“The eye has to travel,” Diana Vreeland famously said. In the case of Karen Santos, the eye has been travelling all her life. The fashion designer-turned-curator of beautiful things for the home, from table linens and accessories to unique furniture pieces, credits her stint in Europe as a student in England, Switzerland and Italy, for her early exposure to period furniture. “I saw how people lived contemporary lives with furniture from different periods. They were house-proud; their home was alive with the things they loved and used on a daily basis. “The home, I realized, is the centerpiece of one’s style and individuality. It’s the ideal platform for self-expression.”


As a fashion designer in the 80s, she entered retail when she launched the Kashieca line of clothing, which was eventually sold to Bench around a decade ago.

In 2014, she harnessed her creative talents once again to create KASSA, a line of table linens at once timeless and modern, inspired by Philippine embroidery traditions. “It brought me back to my passion for working with fabrics, and reignited my creativity.”

In between Kashieca and KASSA, Karen built a successful stone flooring business. While it may at first seem an incongruous fit, stone in fact is an unusual but fitting complement. “Like fashion, linens and furniture, the appeal of stone is visual and well as tactile, and the construction and finish, not to mention installation, are important components of any project, otherwise the beauty of the raw material is not shown to its best advantage.”


It began with the renovation of her home over a year ago. “I was looking for furniture and accent pieces and I realized there was a niche in the market. I wanted in particular 18th and 19th century pieces, as well as midcentury furniture, European pieces which I couldn’t find locally. So I decided to source them myself and bring them in.”

Once again, her eye travelled to Europe, reveling in discovery, chancing upon exciting finds and special sources, and meeting designers, dealers and collectors, as well as other like-minded friends who shared her passion for beautiful pieces, each with a story, that one could easily and live with, whether the provenance was lofty or lowly.

Karen is drawn to the versatility of European furniture, no matter the period. “There is a substance and solidity to it. In a way it’s a reaction to the disposability of modern life. With my furniture as with my linens, I try to create some permanence with pieces that are not discarded after a season.”

With her business expanding from stone to linen and now furniture, Karen also works closely with designers and architects, some of whom have become mentors to her, sharing their expertise. She, in turn, absorbed their advice and continues to learn from them, refining her eye and picking up a few trade secrets along the way!

That said, it’s all about individual expression, with the home as a personal theater. Karen often plays with fabric and color to bring out the youthful spirit of a period piece, making it fun and young and very much of the moment while remaining essentially timeless. Think of a “lola” chair, for instance, jazzed up with a tiger-print fabric.

“The fun part is finding unique things in different iterations that people can integrate into their homes.”

Let your eye travel and discover kassabykarensantos.
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