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Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez defines inspired living

By STEPHANIE ZUBIRI, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 12, 2022 5:00 am

Stephanie authors her first book, ‘Embracing Natural Design,' published by the famed New York-based Rizzoli.

For as long as I have known Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez, she is always the epitome of grace, elegance, and style. As young students in Paris, we would often meet up for lunch, grabbing a salad or sandwich from Cosí and sit on a bench at the Luxembourg gardens. I would arrive a little frazzled, too many books in hand, dressed in my “uniform” consisting of red Converse sneakers, a gray sweater and a classic beige trench coat. She would have a perfectly put-together outfit — cute little ballet slippers, a chic silk blouse, trousers, a touch of gold jewelry, nothing too flashy, just enough to tie it all together.

Unlike many of my other university friends, she understood my love for expensive scented candles and fresh flowers (Diptyque and flower shops were quite often a favorite post-lunch excursion) because she knew that small little luxuries go a long way when you’re living in tiny student flats.

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez’s portrait by Scott A. Woodward: Her natural sense of style carries through from fashion to interiors.

Today, at the helm of her family company, Philux, married to businessman Christian Gonzalez and mother to three beautiful girls — Andrea, Arielle and Anouck — Stephanie continues to live in this manner. Her luminous home in Manila is always filled with orchids and greenery; each artwork, throw pillow and object lovingly selected and tastefully curated.

Don’t get me wrong; Stephanie is by no means stuck-up, because when she lets her hair down, that woman can dance the night away in six-inch stilettos. “All the way or no way!” she would often quip. And, like everything she chooses to do, there are no half measures; everything about her is purposeful and executed with intent.

It is with this same energy that she authors her first book, Embracing Natural Design, published by the famed New York-based Rizzoli. Fortunate to have seen this project from its early drafts to its stunning print edition, all I can say is that my dear friend deserves all the accolades and praise she is currently enjoying.

Embracing Natural Design: Inspired Living is published by Rizzoli and available for pre-order on www.stephaniekienlegonzalez.com.

Filled with heartfelt text and inspiring imagery of her personal design projects from her flat here in Manila to her splendid home in a reserve in South Africa, Embracing Natural Design is the ultimate resource in what she likes to call “inspired living.” Along with wonderful insight and advice from important names in the industry such as India Hicks, Nate Berkus, and Kenneth Cobonpue, Stephanie’s book is a must-read for all those who love design.

Get to know Stephanie a little more with this fun interview and visit www.stephaniekienlegonzalez.com to purchase a copy of her book.

My editor was based in New York, my book designer in Cape Town, and I was in Manila throughout the pandemic. We persevered despite the time differences — a true transcontinental collaboration.

My home is… a sanctuary. It is the place I retreat to after a long day. Surrounded by my loved ones, I enjoy pockets of calm and topsy-turvy fun of life as a family of five.

The large Lionel Smit painting sets the pastel tone of her living room in Manila: Sofas from Philux, embroidered pillows from Bea Valdes Design and a sutom Iñigo Elizalde rug tie the look together.

The space I go to for peace and quiet is… my closet because it is the one place I can savor taking my time in without any distractions.

One item you’ll never find in my house… are fake flowers because why go fake when you can integrate beautiful greenery? For a longer lasting alternative to freshly cut blooms, I opt for orchids in all kinds of varieties. They not only add life, but also a sculptural and sensual element to a space.

The terrace of her Manila home is filled with greenery and furniture pieces from Philux: The bronze bust is a sculpture by one of her favorite South African artists, Lionel Smit.

A color I would never use is… never say never. I used to dislike yellow and yet I currently wear a bright marigold top from my closet on repeat. My taste changes as my life evolves.

I have too many… books on my night table, waiting to be read. I am an ambitious reader and love to pore over book summaries and audible samples in the hope of reading everything I desire. Life takes over sometimes and the books pile up by my bedside. I always try to make up for lost reading time on holiday.

My biggest design pet peeve is… when design takes over a space’s authenticity. While I believe that a beautifully designed home makes for a calming sanctuary, I feel that the comfort that a lived-in space brings is equally important. A warm and inviting home is an extension of your identity — your life's experiences and memories. Thoughtful layering in interiors that blend form, function, and sentiment gives meaning to a space.

The stone table and dining chairs are custom pieces from Philux and are paired with an antique table and a Kelly Wearstler credenza.

A piece of furniture I love and will never tire of… is the Stockholm bed from Philux’s Scandiniana collection — I love that it was designed by my sister as we aspired to marry Filipino elements with Scandinavian form. Its cane detailing makes it a cozy yet stylish bedframe to tuck myself into every night.

At the end of each day I like to… put my kids to bed. After which, I spend some quiet time catching up with my husband over a mug of peppermint tea.

The one item in my home I hate but can’t get rid of is… Clooney’s (my Yorkshire Terrier) pee-pee pad. Clooney was our first baby and he is now 13 years old. We do what we can to keep him comfortable at home.

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez’s home in Lapalala Reserve in South Africa embraces different textures and finishes: She tastefully put together Filipino furniture with pieces from Africa for her signature layered look.

What I find most challenging about decorating a space… is when to stop, as my spaces are ever evolving. I never see a decorating experience as "finished.” There is always room for more creativity and inspiration.

For me, writing this book… was an ambitious yet fulfilling project. It was an incredible learning experience for me to work on Embracing Natural Design with Rizzoli. My editor was based in New York, my book designer in Cape Town, and I was in Manila throughout the pandemic. We persevered despite the time differences — a true transcontinental collaboration that wasn’t without its challenges but one that I am grateful for and proud of.

I like to balance my time by… meditating and walking with friends. To me, self-care is finding time for quiet and for movement. Laughter with family and friends is good for the soul. I appreciate these connections all the more in our post-pandemic world.

In my fridge you’ll find… tons of yogurt for the kids and queso de bola dip for a sneaky mid-afternoon treat. I try to fill our fridge with nutritious finds but enjoy a decadent treat from time to time.

White table setting with tulips: Pared-back elegance with rattan touches for a luxurious lunch setting.

The last books I read were… Untamed by Glennon Doyle and Rattan by Rizzoli. Rattan transported me to a time of old-world elegance.

My favorite way to unwind is to… disconnect from my phone — it’s therapeutic and something I highly recommend. More recently, I spend important occasions fully disconnected. My last birthday I relished in simple moments with my baby, my husband Chris and the girls. No texts or phone calls. Photos were taken with our Instax camera. It was a restorative day that reminded me of the simple pleasures in life.

My biggest inspirations are… travel, nature and spaces with soul. If I manage to surround myself with these three things I may just delve into writing another book!

The most precious thing to me is… today. I do my best to live in the moment because the present is a gift and I hope to continue living gratefully this way.

The best advice given to me was… to be kind to myself. I am a perfectionist by nature and I have been trying to unlearn this trait — it's still a work in progress.