Inspiring Women

Inspiring Woman: Marilen Montenegro

October 26, 2015

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Who doesn’t love a lovely home? For Marilen Faustino-Montenegro, it’s not just a preference, it is both a passion and a purpose. This interior designer is busy creating well-designed spaces for clients and editorial work, while balancing the demands of being a homeschooling mom!

Marilen’s inspired ideas and thoughts can also be found on her blog, Marilen.ph.  For her, a home that is beautiful and clean becomes the setting for a happier family. She shares with us her insights on design, some practical tips on photographing interiors, and how she prioritizes all her responsibilities (as mom, wife, designer, blogger etc.) every single day.

Tell us a little bit about who Marilen Montenegro is.

I graduated from BS Interior Design in 2001 and worked with a few prestigious design firms for two years before going into full time modelling. I would already take on small interior design projects on my own while doing television commercials when I was asked to join the Professional Models Association of the Philippines. I had the opportunity to travel while modeling and meeting the top people in the TV, print and runway industry.

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Marilen, the model, ten years ago.

Through all this, I would still take on a few interior design projects. I was blessed to have been able to merge both careers when I landed hosting jobs for TV shows related to interior design, like Tahanang Pinoy (ABC5, 2005), HouseLife (QTV11, 2008-2009), and Extreme Makeover Home Edition Philippines (2011).

After I gave birth to my second baby in 2012, I put up www.marilen.ph which is a lifestyle, home, and interior design blog. I am an advocate for healthy living and organic food. I currently homeschool my two kids as well.

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Let’s talk about design and blogging. Your blog highlights your work and talent as an interior designer. Why blog? How does this help your work? And what do you like most about it?

I decided to blog because I realized that I love looking at Pinterest and reading other blogs as well. I was really looking for another outlet or project when I stumbled across my friend’s blog. It was then that I realized that blogging was a source of inspiration, motivation, and stress release for me.

Later on, the purpose of my blog became clearer so that it became a passion. I wanted to inspire women to make happy, clean and inspired homes. I believe that when you have a clean and beautiful home, family dynamics improve. Tidy room… tidy mind!

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100% Wholemom: Marilen with Cheska Kramer and Rica Peralejo Bonifacio.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

I just finished a series of model homes for two real estate companies – a school and an office, and have been busy establishing Wholemomph.

I co-founded 100% Wholemom with Francesca Kramer and Rica Peralejo Bonifacio [this year]. It is a brand and a community where we hold workshops for moms about the home, beauty and heart. We have these workshops or events almost every month.

At the same time, I am trying to work on my own blog by mounting small workshops and collaborations with other brands — all these I’m doing while trying to blog more often. I am also finishing a French Provincial 4-storey house.

Besides design, what are your other obsessions? What inspires you as well?

I am obsessed with styling photographs be it food or a vignette of books and other objects. I love looking at pretty photos on Pinterest and Instagram!

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Your photos are beautiful. In today’s Instagram-crazy world, a well-composed photo can work wonders… can you give us some practical tips to creating a good interiors shot?

Let natural light in. Roll up the window shades, never shoot with artificial light, and compose photos so that there is negative space. Shoot from different angles and include foregrounds in your interior shots.

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How is styling for photos different from styling or designing in real life? Also… what are we NOT seeing in your photos? Can we assume that your life is also picture perfect, in some way?

My home is generally very clean and picture perfect with the exception of toys on the floor or my kids’ glasses on the coffee table and a few toys on the couch, but all these get put away immediately after they play too.

Styling model homes for photos is only different in the sense that I may move a few objects or décor so that the angle is more favorable to the camera; most model houses are already picture ready. It may also differ for some photos when I need to do a lifestyle approach for the pictorial, such as a magazine and a pair of eyeglasses on the bed, a handbag and some heels on the floor.

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Tell us about being a mummy! How has motherhood changed the way your life, philosophies, and daily activities? What’s life like with kids?

Motherhood has changed me immensely. Almost every decision is governed about how it will impact my family. The work I take on, events I choose to attend, etc. all matter now because my kids are my priority. When I plan my week, I do so with my husband’s and children’s schedules in mind.

Having children is different because you no longer own your time. Everything has to be done quickly and you learn to work with children around you.

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What does your day-to-day look like? What keeps you busy that does not go on the blog?

What does not go on the blog would be how I manage things at home from doing the groceries to executing small errands for my husband. I also homeschool my two kids and we do that the entire morning.

In the afternoon I am busy with my interior design business, shopping for projects, meeting with architects or contractors and dealing with clients. On some days I attend events and go to the gym when I can.

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There’s a lot going on! How do you balance all your responsibilities?

Establishing priorities has helped me immensely. I have arranged things in this order: God, husband, children, work then others. I always try to set aside time to read the Bible and I constantly talk to God throughout the day. The mornings are saved for my husband and me homeschooling the kids from 10am – 12nn. I am always at home by 6pm to have dinner with my kids then blogging usually happens late at night when they are asleep or during weekends when we do not homeschool.

How do you take care of yourself? 

I love getting massages! Be it in a spa or at home (which I sometimes like more because I can go straight to sleep). I spend me-time every six weeks when I hit my salon to get a hair cut, have my hair colored and my nails fixed. I also treat myself and go shopping from time to time.

I eat healthy, exercise when I can, and always take care of my skin with a cleansing and nightly regimen. I also love putting makeup and enjoy that time in the morning.

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I always say that there’s a “Spoiled Mummy” in each of us. What do you think makes you, Marilen Montenegro, a Spoiled Mummy?

Having children who love and adore me is the biggest reason why I would say I am spoiled. I get hugs and “I love yous” almost every hour when I am with them. My husband spoils me too because he let me have a driver which means I never have to stress about traffic and parking! 🙂

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