Design Your Personal Oasis

Furniture designer to the stars, Kenneth Cobonpue, talks cultural inspiration and designing your own personal oasis.

As a child, Cebu-born Kenneth Cobonpue had dreamed of becoming a theatre set designer, but he never imagined that he would be designing for Hollywood royalty.

His colourful, sculptural furniture pieces have been used on film sets for Ocean’s Thirteen and Made of Honor, as well as the American television series CSI: Miami.

The multi-award winning designer also counts actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Queen Sofia of Spain and Queen Rania of Jordan among his clients.

But for this humble designer, his personal stage is the home, where he blends Filipino craftsmanship and a love of cultural travel.

Cobonpue at home with his schnauzers

‘My mother was an interior designer who built her own furniture in our backyard,’ Cobonpue explains.

‘As a child, she put pen and paper in my hands whenever she could, and encouraged me to build my own toys. I grew up with the craftsmen and artisans who made my mother’s designs. Watching them, I learnt how to make my own pieces.

‘My designs should be suitable for an apartment in Milan, an office in New York, or a lounge in Japan, but it’s very important for me to remain connected with my roots because it is part of my origin and life story.

‘My culture is my inspiration, and I want to communicate that through my work,’ he adds.

So how does he translate this to his furniture and room design?

Cobonpue’s furniture is often made of natural or synthetic weaves and inspired by baskets, fishing nets or bamboo boats.

The pieces in his collections, which include furniture made with hand-tied abaca rope and rattan poles, are richly textured, visually striking and look like works of art when used in a carefully considered space. 

This Dulux design creates a sense of the tropical outdoors, indoors

Inspired by elements from his own Cebuano heritage as well as his travels to destinations like Kathmandu and Marrakech, Cobonpue uses furniture to create a calm environment, a personal oasis that encourages relaxation and a slower pace of life.

‘I find in all these cultures, a common thread of beauty, warmth, and timelessness in things made by hand. So much contemporary design today is devoid of drama. I want to bring the romance of bygone eras back into our homes,’ he explains.

‘When designing a space, I first choose the furniture pieces then decide on the environment or mood after. A living space at best should reflect the personality of a person.’

Intense, moody walls punctuated by splashes of colour

Walls form part of the room’s personality, according to Cobonpue, and getting the wall paint right is essential.

‘The walls should work in harmony with the pieces that punctuate the space,’ he says.

‘A good neutral-toned wall can bring out the details of an item of furniture and transform it into a piece of art.

Calming pastel walls can bring other elements of the room into focus

‘Busy walls with patterns or multiple colours tend to foster active energy in the space, which doesn’t help one rest or relax, though it can be good for rooms suited for kinetic activity, such as a children’s playroom perhaps.’

To make a space warmer and cosier, he suggests muted blues, yellows or greens for the walls.

To add a touch of glamour, pair metallic paints with raw wood pieces.

‘Compare and contrast to create an interesting visual and tactile environment. Metallic colour schemes can come across as cold, so add wood and soft, plush fabrics to warm up the space,’ he advises.

Combine metallic walls with a wood element and artistic pieces to create interest

When Cobonpue’s eye-catching and atmospheric pieces are combined, and complemented with colour schemes from Dulux Ambiance, the result is a little bit of drama—not dissimilar to theatre.

Perhaps Cobonpue has in fact manifested his childhood dream after all.

‘Designing for theatre may not be my path now, but I realise that designing furniture has the same effect—when we design furniture, we’re designing a stage for people’s lives,’ he says.

Photos: Kenneth Cobonpue

Create your own personal oasis with Dulux Ambiance special effects paints. Choose from Linen, Marble, Metallic, Velvet or ColourMotion finishes. #MyFutureWall is a Dulux Ambiance wall.


Michele Koh Morollo has been writing about lifestyle and design for 20 years and contributes to titles such as Singapore Tatler Homes, Design Anthology, Dwell, Home Journal and Perspective Global. 

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