Modern Design Meets Mid-Century Flair

Wilmer Lopez, Filipino interior designer, knows well how to mix the old with the new. By Sunshine Selga Funa

On most days, you can find Wilmer Lopez in his cozy cocoon of an office, surrounded by dark walls and his favorite artwork, preoccupied with ideas for his next client presentation. When not at site visits, he’d be roaming around the industrial-pop-styled W. Lopez Designs headquarters, checking plans and blueprints. On other days, you can find Lopez at his mid-century furniture store, Space Encounters, which is a few floors down from his design firm.

The spaces that Lopez moves in are a testament to his passion for interior design—nothing is ever half-baked. “Even as a child, I would immerse myself in IKEA catalogues that an uncle would bring home from his travels. I would rearrange furniture at home and also build my own bahay kubo. So the interest was always there, and it turned from interest to passion as I grew up,” the interior designer recalls.

Moody lighting meets plush seats in Yes Please bar, one of Lopez’s design projects

Style evolution

There’s a hint of nostalgia in Lopez’s works. “I think that I have always been rooted in [the] vintage [look] and telling a story in the spaces I design,” he admits. “My designs always had colors and a hint of retro but also reflected the lifestyle and personal history of my client.” He started with conventional concepts, allowing these ideas to evolve through time. He says, “My design point of view has changed a lot since the late ‘90s, but I see my early works as steps toward finding my own style.” Lopez’s past experiences and his love for traveling and pop culture all converge to influence his current design aesthetics. Regardless of the spaces he creates—whether it’s a restaurant or a halfway home in the metro—Lopez puts a premium on details. “Details make the spaces unique,” he declares.

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And while Lopez’s style is distinctly mid-century (people would tell him “This is very Space Encounters”), the designer isn’t afraid to push boundaries. The store’s latest collection called “The New Romantics,” for instance, puts a spotlight on romantic Victorian-inspired pieces—a statement that challenges the now ubiquitous industrial style. This commitment to evolve while still keeping one’s design principles is what keeps Lopez and his team at the top of their game. “I have always been true to my aesthetics, and I have finally arrived at a point where clients hire me because of my style and my ability to bring out their [own] or their brand’s personality,” Lopez adds.

Hole in the Wall, another Lopez design project, redefines the food court dining experience

Shaking things up

Lopez’s works have already been featured in a number of glossy magazines in the country, a validation that speaks volumes about the quality of his work and his relentless passion for design.

Aside from residential projects, Lopez and his team have also left their mark on some of the country’s biggest food chains like Chowking and Greenwich. There’s also Yes Please, one of the newest bars in Bonifacio Global City, and Nono’s, a pastel-pretty restaurant in U.P. Town Center in Quezon City. Over in Makati, Lopez designed the Hole in the Wall foodcourt with well-decorated vignettes amid an industrial backdrop. The team is also currently working on revamping select branches of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Lopez says that the latter two establishments have “allowed us to fully embrace our mid-century roots. It’s interior design that’s honest, encourages conversation, and remains true to the personal warmth and values that the brands live by.”

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Is there anything else he dreams of doing, given his firm’s growing number of accomplishments? “I want to give an old, forgotten structure a new life, make it relevant, give it meaning, while retaining its history,” he answers. And given the growing interest and appreciation for interior design in the country (which Lopez credits to social media and how businesses are now beginning to recognize the importance of good design in their overall branding), there are, no doubt, a lot of opportunities for Lopez and his team to realize this dream. “I think that we should give more value to heritage, and that includes houses and buildings that have seen and have been a part of our struggle as a people,” the designer muses.

All photos courtesy of Wilmer Lopez.