Philippine Star
Saturday Lifestyle Section

by AA Patawaran

In Carlo Tanseco's Store Company, Inc. - at least in its newly opened branch at Cortes de las Palmas Alabang Town Center - mornings are what they used to be, a dawning on what seems to be a small-town world. Without frenzy, but nevertheless full of energy, the day begins to unfold with familiar things, such as a butterfly, albeit electronic, hovering over pot and pot of fresh mums. It's nice to start the day sipping freshly brewed coffee from an oversized cup while checking out the store's wide array of merchandise -everything for the home, the body, the heart, the mind and the soul.

Just as Carlo envisioned it, Store Company has everything for everyone: father, mother and child. No wonder, apart from everything else, the store in Alabang offers familiar scenes of family life: a little girl drawing on her breakfast table, pubescent boys exchanging views on a novelty item, a young couple holding hands over glasses of iced tea, a grandmother smelling the flowers.







Store is a store with everything for everyone and for every room in the house.







A recipient of a number of KATHA awards for product design from the Center for International Trade, Expositions and Missions (CITEM), Carlo put Store together with a winning formula: Something familiar -with a twist.

"When a product design is too alien, the customer or the spectator has a harder time connecting to it," explains the 32-year old designer. "So I make sure that everything I do, no matter how pioneering or innovative, retains some kind of familiarity."

Moreover, Carlo has strong faith in what he calls a "total, holistic design," the very principle behind Store, which he runs with a little help from his mother Yoya and his sister Keena.

"I try to address all the senses with whatever I come up with," he says.

Hence, Store is more than a store. It is a café, bar, restaurant, flower booth, gift shop, meeting place a little corner for you and me. What's more, every item in Store is an experience, not merely a commodity.

Even the cuisine, says chef Marivic Diaz, follows the formula. Its nothing fancy, yet if offers the diner quite a unique experience simply by rehashing age-old recipes or reinventing old-fashioned ways of cooking-something new out of something old or the other way around. Top sellers include blackened tilapia with caper sauce and Store Burger, the good, old sandwich generously packed with an extra thick patty, bacon and mushrooms.



"Nice store!" customers exclaim every now and then. Though, as opposed to other shops, there is little attempt to showcase products. Instead, Store is more like a bodega, a stockroom, with the merchandise stacked together in repetitive fashion a design technique Carlo has always admired.




Carlo Tanseco shows a customer Store's home items.



Store was established in 1997 in response to the proliferation of brands whose name recall sometimes tended to overshadow the products' more intrinsic properties. Now with three branches, -- the other two are at Glorietta and Rockwell, Makati-Store is helping address market desires to return to more basic lines, to do away with the unnecessary frills. Though well thought out and tirelessly pursued, aesthetic value in Store is only one of its many components. In not so many words, functions is still what defines design, which is why it is given due respect in the premises, whether in its scented candles or flower vases, its pillow cases or storage boxes, its breakfast tables or canopy chairs.

As a designer, Carlo has a long-standing affair with function. He counts among his many influences his father, the late Manny Tanseco, who told him every now and then never to stop being a child.

"A child is always open-minded," explains Carlo. "His sense of wonder is his greatest tool. For him, everything is possible."



Thus, in pursuit of design, Carlo returns to nursery, unlearning, removing this biases seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling things, as if for the first time.

"My Dad stimulated me to work with my hands," recalls Carlo.

No wonder many of his toys back then were of the do-it-yourself variety, conceptualized in the factories of his young mind.

"I had plenty of those sand-powered stuff," he muses.

Carlo's mother, on the other hand, gave him a sense of style, a sense of moderation, which he finds indispensable in his creative pursuits. Like most artists, Carlo has a tendency to rework a design endlessly to suit his insatiable standards.

"Mom used to tell me when to stop and I'd still keep my lessons in mind,"he says.



Wicker and steel make a novel combination in this table for two.



Carlo earned a bachelor's degree in Architecture from the University of the Philippines. He has never practiced, however.

