“Pulupandan” by Jose Joya
From entresuelo to Danish Modern to Michael Jordan: The new ‘Work from Home’
TREASURE HUNTING - Lisa Guerrero Nakpil (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2020 - 12:00am

Whether you’re part of the 50 percent of the workforce ordered to stay indoors, somewhere below age 21 or above age 59, the new-fangled phrase “Work from Home” is something we’ll all have to get used to. For those who prefer the comforting certainty of another century, however, the past can be mined for plenty of guidance.

The term for these WFH spaces in the 19th century would have been entresuelo — the “between floors” of the grand mansions on old Manila’s Calle R. Hidalgo and Calle San Sebastian. Callers who came unannounced were first ushered into these mezzanines. These chambers, after all, could be used not only as receiving areas but also as home offices. (In the here and now, visitors would also be discreetly misted with Lysol in these “ante-salas” or anterooms.)

Today, the spare bedroom would be easiest to repurpose as a modern entresuelo. Interior designer Paolo del Rosario (of the firm Del Rosario Home) says, “I would still like to see a separation of home from office like in the old days — but if that’s not doable, then I would have the dining room double as a workspace. I actually love the idea of having a dining table full of books, beautiful objects and the substance of one’s life, when not in use.”

You could also save yourself some trouble and pluck a piece from another era to teleport you to another time and place. What better way to do it than by employing the tools of this unforgiving year of 2020 such as the internet and mobile data?

Jaime Ponce de Leon of León Gallery points the way through the upcoming León Gallery online auction to ease the transition to high-functioning homebody. (The 15th edition of the sale happens on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31, both days starting at 11 a.m. It’s always a wildly popular event, presenting a range of heavenly art and furniture at down-to-earth prices.)

“First on the list would be a petite teak escritorio or writing table,” says Ponce de Leon. “It’s compact enough at 31 inches across to fit into a narrow space that you could carve out of any condo. It has six drawers and various cubbyholes to keep things tidy, all of it perched on pretty demi-cabriole legs. On the other hand, a Baliuag Sheraton with wide drawers would organize any space while a small refectory table from Bohol would offer an instant work surface.”

Ponce de Leon adds: “There are also a couple of narra pieces with tablets on an incline — perfect if you want to find a flattering angle for your Zoom meetings. One of them actually comes with a three-tier book shelf with glass-paned cabinets,” He points out that most people doing TV interviews from home nowadays display a bookcase in the background. “It makes them look more authoritative,” he says with a grin.

As a practical embellishment, he recommends completing the look with a pukaw or porcelain ginger jar.

“One of my favorites,” he continues, “is a squarish bureau from the 1960s by the designer Borge Møgensen that can be pressed into service as either a vanity table or a desk. The mirror slides up when you open the top drawer to check if you need to powder your nose. Then there’s a roll-top sectional on one side and a roomy space for a video camera, lapel microphone and cables on the other.”

Designer Paolo del Rosario further explains, “It’s important not just to have a well-planned space but also an inspiring one. Find a relaxing yet professional-looking spot in your home for those video-calls and to give you the visual cues that you are moving into work mode.”

To tell the truth, there’s something about a dose of Danish modern that resonates with the current COVID-19 aesthetic — or shall we call it “ascetic”? You can even go full-throttle, outfitting your home with pieces that give it a certain utilitarian cool that is so much a part of the present zeitgeist. Devised as a response to that other global catastrophe that was World War II, Scandinavian furniture is as sleek and simplified as Viking boats. They have the comforting tones of natural wood, something to be treasured as a souvenir of happier times.

Among the various collectibles at the León Exchange auction is a long, low sideboard created for the legendary furniture firm Skovby Møbel. Sliding doors flank wave-edged center drawers that reference the Danish fjords. (There’s another, more geometric option by Ejvind Johansson that is also attractively streamlined.) Other famous names reminiscent of characters in the novel Girl with a Dragon Tattoo include a highboard/sideboard by pioneering designer Hans J. Wegner that would instantly make documents and folders look both neat and stylish. The same goes for a Kurt Østervig cabinet on hairpin legs where you can stash company files discreetly. Finally, there’s a barrel-shaped cabinet with plenty of compartments by the eminent Poul M. Jessen (for the Viby C. company).

Of course, what says “mid-century modern” more than any of the 13 pioneering Filipino artists who defined abstract art in this country? Several works featured at León Exchange would be terrific “think pieces” for your WFH zone. To start, there is Jose Joya’s “Pulupandan,” a reverie in blue of this Negros seaside town while Arturo Luz’s mixed-media work titled “Madjapahit Pots” is satisfyingly sinuous and angular all at the same time. Leading the contemporary selection is an elusive Francesca “Keka” Enriquez depicting the bygone ritual of “High Tea.” It has the right subtext, suggesting that such occasions will not soon return unless you’re pouring in your own home.

If you’re turning to the 20th century for reinvention, then you may have immersed yourselves in the recent Michael Jordan-produced documentary The Last Dance set in the ’80s and ’90s. That autographed pair of Air Jordans — sold off for a mind-boggling $560,000 — would have made a motivational WFH accent piece. (Was it a coincidence that the final episode of the docu-series just happened to air on Netflix on the day before the auction?)

Whichever era — or area — you prefer to energize these pandemic days, I think we can all agree with that French saying that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

WORK FROM HOME
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