Designing spaces for comfort and openness
Creating a space or designing furniture is more than putting various materials together, it’s designing a lifelong experience. As an architect and furniture designer, Jeric Rustia says that his craft focuses on intimacy. We got to learn about his two professions, as well as the other crafts he enjoys, in our conversation with him.
What was your journey like into architecture?I took up architecture because it was familiar to me. My dad’s an architect so I sort of wanted it to be a point where we could be closer to each other. I guess it’s been difficult trying to be a freelancer in this society and economy. I almost didn’t take the board exams, but t I made a deal with my parents that if I took them I could do whatever I wanted. At that time I wanted to focus on photography. But I passed and after 7 years architecture is still my main job.
How did you start designing furniture?My cousin, who’s an interior designer, had a workshop in Bulacan and did commercial work for retail stores. He suffered a stroke back in 2018 and that’s when I was working as a researcher at UP. I immediately quit and took over the shop. So I guess with our workers’ help I learned how to do things. Everything was trial by fire. We made a lot of mistakes and despite us closing the manufacturing arm due to the pandemic and compounding costs, we learned a lot that can still be applied to our future work.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I get most of my inspiration from my clients’ design briefs and references. Most of my design input comes from functionality, safety, and efficiency. Curves and tapers in most of my furniture designs are there for softer, less dangerous edges and ease of handling. As for spaces, I usually get anecdotes on how my clients move around in their homes or want to move around in their desired space/s. I try not to impose a specific style and instead head for functionality, and how it all conforms to multiple building codes we have.
Can you share with us how 393 started?
393 started back in 2014 when I was still exploring different crafts while practicing architecture. Back then, I was doing leather work, making wallets, bags, and portfolios. I originally called it 393 Projects when I saw it as my dad’s header for the renovation work to be done at our home so, it’s a sentimental thing since it’s our house number. I grew up here, nowhere else. All the values I learned in design and in life I learned here.
“I’ve tried different things like pottery, welding, leather work, and flower arrangement. I don’t do them as much, but I go back to them when I can or when they’re accessible. Photography has been a constant in my life more than designing though. I’ve been taking photos since 2010 and I’ve had gigs and contributions to some local magazines. During my free time, I wall climb, bike, and surf.”
What does 393 stand for?
393 is the culmination of all my creative experiences. While a lot of my creative pursuits in the past eight years were fleeting and temporary, they have informed me what 393 stands for as a design practice.
We want to focus on intimacy. Detail how clients experience an object or an entire space in such a way that they immediately feel comfort, safety, and a sense of openness. In a sense, we also hope to have clients who want the same.
Do you have a team behind 393?
When our furniture workshop was still open, we had a small team of five. But now that we’re just a design practice, it’s just me and a handful of consultants/professionals that I tap on a per project basis.
Can you share with us the process of working on a new piece?Every piece is custom so it always starts with the client’s needs and wants. After which we look at the space where it’s supposed to be placed and if there are any references we can use in the context. The nitty gritty part comes in when we talk about budget, materials, and logistics. Some people ask for large furniture, but access becomes an issue. The hallways, stairs, and doors are almost always a pain, ultimately affecting design and costing. But once everything is all laid out and clear, designing becomes a breeze. I start with a model and rendering, and within the same hour or two I can come up with a quote. Most clients already know what they want so that’s a relief and, if not, it only takes us a scheme or two to be approved.
What’s your typical work day like?
A typical day at work always starts with coffee, whether I make it at home or buy it to-go. I fire up my computer and answer emails and work on current project designs or documents. I usually start at 9 and end at 3 or 4 pm. On some days I bike or drive to the site and meetings.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about the job is when the clients love the piece or space. It always makes all the effort worthwhile. I love it when I visit a space we’ve done and see it bloom with the users.
How was the collaboration with Gouache? What was it that you were looking for and how was Gouache able to create it?
It was a breeze! They originally proposed a tool bag but I requested a bike bag that can double as a day or overnight bag. I already had some pegs and they were open enough to oblige to come up with a prototype. I wanted something that I can bring around whether I would be biking out, or driving, or commuting— something that can hold up all the things I bring no matter what.
When you wake up in the morning and prepare for work what would your bag contain? "My iPad, my notebooks, pens, coffee, water, an extra set of clothes, tape measure, laser meter, meds, charger/powerbank.”
How do you overcome creative limits?I think with any limit in general, people would benefit the most from chilling. People take it for granted but rest is a vital part of progress. In sports it literally heals torn muscles, and why should it be any different from creative and mental work?
Any other advice or message you want to give to other creatives in your field?
Cliches are cliches for a reason— because they work. So when I say practice makes perfect, and patience can go a long way, I mean it wholeheartedly. You can be your own worst critic, but love yourself too. You’ll learn to pick yourself up eventually.
To build an experience through furniture takes a lot of patience. For Jeric, 393 is a space for his many creative pursuits, whether it’s exploring his interests or designing experiences for other people.
Follow Jeric Rustia and 393 on Instagram:
@jericrustia & @393.ph