"They say architecture is an old man's profession," he says. "Sometimes, it takes a lifetime before you begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor."

Young and impatient, Carlo was not willing to wait. Instead, he chose a path that led him to product design, establishing fresh from college, Kaizenhaus, an export company he co-owns with friend Steve Araneta.







Canopied armchair and an efficient looking picnic basket to put one in the mood for outdoor dining.


"We started out with wrought-iron accessories from Pampanga-and they're still doing good in the export market."

Business is a logical choice for Carlo, who had always been exposed to it. The family enterprise, Tickles, established in 1978, foretold his current retail venture. Also, Carlo is creative director of Figaro, a café well entrenched in today's consumer landscape. His architectural background is a great help in keeping him grounded when he feels his mind is going in all directions, especially with the kind of work that he does, the kind that draws from life for there is so much in the work that stimulates his passion to create. His love for movies, like Star Wars, The Last Buddha, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Last Emperor, and the Devil's Advocate is enough to fire up his imagination. So is a few minutes worth of music videos, which he finds brimming with fresh and brave ideas.




Multi-purpose stoneware planters





There are many others sources of ideas for Carlo, such as books - his favorites are Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist - and magazines, but the greatest of them all is travel. For the young designer, nothing opens the shutters of one's mind better than a journey to a strange, faraway places. Numerous trips around the world surely had a lot to do with his current ventures. Felissimo, a Zen-type store in New York, for example, was among his greatest inspirations for Store.

Of course, Carlo looks up to many icons of design, drawing from their work and work habits whatever he may incorporate into his own. Among his idols in the field are Philippe Starck, Frank Lloyd Wright and Fornasetti.



For Carlo, indeed, to live is to learn. All he ever needs to do in his search for inspiration is to keep breathing, to keep all his senses alert, ready to receive life's infinite gifts. For Carlo as for most other designers, creative work is a torturous, tormenting mental exercise.

"I never really work on a sketchbook," he says. "I put is all together in my mind and only put it on paper when, more or less, I have a complete mental picture of it."

When Carlo stumbles on an idea, everything else such as packaging the product has to follow at once. Such a work habit is both a blessing and a curse.








Store Co. Inc. opens up to Alabang Town Center's courtyard.








"There are times when I wake up in the morning with a great idea and right there and then, without getting out of bed, I have to work it out, from start to finish," he muses.

No doubt, Carlo's creative process works considering that together with other export designers such as Carlo Aguas, Ann Pamintuan and Milo Naval, he is scheduled to travel the world next year to showcase Filipino design. Dubbed Movement 8, the group will visit the world's most influential trade centers: Paris, Milan, Valencia, Hanover.






A lazy morning at Store. Done by architect Popi Laudico, Store is more than a store it's also a bar, restaurant, flower booth and gift shop.







So when does Carlo stop?

"Actually, I'm afraid I'm not as hardworking as I should be," confesses the young designer, who loves to spend his time lying on his back and dreaming lazily in some remote, preferably deserted beach. Indeed, nature, especially water, is Carlo's refuge, his little world away from it all.

"When I begin to lose objectivity, that's when I need a break," he says. "I like water-related sports, especially white-water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. I wish I could take everyone there just to share the experience."

Carlos was also a triathlon athlete champion once, one of the many things he simply wanted to experience.

"I found it very spiritual," he recalls. "I learned my limits. I found out what it was like to compete with myself."

So is Carlo still competing with himself as a retailer and as a designer?

"I'm afraid yes, " he says without a moment's hesitation. "You'll never stop, I guess, because as soon as you reach a certain standard, you up the ante yourself. Otherwise, you get bored."

Meanwhile, Carlos is working on a dream, to come up with a studio, which will enable him to make drastic, dramatic changes in the field of design.

"I want to break the rules," he says.

But Carlo is wise. He knows it's not only a matter of being brave, bold, defiant. "I know I have to master convention first before I begin to challenge it."