Pai Edles and Misty Floro, principals of Morfosis.

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.”

Misty Floro and Pai Edles at PSID
Pai Edles and Misty Floro at PSID.”In one class, I sat beside Misty and she invited me to play a word game during class,” Edles happily recalls. “My first impression of Pai was that she was a party girl. She seemed exciting. Pai thought I was a nerd. And yes, I did ask her to play a word game with me during class because I was bored. So, I guess you can say I did the first move?” Floro replies.

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.” 

“In our design practice, authenticity is intrinsic,” Edles states.
Misty Floro and Pai Edles - project
“Being brave in terms of design does not mean not having any fear; it’s overcoming those fears and achieving breakthroughs,” Floro adds.

Transforming design

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.” 

Misty Floro and Pai Edles - Morfosis team
“One thing that we are really proud of is the team culture that we have built at Morfosis. Our team calls themselves the ‘MorfoKids’ and they call us their moms. Because we treat each other like family,” Floro says. Top to bottom left to right: Iyan Marquez, Denise Quico, Mariella Galvan, Michelle Alimbuyugin, Deva Siojo, Anj Morante, Paula Racela, Adriane Rumbaua, Jearon Sepacio, Pai Edles, Misty Floro
The winning project of Morfosis at the 2017 Kohler Bold Design Awards, Leisure Category is their design for the Shoe Salon outlet at Ayala Cloverleaf Mall.

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. 

Misty Floro and Pai Edles with the Morfosis team
“We make working fun and productive at the same time. We truly love and value each person on our team like our own children,” Floro shares. Top to bottom left to right: Kimm Lim, Jearon Serpacio, Mac Ypon, Kayie Imbag, Adriane Rumbaua, Mariella Galvan, Misty Floro, Pai Edles, Paula Racela

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. 

Kovvy Sanitation, a design by Paula Racela of Morfosis. One of its main features is a detachable UV light, which is used to disinfect and kill viruses.

READ MORE: Reopening during a pandemic: Are architects ready for the new normal?

Embracing colors 

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. 

Floro shares that there are certain problems that queer families experience, no different than that of most families. “We lost our English Bulldog, named Pizza, to a tragic incident at the vet last November. It was really devastating for us because we treat him like our own son and not just as an animal or a pet. We are still recovering, and the realization that comes with that is that life is short and there is no time like now to do what we wanted to do.”

“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.”

Morfosis - Misty Floro and Pai Edles
Misty Floro and Pai Edles participating in the 2019 Pride March. The couple will be celebrating their 12th anniversary this August, saying “It is a great achievement for us to have come this far together. We’ve been together for more than a decade now and this is our way of telling the world that an LGBTQ+ couple can have a lasting relationship.” 

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