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The Inexplicable Còrdoba Flair



The eminent Interior Designer Cocoy Còrdoba exquisite and decadent showroom, lies along a sleepy street in the idyllic south. Outside, the sun splatters shades of yellow on a green canopy-covered avenue. Leaves of verdant green, mahogany and tangerine sway in the wind. They guard your eye jealously from the brilliant blue sky. Inside, the senses overload. The space is filled with vignettes of Còrdoba’s signature style: eclectic, original, flexible, detailed. The workshop is as prim and proper as the majestic ancestral homes of yesteryear, but with whispers here and there of exotic now-ness, weaving together in a symphony of voices that resonate and murmur like the sirens of Sinbad: stay.


As a matter of fact, you could very well stay. The vignettes collide together with discordant harmony, blending into each other like oil paint on a canvas. Filipiniana runs seamlessly into Oriental, which fuses with exotic touches of the African savanna, which suddenly and effortlessly becomes 70’s retro, then swiftly transposes into the sweet romanticism of country décor.  The showroom is a strangely pleasant combination of yesteryear and tomorrow, a comforting reminder of the décor that made your ancestral home so regally splendid, mixed in with fashionable bric-a-brac accumulated over the years of travel and progress. The showroom is the inanimate concretization of a cool uncle – someone who experienced the glory of those hey-days and wears them with panache and superb retro style, but in touch enough to roll with the punches of today. In other words, the showroom IS Cocoy Còrdoba.


Còrdoba has been designing homes since 1977. His client list numbers among the rich and famous and at turns the humble and simple as well. His naturally effervescent personality, genuine interest in other people and obvious passion for his craft make him a clear choice for interiors with taste, élan and sophistication. In spite of a long and distinguished track record, Còrdoba has never lost touch with the trends of the day. To wit, he flawlessly combines classical design principles from yesteryear, adhering with a pure and careful touch to the codes that made him great, with an impetuous and blithe style that is fully reflective of 21st century eclecticism. When asked what differentiates him from his peers, Còrdoba will admit that he does not know, as his work is defined by his beloved clients – characterizing him as a design partner with flexibility and sensitivity. Design-wise, however, perhaps what differentiates him best is that inexplicable and enigmatic Còrdoba flair.


Còrdoba’s rebellious streak took over during his University years and without the knowledge of his father, transferred out of the Architectural program and into Interior Design. Completely befuddled by his son’s abrupt decision, Còrdoba Senior brought some of Còrdoba Junior’s design plates with him on a trip to the United States. Even without his physical presence, the latter’s talent was evident, and was noticed by none other than American socialite and former actress and interior decorator, Caroline Lee Bouvier Canfield Radziwill Ross (better known as Lee Radziwill, younger sister of the late former first lady to the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). Although this project turned out to be doomed in the stars, Còrdoba Junior’s promise was evident – and quickly making waves. Over the years, Còrdoba found himself designing the homes and estates of many more socialites, politicians and celebrities.

His innate trendsetting eye came in useful over the years. In 1982, Còrdoba transformed the Megastar’s bedroom into a presidential suite – a special gift for her 18th birthday. To keep things current, he suggested the use of peach in the color scheme, a shade that was unpopular among design circles. Untarnished execution and impeccable good taste made Sharon Cuneta’s bedroom a gorgeous vignette – and an example of how peach could be incorporated into design with flair. More than that, it positioned Còrdoba as an avant-garde, cutting-edge authority in the design world. Soon afterwards, Còrdoba brought in the “Ralph Lauren palette” – interiors furnished with the mysterious dark shades of burgundy, green and black – ushering in modern techniques with mirrors, silver, gold and black. Còrdoba is humble about these achievements: “(It became) somewhat of a disadvantage to be such a trendsetter (because the styles were hard to understand). Eventually I learned to balance creativity with business.” In the more conservative 20th century, Còrdoba may have been a trendsetter, but he was also risky, so in the late 1990’s, he tempered himself to a more subtle approach. As such, Còrdoba’s learning curve leapt, and he found himself understanding his clients better. “I’m happy now,” he smiles serenely. “People today are open to anything and everything.” As a matter of fact, half of the furniture that he uses in his designs are commissioned by him, and manufactured by his partners in Cebu.


Nevertheless, that trademark Còrdoba flexibility extends to every interaction with a potential client. He explains his process: “My first question is, ‘What theme do you want?’ My second question is, ’What is your preference in colors?’ Then we work together. It’s a teamwork effort. I have no definite theme; I do all.” However, Còrdoba is not disillusioned by his success. He is aware of the feedback on his work: “There is no in between. You either love it or hate it.” Even so, Còrdoba adheres strongly to his core values: teamwork, diplomacy and flexibility. After all, he says, “(Your project) speaks of your client’s character, not of (yours).”
With a career that spans nearly five decades, it appears that Còrdoba has discovered the formula for longevity in this creative field: “Unpredictability and flexibility.” Then, he smiles rakishly: “I have a sin, though. I confess – I prioritize design first, then functionality second.” This little transgression is symptomatic of the ‘Còrdoba flair and the Còrdoba guts” – and is the consequence of success in Repertory Philippines as a set and production designer for 5 years. Work experience that is yet another ingredient that, combined with others, rise to create the sweet and tangy inexplicable Còrdoba flair.


So, what is this Còrdoba flair? Is it flexibility, diplomacy and teamwork? Is it a rakish devil-may-care boldness in the design process, mixed in with gorgeous classical remnants of yesteryear? Or is it perhaps the finesse of a cool uncle who has seen all and experienced all and has found his personal nirvana? Còrdoba settles comfortably into a unique ottoman and says, “I used to be the life of the party. But now, I’m at peace. My designs are at peace.”
This peacefulness and acceptance of who he is and what he offers, coming from a flavorful past, all add up to the Còrdoba flair. He offers advice to all aspiring artists: “Never be scared to design things that you feel might not be accepted. Never be scared of colors – that’s an asset for any artist, knowing how to combine colors no matter what. Be always very flexible. Never get stuck to one theme.” This advice could easily be a reflection of Còrdoba’s life story: fearless, colorful, flexible and with such enigmatic, irreverent, personable flair.
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2 comments:

Didi said...

This is so nicely written. Seriously. 8)

Ning Buning said...

thank you for dropping-by Didi :))

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