A Visit to Florence’s Home and Life


another cover story assignment for Forbes in Touch

Here’s another article I wrote about Florence Kho, owner of FurnItalia store, for the January 2008 issue of Forbes in Touch.

Home is where one starts from. – T.S. Elliot

Most people say that finding one’s character can start by simply observing one’s possessions, like asking someone, “What is it in your bag?” From there we’ll get interesting finds that may somewhat describe the person. I also recall this web site I learned from a colleague at which it encourages visitors to show all the things that are living in the pockets of their bag, scan them with their faces on, and send a copy for their project. A way of artistic expression so to speak, it is also fascinating to see and interpret the lifestyle and the personality of each individual with her personal things.

What more when we visit their most important possessions of all—their homes. A bubbly and sophisticated woman named Florence Ko just let us in.

Florence who also houses the rare, uniquely classic and high-end Italian masterpieces in the metro today, opens her doors to give us a glimpse of what is truly inside her home. It is a hard fact that her upscale store, FurnItalia is popular for home designers and urbanites that are in dire search for creations of the hottest names in Italian furniture designs like Carlo Colombo, Jean-Marie Massaud, Ferruccio Laviani and Antonella Mosca; and for the timeless classics of Poltrona Frau and of Fontana Arte.

Yet there is more to Florence’s über chic Italian furniture store or to her cozy modern home in northern Forbes than meet the eye.

At Home with Florence
Florence lives a quiet, comfortable life with her husband and her kids in their Forbes home for more than six years now. The house has significant touches of both the timeless and the modern, and a balance of simplicity and of edginess. Particularly, her living room is a spectacular sight. The room predictably stays with the basic colors of black and white—from the couches to the glasses and vases. But it suddenly creates its own quirks when a red mini sofa chair décor sits atop of the center table with a dozen of light green apples at the side. On top of that, a view of lush greens and a sound of gushing water from the pond are definitely breathtaking to make one stay home.

She dubs her personal home designing, a modern classic. “I aspire of having a modern style home, but not too much edge,” as she explains. She describes herself as an easygoing and gregarious woman who is also not afraid of trying something new and even perhaps, talking to strangers! I remember as she tells us a few of her life’s time-tested adages. “Don’t be afraid to ask. When you don’t know anything, seek help. Ask and speak your mind,” as she puts it. Personally, it could be interpreted that her bravado and zest of life contribute to the modernity of their niche. “As a wife, I bring joy to my husband. He’s a quiet person and I always make him laugh.” She says. A yin-yang pair as I may describe it, this explains why such a balance exists in their home.

Of all the spaces at her home, she and her family love their kitchen the most. “It’s pretty obvious naman!” she nonchalantly jokes around and points at her figure. The family loves preparing and eating Chinese and Italian foods. “Whenever we have Italian visitors (our clients) around, we get thrilled with their presence because we will be preparing something Italian!”

Apart from having the love for food, Florence shares us how significant the kitchen is in their family, “I am unaware how this came about, but whenever there is someone in the family who celebrates his or her birthday, we often gather together and we let the celebrant blow his or her birthday candles in the kitchen. Even our yayas and our drivers do!” It is pretty amusing how this cooking space can magically get Florence’s loved ones happily together.

Florence in FurnItalia etc.
During those times when their house in Forbes was still being built then, Florence and her husband could not seem to find the furniture and home décor they much wanted. Because of that, they both decided to put up their own furniture store.

FurnItalia was first established around 2001 in Greenhills, San Juan. In 2006, FurnItalia opens itself another in The Fort. The store got its name at the spur of the moment when the construction team once asked the couple the name they’d want to put on the project. Florence flippantly played with words as she answered the engineer’s million-dollar question: what will the store sell? “We will sell furniture from Italy. Furn. Italia!” Florence recollects.

FurnItalia prides itself for being a distributor of first-class Italian and European furniture brands in the country today. One of which is Poltruna Frau, an Italian brand in furniture making since 1912 that is also widely known for providing outstanding furniture and home décors to state-of-the-art facilities all over the world. Definitely, this brand as such is popular for its very classy designs that home designers and enthusiasts feast on.

As an owner of this modish store, Florence advises her clients to prioritize comfort and practicality in choosing furniture and home decors. “In furniture, stick to basic, neutral colors—brown, black or white; they won’t go out of style too easily. If they want to vary the look of their room, dash it with a bright-colored décor. In that case, it is easier to take it out once you want to go for a new one,” she explains.

As a businesswoman, she is focused to her clients. As a boss, she is straightforward. “I always want to know what my customer wants. They’re my priority in business. With the people I work with, I am honest. I work with integrity. It is better that way than to make lies. And for me, play is play. Work is work,” she describes.

Besides FurnItalia, Florence and her husband have already ventured to another business niches. They set up another store at the location where FurnItalia first started. This time, the store caters to newly-wed couples and condominium owners. Another one has ideally reflected their passion to cooking and dining. Florence glows as she explains their newfound kitchen design business, “Every client has its own particular needs to their kitchen, which are very technical in nature. We have to delve both to the personality of the client and the functionality of his or her kitchen.”

On her spare time, she loves relaxing at the spa and reading lifestyle and showbiz magazines. She also loves traveling especially with her family. She doesn’t do much planning, but she wishes good health for her and for her loved ones.

With her zest for life and upbeat personality and the love of her family at the side, Florence has definitely defined the home she truly owns and cherishes.

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