Young designer creates fresh holiday décor for Manila FAME April 2016

Nina Santamaria

Nina Santamaria

Nina Santamaria, interior designer and principal of the Grupo Santamaria design firm, is joining Manila FAME for the first time this April as a product specialist of the holiday décor and fashion sectors for the event’s boutique edition.

Currently, Nina is exploring organic forms and textures, metallic colors, and holiday hues to develop fresh and unique product designs for several manufacturers from different parts of the country, such as Quezon City, Laguna, Davao, and Pampanga.

Nina is also collaborating with Philippine designers Ito Kish and Stanley Ruiz for Manila FAME April 2016’s Spring Forward special setting, which will feature the three designers’ creations and some of the finest seasonal indoor and outdoor products of certain Philippine manufacturers. With the creative genius of these three designers, trade buyers and visitors can expect product collections that are classic and traditional yet with a dramatic twist—fresher designs, shades, colors, and materials.

As a product specialist for holiday décor and fashion sectors come Manila FAME April 2016 show, Nina feels pressured but at the same time thrilled about her assignment. “It’s very challenging yet also very exciting because I get the chance to work right there at the heart of where the action is—in the factories where the ideas are being developed and the materials are being explored, tried, and tested. Even if the work is a little behind-the-scene, I feel that it is such an important responsibility,” she said.

Nina’s early years played a big part in her career as an interior designer. At the age of seven, she was acquainted with art through learning from Philippine National Artist Jose T. Joya. As a small child, Nina also enjoyed playing with building blocks, playing house, working on coloring books, and reading her mother’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine collections. She was naturally curious about beautiful places and spaces as well. Growing up with these influences, she chose a career in interior design.  In 1999, she started designing after getting her license as an interior designer, and after a few years, she founded her own design firm, the Grupo Santamaria. The company has been operating for 10 years now, providing interior design for commercial, residential, institutional, and offices spaces, as well as events. Nina’s experience in designing various retail spaces—from bag and shoe retail stores to cafés and art galleries—helps her create designs for Manila FAME exhibitors.

To Nina, travel has always been a source of inspiration when coming up with designs. The places she visits open her eyes to different materials, cultures, and ways of life. “Travel is important; research is important. Even if you don’t travel physically, it’s good to travel through reading or surfing the internet, or just talking to people—getting to know their experiences. These things make up the fabric of how you approach holiday design,” she said. Nina is also inspired by the works of craftsmen and other designers in architecture and interior design.

Nina already knew about Manila FAME even before she was asked to become a product specialist for the trade show. In fact, she is a regular Manila FAME visitor who goes with her staff every year to look into the new collections of designers, both experienced and new. “[I love] the creative buzz of all the exhibitors and also the interest of the Filipinos—the growing interest of the Filipinos in attending and supporting these exhibitions. It’s great to see students lining up at Manila FAME; it’s great to see visitors from all walks of life: senior citizens, students, mommies, housewives. It’s not just limited to interior designers or architects or buyers,” she said.

Nina also offers some valuable pieces of advice to those who want to become designers as well. “Humility is always a good advice to other people, especially those who are starting out, because you can’t really buy or speed up expertise, experience, or knowledge in mastery of your craft. Whether you’re a furniture designer or a bag designer or a shoe designer or lighting designer, you have to keep on learning and you have to acknowledge that there are years of experience ahead that you have to go through in order for you to really master your craft. But with perseverance, you can really excel. And you have to be open to the criticism of others, but also stay true to your mission. And if you do that, you will come out as unique and strong. And remember always that you’re also representing your country and you’re doing a service to your country because it is an international exhibition. With all of that in mind, you will really feel humble and yet you’re one fish in a big sea of designers,” she said.

The April 2016 show edition of Manila FAME, the Philippines’ premier design and lifestyle event, will be held on April 21-24 at the World Trade Center Metro Manila, Pasay City, Philippines. The event is organized by the Center of International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the export promotions agency of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). For more information, visit

One comment

  1. Tihomir

    respected; my name is Tihomir Petric. I own a company Stylishshoes which produces women fashion shoes in China, Guangzhou. Offer job designer. Whether you can help contact young designers? Thankfully Tihomir Petric

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