Interior designer and Instituto Marangoni Alumna Cecil Ravelas has designed her own real-life fairy tale. Her journey towards finding her life’s work began at a young age. Cecil has always loved the process of craft and creation. Decision to pursue design, however, did not come easy. She recalls, “Being a designer then was not an option for me as it was not considered a serious job. In college, I ended up enrolling in an engineering course. As I progressed in my studies, I found myself in a dilemma. My heart was not into it… I decided to shift and pursue a design course. I still didn’t have the support to pursue my interest but I have always been strong and independent so I just kept pushing for it.” In this week’s feature, we discover how Cecil’s courage in pursuing her passion would later lead to the building of other people’s dreams.
Discover the modern-day fairytale life of interior designer, Cecil Ravelas when you read below.
- What keeps you busy these days?
My design office has been busy developing and creating new spaces for our clients that will enable them to adapt to the new normal. Our way of life has changed. As designers, we are posed with the challenge to create spaces that are safe and ensure sustainable, healthy living environments. Currently, we are working on a varied number of projects involving residential, commercial and hospitality development.
Outside work, I am busy caring for my four cats who are happy to be seeing more of me. I’ve been trying to keep myself healthy. So recently, I bought myself a treadmill and started integrating it into my daily routine.
- How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
My pursuit for my passion was not an easy one but I propelled myself into carving my own path. I have always been interested in designing and creating things. When I was young I would make my own paper doll dresses, exerting effort in putting details on them. I did well in creative arts and craft classes. In Senior High, I choose Interior Design as an elective. Somehow I had a sense for what I wanted to do, but my father was not too thrilled with the idea.
Being a designer then was not considered a serious job. In college, I enrolled in an engineering course. As I progressed, I found that my heart was not into it. I decided to shift and pursue design. I still didn’t have the support to pursue my interest, but I have always been strong and independent. I just kept pushing for it.
After school I did visual merchandising, retail design, product and textile design, decorating, styling, gallery work, teaching in design school and doing construction. I also delved into project management for hospitality projects. I was doing very well but eventually, I found myself wanting to do something more meaningful. After giving it some thought, I decided to start doing my own work again and that's how my current company started.
As my company grew, I continued to pursue new learnings. I went back to school in Milan where all my previous learnings and work experience has been redefined and synthesized. My career path was quite organic and while it was not an easy route, the work I do today is a product of those years of refinement.
- What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
I love the whole process from ideation to building. It’s thrilling to see ideas get built, but it is more fulfilling to seeing the smile on my client’s face, knowing that we’ve made their lives easier or better.
- What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
My pursuit to be good at what I do has made me a workaholic. In the recent years, I have been exerting effort to find the right balance between work and play. Last year, when the pandemic hit I found a lot of me-time, which allowed me to introspect and recalibrate.
- For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
We should always be open to possibilities and we should be courageous to jump into every opportunity that comes. No path is easy. I think every route has its challenges. Stay true to your ideals and principles. It will guide us in finding the path or better yet creating our own route to find success or our purpose.
We must develop a keen sense of awareness in knowing our strengths and weaknesses. This enables us to keep learning and evolving. Learning is a life-long process that we need to cultivate to stay relevant. Absorb as much from our mentors, colleagues, collaborators, our own experience of failures. Learn from our surroundings, we learn from history. Consequently, these become our sources for our creative works.
- What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?
Every project is a milestone and every project has its own purpose. This requires unique solutions. With this in mind, we exert effort in finding the right material or appropriate methodology to develop our design propositions. This means we are not limited to the materials that are just available in the market. If necessary we create our own materials, products and processes.
- How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?
Pre-pandemic, I would always set aside time for leisure travel with friends and family. My quick fix is going to the beach or traveling to Hong Kong to eat. Otherwise, I spend my Christmas holiday with family in the UK and my Easter break in Europe. These leisure activities feed my mind with experiences that later enable me to develop new concepts for projects.
- How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
I usually start my day with a short walk on my treadmill to bring up my energy and I end my day playing with my cats as they calm me down. I end my week with a nice dinner, a good bottle of wine shared with friends. On weekends, I try to swim or do Sunday lunch with family. Occasionally, I go to the beach to chill and enjoy the smell of salty, sea air.
- How would you describe your personal style?
- What for you makes for a good investment piece?
A black dress that you can dress up or dress down with a nice coat or jacket; otherwise, style it with a nice silk scarf or shawl. You can also glam it up with a nice neck piece and earrings.
It is always smart to buy nice, comfortable shoes. Nowadays, I have all sorts of ballet flats, brogues, loafers and sneakers from casual to dressy ones.
- What do pearls mean to you?
It reminds me of my mother. I had my first set of pearls when I was a young girl. She says it's simple, classic and can go with anything. I guess she imprinted it on me so a pair of pearl studs is a staple accessory. As I evolved, my preference for pearls changed as well, now I prefer the more imperfect shaped pearls as they are more sculptural.
Pearls are truly unique. It is raw beauty created by nature and that’s what makes it rare.
Its luster is natural and not polished by hand. Its form is shaped by nature’ not cut by machine. It is a piece to keep and hand down from generation to generation.