Design Without Boundaries: The out-of-the-box approach of Misty Floro and Pai Edles
As queer people in the creative industry, Morfosis principals Misty Floro and Pai Edles believe that design should be authentic, brave, and bold
June 10, 2020
Written by Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images courtesy of Misty Floro and Pai Edles
Morfosis principals Misty Floro and Pai Edles have always been open about their relationship, collectively building their interior design firm’s identity since 2013. In honor of Pride Month, BluPrint tells their story as queer individuals, how they both discovered their creative and gender expressions, and their hopes for LGBTQ+ members in the architecture and design industry.
Adapting to change
“I came out in 2009, shortly after Pai and I became a couple. Coming out as a lesbian to family and friends was not easy for me. I kept my past 8-year relationship hidden from my family mainly because I feared rejection and disappointing my parents,” recalls Floro, when asked about how she came to terms with her sexuality. Edles, on the other hand, did not really have to confront her family and friends. “I did not have a big coming out moment. My family was and is very accepting of my sexuality.” Floro shares that it was because of her partner that she found the courage and strength to come out. “I met her family and saw how they were so accepting and supportive of her. I realized I wanted that for myself as well.”
The couple revisits their education, where they met at the Philippine School of Interior Design in 2008. At that time, they were both pursuing their passion, something that both of them will always be thankful for. However, Floro shares that her education plan was not immediately pointed towards Interior Design. “After taking on the advice of my parents to study Management Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, I decided to pursue my passion for interior design and go to PSID,” she recalls. “To be honest, I really wanted to be an interior designer because of The Sims, the video game I loved to play as a teen. I also was always into the arts as creativity runs in the family.” Edles follows, honoring her father as a big influence. “He was an engineer and a contractor. When I was a kid, he would bring me to construction sites. Seeing the blueprints of buildings and other projects fascinated me.” Because of this influence, Edles’s first choice was to take up architecture. “I was waitlisted in one of the top architecture schools in Manila, but I decided not to wait for the results because there was something about College of Saint Benilde that made me curious about studying there. I took up Interior Design there instead, and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Edles narrates that she had queer professors during her stay in Benilde, saying that aside from the teachings of the two schools she studied in, their communities made great influences to her design philosophy, reminding her to never be afraid and staying true to herself. Floro concurs, sharing that being brave has always been one of her guiding principles in life. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, one has to face a lot of challenges, adversities, and discrimination. Facing all that requires courage. Similarly, being brave in terms of design and in the context of our culture at Morfosis means constantly thinking out-of-the-box and positively challenging the status quo.”
Misty Floro and Pai Edles only got to co-found Morfosis about four years after graduating from PSID. “We worked at different design firms to explore what was out there and get more experience. We started to get small projects we would do on the side while still working at our respective firms,” Floro narrates. “It was only when Misty and I started getting multiple projects that we decided to put up Morfosis as a formal business,” Edles adds. They juggled through a handful of working late nights at a small desk in Floro’s room, coming up with designs, performing accounting and other admin tasks, and beating deadlines. Edles talks about the circumstances that they had to go through, especially when it comes to incorporating a business and running it. “We even had a horror client who told us that he knows a lot of people and that we will never work in the interior design industry again. We thought we were doomed! But hey, here we are 7 years later.” Floro shares how her learnings from her business degree assisted them, along with the many lessons they had to learn together. “It was a struggle, but knowing I had Pai with me made it a little bit easier. We now have a small office in Mother Ignacia where we head a team of ten people. Almost half of us are members of the LGBTQ+ community. As a lesbian couple who owns a business, it is really important for us to create a workplace that is inclusive. A safe space for people like us.”
The multi-disciplinary studio paved their way to various recognitions, winning under the Leisure Category at the 2017 Kohler Bold Design Awards. When asked about their design practice, Floro shares how much their firm loves designing out-of-the-box interiors. “The design process starting from “skull sessions” (what we call our brainstorming sessions) with our team all the way to execution really gives us a thrill.” Edles mentions how their artistic and romantic union is a benefit, making design collaboration easier. “In designing, I often provide the big idea, and Misty, being the thinker, is the one who refines it. Both Misty and I oversee the day-to-day operations of the firm.”The two add that the hardest part may be the numbers and accounting, but being together 24/7 allows for a better communication process.
Morfosis, as a small team, has established a culture of authenticity. Edles shares that this is intrinsic in the same manner that they always challenge themselves to take risks and explore. “We treat everyone in our team equally and judge merits based on performance.” Most of their schemes inform uniformity, depicting something new yet in accordance with design standards. At present, Morfosis is working remotely due to the pandemic. The principals emphasize that they limit site visits and conduct all meetings virtually. They have also been proposing sanitation station designs for different locations.
It’s a beautiful contrast how the Morfosis team is often seen wearing monochromatic colors and using neutral colors in their designs while their studio represents a bright and colorful community. Misty Floro and Pai Edles share that they have been educating themselves in various ways to heighten the visibility of queer members in the design industry. “Representation matters,” affirms Edles. “We really make it a point to be visible as an LGBT couple. We don’t hide it from our clients and colleagues. We participate in regular LGBTQ+ events and accept invitations to talk about our experiences as a lesbian couple, both personally and in terms of business,” Floro adds. On a more encompassing lens, Edles mentions their hopes of having the SOGIE bill passed, emphasizing that companies should recognize same-sex domestic partners and give them the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive. She also mentions how other companies are already doing this, and how rewarding it is for them to see such progress.
“Visibility is important,” Edles punctuates, mentioning how she and her partner did not have lesbian designers to look up to, which is why they are striving to be an inspiration for others who may be experiencing struggles. “We acknowledge that not everyone is like us, that others experience violence and great injustice. This is why we have to keep fighting for equal rights, we want to pay it forward and help others who are experiencing discrimination.” Edles supports this statement, reminding queer people that with or without any law for the LGBTQ+ community, queer people are worth the same respect as any human being on this planet. “I encourage you to support and work with people and firms where you do not need to demand acceptance and respect for being who you are. Stand proud and prove to everyone that being LGBTQ+ does not make us less human or less capable of doing things. We are all equal.”