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15 Minutes with Francis Nicdao


We caught up with Francis Nicdao, our Principal & Chief Creative Officer, for a 15 minute Q&A while on his way to a client meeting.


What role did design play in your childhood?

I grew up in a province in the Philippines where a lot of furniture is made so I was always surrounded by craftsmen and artisans. Growing up, my parents were very encouraging of me participating in the arts, from taking private classes with a local artist to learning calligraphy, drawing, and painting.

Pembrooke & Ives Leadership, Francis Nicdao

Was there a specific moment when you knew that design was going to be your career path?

Early in my life, a volcano erupted in my province and I saw firsthand all the devastation it created, but I also witnessed the rebuild afterward. I saw what people did to restart their lives into something beautiful and functional. That’s where my interest in design became more prominent.


What books are on your nightstand or coffee table?

I constantly surround myself with architecture and design books for inspiration. I have a few self-help and management training books that are on my “to-read” list.


What is your favorite piece of furniture in your home?

It’s not exactly a piece of furniture, but when I was creating the vanity for my small bathroom, I made sure everything had its place. There’s a holder for my hairdryer that’s perfectly placed with the plug, there’s a shelf for my products, and a place for my brush, so I find beauty in the functionality and organization of it. It’s a space I’ve created for myself that’s very satisfying for me as a designer.


What is #1 on your life’s bucket list?

Since design has been such a huge part of my life, my bucket list item would be to design a home or space where even as an interior designer, we become integrated with the lifestyle in every aspect. From outdoor living, interior living, accessories, art, and flatware, I want to be involved in every piece in the entire environment as a fully-immersive sensory and experiential designer.

Francis Nicdao
Francis Nicdao

Where do you go to get inspired?

Working for Pembrooke & Ives and our amazing clients has given me the opportunity to travel the world to meet artists and artisans. I find lots of inspiration from traveling.


What is your favorite place to take an out-of-towner visiting New York?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love to be surrounded by the variety of media and themes of what the Met has to offer. I not only like taking visitors there, but equally enjoy walking around on my own. It’s like being at the best food market — whatever I’m in the mood for, I go and explore that section during my visit.

If you could add any luxury amenity to your home, what would it be?

I’d put in a fully-staffed spa with a variety of treatments, a steam room, the whole package. I value recharging and decompressing, so this would be an amazing amenity to have.


If you could own any piece of art, which would it be?

Since my tastes are broad, I’d like to have both classical and contemporary art. I’d like a Caravaggio because of the play of light and dark, and I love a dramatic piece. I’d also love a Frankenthaler. I find the scale, colors and compositions very appealing.


What is a design trend you wish would end?

I try not to be a judgmental person, but I have to say I would not want to live in a glass box. Although beautiful, I value my own privacy and I wouldn’t be comfortable having a home with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and giant windows.

If you had to identify with a piece of furniture, which would you be?

A Pierre Yovanovitch Mama Bear Chair with a custom Lesage embroidery. Its scale and sculptural shape resonate with me, being a shorter energetic person. It’s usually in a comfortable boucle and becomes a cozy and warm piece in a space. The embroidery of the hands bring in some color and vibrancy. If my husband lets me, I’d also love my own baby bear in the future!


If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you bring?

A very comfortable mattress because I value a good night’s sleep. It’s 100% necessary to recharge during the days where both sides of my brain are feeling overworked.

What advice would you give to students studying to be designers, or people who want to become a designer?

For any successful designer, one must understand that it’s equal parts creative, business, and nurturing relationships. The most successful people in design work grow themselves in all these areas simultaneously.

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