THE DESIGNER AND THE SEA
A dispatch from the tropics by intrepid interior designer and visual doyenne Vianca Soleil, who left the bright lights of the city to design an island home and nature-focused resort.
P U R S U I T S
You're an interior designer by trade and have lived and worked all over the world. What catalyzed your move from Dubai to Puro Island in the Philippines?
Living by the sea has always been my end goal. After being based mostly in cities and living that hectic nine-to-five work routine, I felt the need to slow things down. I took some months off to travel and became particularly drawn to exploring remote provincial villages. This experience acted as a sign, a realization of the kind of life I long for which is a much simpler life by the sea.
Can you share a little bit about how the idea for your future resort came about, and the philosophy behind it?
Unna is firstly our family home. It’s a place that brings us together. Initially, we just had an idea of creating our own little piece of paradise. I would be based on the island and my siblings could visit me anytime they needed a break from the city. Then the ideas kept on growing as with my relationship with the island locals. The project needed to serve a bigger purpose. Hence, the plan to share Unna with others. We’d love for other travelers to experience our Filipino island way of life. This way, we’d also be able to support our small community by providing more jobs and livelihoods.
What styles, muses or materials have you drawn inspiration from for your home?
Unna is inspired by the island itself. The approach was to build like an island local by making use of materials sourced within the Romblon islands. We only use natural materials such as cogon grass and coconut timber. Romblon also happens to be abundant in marble. It’s actually one of the main reasons I chose to move here. I take my time filling our home with marble pieces which we have custom made in the neighboring island.
Romblon also happens to be abundant in marble. It’s actually one of the main reasons I chose to move here. I take my time filling our home with marble pieces which we have custom made in the neighboring island.
Can you tell us more about the practicalities of building your dream home and resort on a remote island?
Because we’re on a separate island, the build is much more challenging and slow. The actual process of putting things together is a big consideration; it has to be uncomplicated. I find that when I stick to some limitations and streamline my design approach or in other words, unlearn some things I was used to back in the city, we’re able to stay true to the feel of the island and save more energy and materials.
What is the best part of your work? And an important lesson you've learnt since embarking on this adventure?
It’s being surrounded and constantly inspired by all this nature. Puro feels exactly like its name. I find its beauty to be pure, as with the island locals. There’s so much to be learnt from them. They have such a happy and uncomplicated disposition despite having gone through a lot. They’re so caring and giving despite not having much. This taught me the value in perspective and a better definition of kindness.
I find that when I stick to some limitations and streamline my design approach or in other words, unlearn some things I was used to back in the city, we’re able to stay true to the feel of the island and save more energy and materials.
C R E A T I V I T Y
What’s currently inspiring your creative process?
Aside from nature, I also find children’s artistic instincts to be inspiring.
Do you have any muses or mentors who have been instrumental in your journey?
My dad. He dedicated his life to public service and was an inspiration to many.
At what moments are you your most creative and expressive self?
When there is total freedom to create. With Unna, it’s knowing I am designing it for my family.
R E F L E C T I O N S
What natural landscapes do you find rejuvenation in?
The sunrise from the hill where we usually hike to, the marble and the washed up shells.
What is a daily ritual that you seek solace in, especially during this time of global uncertainty?
Starting and ending the day with a walk by the shore. It’s the time I’m able to reflect. It reminds me to stay positive and hopeful.
You’ve recently experienced Poetica’s first few botanical essential oil blends, is there a particular scent that speaks to you?
They are all so unique in aroma and I enjoy having them part of my daily rituals. I resonate the most with the Lemon Myrtle & Cardamom fragrance. Its earthy scent heightens the feeling of being in nature.
What forms of art move you?
Music is a big part of my everyday. Lately, I listen to L'Impératrice, Rhye and Men I Trust. I also find solace and inspiration from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s short stories and Cy Twombly’s paintings.
Words to live by?
As my dad would always say, the best is yet to come.