Interior decorator and contractor Kim Policarpio.
Success & happiness, by design
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - October 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Once upon a time, interior decorator Kim Policarpio had nothing branded to wear to a business meeting. Being very resourceful, he bought a genuine but torn Lacoste shirt from an ukay-ukay and a plain brand-new shirt of the same color. He then cut out the crocodile from the genuine shirt then sewed it onto the new shirt, in perfect symmetry. He walked with confidence to his meeting and aced it.

 To our lunch at the Shangri-La Makati last week, Kim was wearing a monogrammed Ralph Lauren jacket. The real deal. He had no car when he was starting out, but nowadays, he is said to sometimes commute by helicopter around the metro — courtesy of his clients, 99 percent of whom are Filipino-Chinese.

Lights by Illuminati, Poltrona Frau grantorino armchair and sofa and Giorgetti coffee table in this living room by Kim.

***

Kim is unabashedly honest. During his very first job interview after high school for an upscale department store, he told the lady interviewing him that he didn’t know how to draw. “But I can execute. Try me,” he promised. The lady then asked Kim to set up several displays using the merchandise of their store. Kim was hired in four hours.

Kim was also fascinated with making Christmas décor. He would buy raw materials from Quiapo and assemble them into eye-catching wreaths, trees, garlands. He would go door to door to different banks and his Christmas décor was snapped up.

It was while he was decorating the home of a bank executive for the holiday season that he met a kindly old doctor, who kept asking him questions as he put the trimmings on his client’s tree. Kim patiently answered each of them, though he felt the doctor’s questions were slowing down his work.

To Kim’s surprise, the kindly old doctor, his client’s brother, offered to finance his education as an interior designer “because potential clients will always ask you where you studied.”

What was the caveat? “Nothing. He didn’t ask for anything in return except for me to pay my blessings forward,” Kim tells me.

After studying interior design for two years at the Philippine School of Interior Design, Kim met his first client, a young Chinese couple. Though he met the standards of the couple, he needed the blessings of their feng shui consultant. Not for his design, but for himself. He was warned gently that if the feng shui master rejected him, the deal was off.

Well, the master actually liked him! Thus was born Kim’s career as an interior decorator (he is also a contractor now, by the way).

How did he earn the trust of the Filipino-Chinese community?

“I am loyal and honest,” he muses. “Without my Chinese clients, I don’t know where I would be right now.”

Despite his string of projects, Kim continued making Christmas décor. However, there was one Christmas when, exhausted by his projects, he took a break.

“That year, I didn’t get a single interior design project. Nothing,” recounts Kim.

Kim believes that his role as an interior decorator is to enhance the client’s concept, like including a million-peso mirror in the room as the client requested.

***

What makes a beautiful home?

“It’s the people who live there, of course. A happy family makes a home beautiful,” Kim says.

He also believes that his role as an interior decorator is to enhance the client’s concepts, not to oppose them. He remembers a house where the furniture was all top-of-the-line Italian but the clients wanted the backdrop to be that of eight horses — eight knitted horses. Kim followed his client’s wishes. Another client wanted a million-peso mirror. Kim found one. Kim also granted the wishes of a client who specified million-peso sinks.

Kim loves antiques, but does not incorporate them into his designs for his Chinese clients, upon the latter’s request.

Kim describes his aesthetic as “contemporary classic.” His signature, he believes, is the wow factor his projects have.

“I always tell my clients before the signing of contract, ‘Madame, if during the turnover and during the house blessing, kapag walang nagsabi ng ‘wow,’ refundable ang talent fee ko.” That has never happened, of course.

***

Kim remembers the time when his mother brought home five apples from the bottom of the heap for their noche buena. That was all they had. To make his mother feel better, he started jumping up and down and cheering, “Apples! Apples!”

Then he went to his room and sobbed. When life became better for him, he packed Christmas gift baskets for poor children in Tondo, making sure they were delivered on the 24th, not earlier (otherwise they would be consumed before noche buena on Christmas Eve).

When he finally could afford it, he brought his entire family to Christmas dinner at the Shangri-La in Makati. He bought his mother a designer gown to wear. Spending Christmas in the hotel has become a yearly tradition for Kim and his family, so much so that his bathrobe there always has his name on it.

A Mother of Perpetual Help devotee, Kim believes his success is God-given. “It’s really because of a talent that God has given me, and which, in a snap of a finger, he can take away.”

From Pasay, the family has moved to Makati. Kim’s dream is to one day live in one of the villages across EDSA from the village where he now resides.

He has gone a long way from his humble beginnings. Crossing EDSA to his dream home doesn’t seem to be a dream too far.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

KIM POLICARPIO
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