A new career for Carmi Martin

- Leah Salterio () - October 25, 2003 - 12:00am
Life indeed begins at 40 for Carmi Martin. She joined showbiz when she was only 15, barely out of high school, as one of Dolphy’s "Angels." While earning her keep from TV and the movies, Carmi made a name for herself.

Success, however, has been coupled with sacrifice. The middle child in a brood of five, Carmi financed the schooling of her brothers and sisters through her showbiz earnings. Inevitably, she was forced to give up her studies.

"When I was new in showbiz, I was doing three movies and two TV shows. That’s why my studies had to take a backseat to my career," Carmi shares. "But I don’t regret that. I’m proud that I was able to help my brothers and sisters."

After turning 40 recently, Carmi found herself with a new challenge: proving herself in a different field. She became part of the graduating class of 130 students at the Philippine School for Interior Design (PSID). After ISLA (Interior Spaces for local Application) their graduation exhibiton, ongoing up Oct. 31 at the PBCom Towers on Ayala Avenue (cor. Herrera st.) in Makati, Carmi will become a full-fledged interior designer.

"It changed my life totally," says Carmi of her venture into interior designing. "I learned how to deal with different people, not just from showbiz. I became super busy and never idle. I believe this is the best choice for me. Although I like dresses, I couldn’t imagine taking up fashion designing. I appreciate designing houses more. "

It was Tessie Tomas, Carmi’s long-time friend, who encouraged her to go back to school in 1999.

"I did the interiors of my pad in Magallanes," Carmi says. "It’s minimalist – in black and white. Every time friends go there, they would ask me who did the design. They were always surprised when I’d say I did it. My apartment represents who I am. Outside showbiz, I’m a totally different person and I have a totally different world."

Carmi admits she was initially hesitant to study again after more than 20 years of being out of school. "I was having second thoughts if they would accept me. But at the same time, I was excited," she says. "I wanted to learn about ergonometrics and how to use space. They made me sit in class for one day and everybody was perhaps wondering what I was doing there. But I readily felt comfortable in the school. The teachers accepted me warmly."

From the moment she was asked to do a trial plate at PSID, Carmi realized she wanted to pursue interior designing. "They asked me to do a nameplate, so I got a T-shirt and put my name on it with silky prints," Carmi shares. "They gave me a grade of 98. That was a big factor which prodded me to enroll."

Even if she’s a celebrity, Carmi attests she never got special treatment at PSID. "I wouldn’t have allowed it, anyway," she says. "I make it a point to submit my projects on time, despite my busy schedule. When I focus myself on something, I really try to do it."

She recently wrapped up her work in ABS-CBN’s weekly dramedy, Buttercup, directed by Wenn Deramas, who wants to be "my first client," says Carmi. There were times, however, when Carmi nearly quit from school because of her showbiz commitments.

"When I was taping Labs Ko si Babes in Pila, Laguna, I had a hard time," Carmi shares. "But I didn’t give up. I brought my assignments to the set. I’m lucky because my instructors allowed me to maximize my creativity. My classmates were all very supportive, too."

Carmi believes being in showbiz gives her an edge in her new job. "It’s really up to me to prove myself as an interior designer," she asserts. "This is something new for me. I’ve been acting for the past 25 years. But now I’ve discovered a second career. I enjoy both tasks, but to prove myself in the interior designing business is really a challenge for me now."

She also expresses her desire to design houses for celebrities, especially close friends in the business. For Tessie Tomas, she will do bright colors that will complement Tessie’s "cheerful" personality even off camera. For Vernie Varga, Carmi will do a contemporary look, with monochromatic colors. For Gladys Reyes, Carmi will design something spacious, with vibrant colors that blend.

"As a showbiz personality, I know the whims and priorities of celebrities," Carmi says. "I know how to divide space in the house for clothes and shoes. I know how to maximize space. I always adopt a minimalist style, especially with very limited spaces. But the design should also be comfortable, with clean lines and cozy interiors. I don’t want clutter. I’m very meticulous with details."

Carmi says traveling has allowed her to develop her taste for designing. "I don’t just look, I always stop and observe. I love European architecture. Bali, for me, is also very different. You feel a certain awe and amazement when you’re in Bali."

inspired by the 13 regions in the country, is mounted with support from the Tourism Department and Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

Carmi and her group have been assigned Kalibo, Aklan as inspiration for their design. After months of research, they came up with "Ati," an outdoor sitting room that is tranquil yet festive (inspired by the traditional Ati-Atihan festival). The booth is one of the 33 rooms on exhibit, designed by the graduating class.

Although Carmi is older than her PSID classmates, she insists that "I don’t feel old." "You’re never too old for any new challenge that comes along," she adds.

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