Furniture Designer Vito Selma on Finding Inspiration

The furniture designer on discovering new designers, singing competitions, and conquering the world one continent at a time.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
It has Japanese and Scandinavian influences but always done with a touch of Philippine craftsmanship and materials.

You are based in Cebu, the center of furniture design in the country. Why do so many good names and brands come out of there?
Cebu is gifted because we are situated between the sea and the mountain, which means we have an abundance of material. I've always believed that when you have an abundance of material, you have an abundance of creativity.

How did you get into furniture yourself?
My family has been in the furniture exporting industry for about three decades now so it was only natural for me to get into the business as the factory was my playground growing up.

Of your own designs, which is your favorite piece?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, as each of my pieces has a special meaning but if I have to, it would be the Geo (a table that is a play on lines and is inspired by string art) because it was my very first piece and it has been the most successful one in my entire range.

What about from other designers?
Everything by Patricia Urquiola.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m very much inspired by everything that I find around me, be it when I'm in Cebu or when I'm traveling.

Who are your favorite designers?
I am a fan of Debbie Palao. Growing up I was inspired by her collection at the first furniture show I attended that moved me to be a designer. To this day, I am inspired by her.

Describe a day at work.
Most of my mornings start with reading emails and answering them and then progress to working on products and projects for clients and upcoming shows. But really, designing is a 24/7 job. Even when I’m not at work, my mind is working.


How do you discover new designers?
The best way to meet young designers is during Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison & Objet in Paris. During those dates, the entire city is filled with pop-up shows by small brands or young designers trying to make an impression. It’s really an exciting time to be in Milan or Paris.

If you could collect the work of any artist, who would it be?
I would collect the work of Caravaggio. There is something cinematic in how he frames an image and uses light in his work that I can connect to as a designer and photographer.

How do you relax?
I try to spend the weekends by the beach and I dabble in a bit of photography because I find that it complements design.

If you didn’t live in Cebu, where would you have been based?
Cape Town! It's everything I like from different parts of the world and placed in one city.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Spending a day by the water or underwater.

Biggest guilty pleasure?
I don’t watch TV but when I do have the time I do like to watch singing competitions. I like seeing people's dreams come true.

Pet peeves?
Restaurants with bad furniture and interiors. To be honest, I judge a restaurant by its looks before I judge its food.

What’s one thing you wish most people would do more often?
Spend time with their families instead of their phones, which I'm also guilty of.

Most memorable trip?
Namibia. It was a childhood dream come true.

Comfort food?
Ginataang monggo.

Complete this sentence: I like my job, but I’d rather be?
A photojournalist.

This story was originally published in the July 2014 issue of Town&Country.

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Jacs T. Sampayan
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