Just close your eyes for a minute, think that you are sitting in a blooming flower. Yes, I said blooming flower. Are you thinking that I got mad?
No, actually you can sit in a blooming flower chair. How is it possible? The talented furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue made it possible.
Kenneth Cobonpue is a talented furniture designer from Philippine. He has an extraordinary designing sense and can convert a pile of rattan to a beautiful chair.
We are very happy that today we are going to talk with the designer of many beautiful furniture, Kenneth Cobonpue. We will try to know about his story of starting a furniture business, his design inspiration and more about his work.
Hello Kenneth, Thanks for Giving Us Your Time. Could You Please Tell Us About Your Childhood? What is the Reason You Feel Love for Furniture Design? And What Inspired You to Work as a Furniture Designer?
I was born and raised in Cebu City, and was introduced to furniture pretty early on since my mom used to be an interior designer with a furniture workshop at the back of our house.
It started with the joy I found in making my own toys and bridges over our pond, which put a smile on my mom’s face. As a kid, I didn’t immediately think I was going to follow in my mom’s footsteps. I first wanted to be a theater set designer but through my designs now, I could still create a portal to a world of fantasy.
Designing for theater may not be my path now, but I realized designing furniture has the same effect: When we design furniture, we’re designing a stage for people’s lives. I couldn’t be happier with where I am today, continuing to make people happy with the things I make.
What Was Your First Piece of Work? How Did You Feel to Make Your Own Piece of Furniture?
My first design is the Yin & Yang easy armchair. I was excited that I had the opportunity to finally apply everything I learned from the masters of the craft from all over the globe, including those I grew up with as a child in our backyard.
Transparency was the principle I wanted to explore first. The openness allows airs to pass through, which is ideal for temperate climates like the Philippines. When you put Yin & Yang on an al fresco area like a balcony, it doesn’t block the view but instead blends in with nature. The idea of bringing nature has always been a major part of my design philosophy.
Prior to the launch, I felt elated and scared all at once, because I wanted to show the world what we Filipinos can do and I was challenging the traditional ways of the furniture industry in the Philippines that time. We were only known to be a hub for furniture manufacturers, not brands.
Normally Where Do You Try to Get the Inspiration for a New Design?
Nature is the center of my design philosophy, but I also get inspiration from extraordinary to mundane things. I used to travel a lot before the pandemic, and I would always carry with me back home a piece of every country I traveled to.
Since travel these days is the farthest thing from my mind, I am pushed to actively pursue inspiration through introspection and revisiting my perspective on nature to look for something new.
You Use Materials Like Rattan, Bamboo, Abaca, Etc. So What is Your Idea Behind Using These Types of Materials for Designing Furniture?
We use materials that are available, natural, sustainable, strong and malleable, and not harmful to the environment.
What Are Your Most Favourite Pieces of Furniture From Your Collection? And Why?
It’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. I simply can’t choose; I am proud of all my works because they are all very personal to me. There are design triumphs that are difficult to replicate and I can mention a few.
The simplicity of the Yoda easy chair, the sculptural grace of the Wave Table, the form of the La Luna, the fabric manipulation of Bloom, and the regal quality of Peacock, which is also a modern interpretation of a beloved classic.
Could You Please Tell Us Where You Get the Inspiration for Your Most Remarkable Piece, “Phoenix”? And What is the Reason You Built a Car Rather Than a Piece of Exclusive Furniture for the Milan Furniture Fair in 2011?
I thought of a car made out of bamboo. With only a few months to go, I managed to build an actual car patterned after a leaf-like pod made of light steel, bamboo, and carbon fiber.
I wanted to exhibit in the Milan furniture show in a place called the Temporary Museum for New Design which only showcased extraordinary designs. The organizers were going to put me somewhere in the back because they didn’t know my work. I wasn’t going to impress them with more furniture, so I decided to do something wild. Phoenix brought me to the front of the exhibition.
It was a challenge to the automotive industry to think about biodegradable and lightweight shells made of natural materials as an alternative to the steel and aluminum chassis produced by heavy and energy-thirsty machinery.
As You Own a Luxury Furniture Brand, What Difficulties Do You Face Establishing a Luxury Furniture Brand in the Philippines?
The Philippines is not a country the world associates with luxury, so I have to work harder than my Italian counterparts to tell my story. Ironically, our biggest market next to the United States is the Philippines.
It says something when your own people, who can afford to buy anything from abroad, choose to buy Filipino. It means we can rival anyone in the world when it comes to quality, craftsmanship, and design.
You Have an Impressive Client List, Hollywood Celebrities to Royal Members to Global Businesses. How Do You Feel When You See That Your Designs Are Loved by Them? And Do You Cherish Someone as Your Client?
I feel grateful and proud, not only because most of them bought the prices on the strength of the design and workmanship, but It means that we have succeeded in making our unique aesthetic global.
I cherish all of them – from the young professional who starts with buying a miniature to the celebrity who can afford anything but chooses to buy a Cobonpue. Everyone has their own reason for buying a piece and that matters to us. It’s a story we start, but one that our clients continue to retell and finish in their own unique way. I’m grateful for each one of them.
You Earn a Lot of Prestigious Awards for Your Excellent Work and Impressive Talent. Among Them What Was the Most Remarkable for You? And How the Awards Help You to Design More Exclusive Designs?
Every award I receive is equally important to me. To name a few that stand out would be winning the first Design for Asia Award for my country, the first Asian Designer of the Year award, and getting TIME magazine to declare me as “rattans first virtuoso.”
These recognitions, fueled by my passion, prove that I’m on the right track and I have to do even better each time. They also tell me that I have a bigger purpose, which is to be an inspiration to the generation of designers and young people who want to make a difference for their country.
Is There Any Dream Project You Want to Do? We Heard That You Are Very Much Into Space Design and Architecture. So Would You Tell Us More About This Form?
I love taking part in space design and architecture. I designed a prefabricated house and a park in a mall; headed the creative direction for a modern chapel, and did space design for many resorts and restaurants all over the globe. I would love to design a resort of my own.