy: In lieu of an additional list of flavors and prices is the proclamation, “Ask us about it!”
Room to grow
“Mozaic Living has always been a furniture showroom,” Gacrama says, stressing its focus on design. “Our group saw a multitude of potential and various opportunities and wanted to give it a breath of fresh air.” With a total rebranding, change was welcomed: walls knocked down and new light fixtures installed, a makeover that took place in a span of six months. “It took a lot of time, planning, and effort, as we wanted to ensure that [the shop] would be a place where people could relax and enjoy a good cup of coffee, and appreciate good quality furniture. We see the showroom as an organic space that continually changes with the times and the needs of our clients, as well as the artistic direction of the team.”
Recently the Mozaic Living team went on a trip to Japan, during which the showroom was closed for a few days. Gacrama says that the experience helped foster better ties within the group. “In the process [we learned] various techniques and styles that we could somehow marry into what [the store] is all about,” she adds. “You can definitely say that because of these trips the Mozaic Living work environment is that of fun, enthusiastic, and driven individuals that have a common ground of love for great design. Managing the store makes it easy as after each trip the team comes back with a renewed sense of drive and love for what [we] do.”
And it certainly is evident. Around the store, an ease of companionship — friendly, open, helpful — flows from the staff to the customers. “Filipino hospitality is in the forefront of how we do business,” Gacrama says. “It begins with the way we treat our team and the way that we care for our clients and partners. ‘Pakikisama’ is the best way we can describe it.”
Mozaic Living is located at 7 Sheridan St., Mandaluyong City.