Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez defines her personal space—with nature

Furniture designer teams up with Rizzoli New York for coffeetable on natural living

Stephanie Gonzalez dedicates her book to her family: 'For Christ, Andrea, Arielle, and Anouk. Home is wherever you are.' She is shown here with husband Chris, daughters Arielle and Andrea, in their beautiful Lapalala home in South Africa.

In her beautiful city home, Gonzalez highlights natural design in an urban setting. The Lionel Smit painting, as visual focus, sets the tonal palette for the living room, which is decorated with Philux’s Luna mahogany three-seater with brass metal finish and a custom-made coffee table designed by Oz Gallery. (Photo by Paola Aseron)

Philux president Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez pens a coffeetable book where she opens her home and allows readers a rare peek into her life. (Photo by Scott A. Woodward)

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez already has her hands full as president of Philux, a family-owned furniture manufacturer and retailer known for upholding local craftsmanship. Recently, she gave birth to her third child. “I’m trying my best to take it slow and savor the moments with my newborn,” she says. “Though 2022 is like riding at full gallop.”

Indeed, it seems there’s no stopping this remarkable lady. Her life and career are at full throttle. She’s an advocate of the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s conservation programs, and board member of Habitat for Humanity Philippines. Recently, she integrated the Filipino culture aesthetic in the interior design of Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in the Philippines (See related article: Stephanie Gonzalez on LV project: Enhanced passion for what is Filipino).

Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez’s debut book (Photo by Scott A. Woodward)

Now, she has another feat—as author of the coffee-table book, Embracing Natural Design: Inspired Living, internationally published by Rizzoli New York.

The ethos of embracing natural design rings truer than ever, especially with the pandemic that restricted us in so many ways. It taught us to go back to basics, urging us to seek nature and retreat to it. Nature is truly something we can’t overlook. Gonzalez has this spot on in her debut book, a visual journey of her own reflections on creating her family home. It goes beyond merely “bringing the outside in,” but more importantly, creating well-loved, sustainable living spaces.

Gonzalez ardently chronicled the design process of how she turned her home vision into reality. “I thought documenting it would be a good opportunity to share my learnings and inspiration with others,” she says. So, she started writing notes and having the spaces photographed.

“Once I saw how it turned out, the idea of a book turned up,” she explains this laborious project that took two-and-a-half years to complete. Her book coming to life was almost like giving birth to a child, resulting in over 200 luscious pages of well-thought-out, effortless aesthetics and spaces that introduce nature beyond the home.

Featured in the book is her family’s high-rise urban home, as well as her Lapalala South Africa family retreat

Gonzalez’s off-grid luxury Lapalala South Africa family retreat incorporates the great outdoors.

The book gives readers a rare peek into her life and home. Featured in it are her family’s high-rise urban home in Metro Manila, and her Lapalala South Africa family retreat, which was built sustainably. There’s no better way to see Gonzalez’s work, rooted in sophistication, warmth, and ease.

Teaming up with Rizzoli was an incredible experience, she says. “It was a dream to have my work appreciated by a publishing house of that prestige. It was a true transcontinental collaboration that wasn’t without its challenges.”

Her editor Sandy Gilbert Freidus was based in New York. Her book designer Marius Roux and publishing consultant Ingeborg Pelser were based in Cape Town, while she was confined in Metro Manila throughout the pandemic. But they were able to achieve a good working pace despite the time differences. This is something, she says, she was “grateful for and proud of.”

The powder room uses natural materials and finishes—Gonzalez’s unique take on embracing natural forms and elements.

Gonzalez talks to about her new book, and how she brings natural elements into one’s living space.

The notion of “embracing natural design”—how does it align with your work? Is there a conscious effort to apply this philosophy in the way you live?

Mother Nature is one of the best artists. An unpolished stone surface invites you to reach out and touch it, hammered metal imbues a sense of earthiness, and seagrass wallpaper adds a touch of coziness. I have always felt nourished by nature even as a child as I grew up hearing stories about my father’s childhood in the jungles of the Congo; I saw how my mother transformed our city apartment into a home by making it a haven for greenery.

To me, natural design encompasses many things: introducing raw materials in furniture, wallpaper, objets d’art, and textiles brings warmth. These incredible natural finishes give a beautiful, rich texture to any space.

I also like to associate natural design with conscious, local craftsmanship. I find the idea of making design choices that can help local communities and have a soft impact on the environment incredibly appealing. This can be something as simple as choosing a piece made locally, by an artisan whose skills have become part of the object’s story. Or using your creativity to find a second life for a piece of furniture you have loved. Or even just choosing the very best quality you can find, so that an item will give you many years of pleasure.

 ‘I find the idea of making design choices that can help local communities and have a soft impact on the environment incredibly appealing’

How does your background influence your visual language today?

I am both Swiss and Filipino, and I’m thankful to have been exposed to both cultures. It allows for a broader mindset and way of doing things. I relate to traits from both parts of my heritage, and I love to introduce them in my creative work.

I honor and admire tradition, but when it comes to design, I enjoy giving the traditional a contemporary twist. I love creating a visual oxymoron—juxtaposing old and new, classic and contemporary, masculine and feminine, patina and polish. Unexpected combinations energize me, allowing me to fashion evocative spaces that resonate with my surroundings. I also make sure to add an element of local craftsmanship to the design to reference a distinctive culture.

How do you bring natural and sustainable elements into living spaces?

Embrace greenery indoors by adding flowers and potted plants. Add natural elements in your design through wallpapers, textiles, and surfaces. This brings beautiful tactility and warmth to a space. Support local furniture and accessories that highlight artisanal craftsmanship. Champion conscious design by introducing pieces made of sustainably sourced materials.

What are the most distinguishable spaces featured in the book?

While I have an affinity to our homes, I love the section of the book on creative collaborators, as it provides a diverse collection of beautiful and inspiring spaces. I love to lean on others for design ideas, and this chapter of Embracing Natural Design does just that.

You’ve profiled designers and artists, from sustainable architect Elora Hardy to designers India Hicks, Nate Berkus, and our \own Kenneth Cobonpue. What was it like working with them, and what have you learned from each artist?

I admire that the creatives profiled in my book all work toward thoughtful design. The common thread throughout their stories is their sense of purpose—their desire to support slow craft and artisanal skills, which translates into conscious design. There is so much to learn from them, starting with their personal stories.

Gonzalez’s home is a showcase of fine Filipino craftsmanship in these Philux pieces. The Stockholm bed seamlessly combines natural wood and woven elements; note the rattan solihiya detailing. The bed is complemented with night tables and bench from Philux, all made of mahogany.

How do you balance home, work, and passion projects like these?  Also, what’s next?

It is a work in progress to balance home, work, and passion projects. I never get it 100 percent right, but I do my best to trust my instincts and never look back. I take things one day at a time and try to adhere to my life philosophy of inspired living.

I am looking forward to my book launch in Cape Town, and hope to enjoy a relaxing Easter break with my family and friends. After that, a new clever Philux furniture collection will follow.

Order Embracing Natural Design: Inspired Living at or through Gonzalez’s website: For international orders, the book is available on Amazon.


Ta LouLou: The friendship that turned into a brand

Erica Paredes opens restaurant in Paris (think fried chicken with Asian sauces, sinigang, etc)

I run a marathon in Turkey—virtually, that is

Drink to light! Couple repurpose liquor bottles

About author


She was a magazine editor, author of style books, a newspaper lifestyle columnist who has settled in Spain with her husband and daughter, now a stylish tot.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for’s Weekly Digest and get the best of, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *