At Home with Michelle Lao

by Japs Medina May 25, 2019

Michelle Lao channels her creativity in fashion to her freshly decorated interiors

There was an almost solemn air as clothes and accessories were laid out on surfaces. The stylist for the shoot, Michelle Lao, quietly started picking up items, holding them against each other as her imagination fired up images only she could see. We took hushed steps to give her room to move around – partly in awe, partly out of respect. It was almost as if letting out a breath would be offensive to such a focused creative environment.

Fast forward to months later and Michelle was at the door of her freshly decorated pad greeting our team. We only wanted to know one thing: how does a creative brain like hers translate her quirky styling to interior design? The stylist brightly opened up her home to us and let us in on some of her golden interior and hosting nuggets.

Like peering into her creative mind - Michelle's home is quirky yet warm and put-together

The stylist gamely shared some of the stories behind the artwork in her home

When hosting a dinner, what is your process on deciding on a tablescape?

It can be as elementary as me seeing something at the flower market that I like or what season it is or a new tablecloth and china I just purchased and can’t wait to use. It begins with one idea and it sort of bears fruit (sometimes literally because I am partial to using fruits when decorating my tables). At times it’s also a function of what cuisine I will be serving.

One of the things to consider in hosting is the guest list. How do you determine how many guests to invite to a dinner party?

How many chairs I have. Haha! I can seat 10 now counting my dining table and lunch counter, although I was able to increase that number marginally with a recent purchase of 2 stunning bamboo folding chairs.

Her eye-catching find from Art in the Park is nestled comfortably in the living room corner

Michelle loves to take the extra mile in designing tablescapes when hosting dinners

Which comes first, the menu or the décor?

The symbiotic relationship between the two notwithstanding, I find that in most instances the decor dictates my menu.

What’s your go-to cocktail for dinner parties?

Is Royal a cocktail?

We are extremely in love with your loveseat from Art in the Park. How do you draw the line (if you do) between an art piece and functional furniture?

I don’t know that there is a line to be drawn, really. I consider a thing of beauty to be art. It’s all around us — furniture, architecture, plants, every expression and sound my son makes, music, fashion, paintings, jewelry. If you can’t enjoy art in all its forms what is the point?

A sunny area in her bedroom is the perfect spot for reading

Raul's adorable schnauzer Lula elegantly joins in on the fun

Top 3 must-do’s when designing for a small space?

Storage, storage, storage.

Plastic storage containers – yea or nay?

I’m ambivalent about this question. If I do take to their use (on rare occasions), I assure you it is due only to sheer functionality, and nothing else.

We noticed a number of cacti plants around your living space. Is there a story behind your preference for succulents?

There is no greater impetus I can think of, apart from that I am intrinsically drawn to its gracefulness, than genetics — my dad loves cactus. In fact, the enormous one you see in my living room behind the loveseat is from my dad’s garden. He bought it on a trip that we took as a family to Baguio years ago. It was a small one at the time. I was 10. He cared for it to the size that you see now. You do the math.

Michelle's advice for designing small spaces: storage, storage, storage

Michelle - together with her close friend Raul - did not let a single detail slip by in designing her space

As a stylist, do you coordinate your dinner outfit with your tablescapes?

Not by design, no. This one awakens a memory that brought a lot of giggles between me and my brother’s friends. My sister-in-law hosted a dinner party in their residence and she used a pretty pineapple-print tablecloth... that matched her pineapple-print dress to a tee! As expected she did not hear the end of it from all her guests so much so that a WhatsApp group named ‘Patikim ng P ni (my SIL’s name)’ was created on the very same night. Hahaha! To this day she vehemently denies that her dress matching her table cloth that night was intentional.

What is one hack that you would share with newbie dinner hosts?

Let me introduce to you, if you haven’t already, to the mystique that is the lemon. They are great to mix with water (yields fantastic health benefits); can be used as garnish for alcoholic beverages; add flavor to food; they make for excellent decor, too! Like I said, mystique. Trust me on this — always have lemons around the house. You will surely need them.

The stylist shares that she doesn't usually match her outfit to her tablescape intentionally

Tropical living: Michelle's love for greens trickles all the way down to her linen choice


Japs Medina
Japs Medina


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