Fil-Am a rising star in South Florida interior design scene

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – His home is known as the “Casa Manila in Miami.”

Design consultant Josel Suarez recreated his Old Manila-style childhood home in Angeles City, Pampanga in his Florida home.

“When I entertain, It tells them the story where I came from – with the long table, with all these lights that come from Manila, with the portrait of the family on one side – it gives you a sense of history and story,” he said.

Born and raised in the Philippines to an American citizen mother, Josel came to the US in 1989 to chase his American dream – leaving behind his own interior design business called La Rosca Design Centre.

“My great grandfather was a sugar exporter, he was in trade and commerce, that’s how he made his fortune.” he said.

He may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but the road to success in America did not come easy for this Kapampangan.

His first job in Aamerica – a salesman at Kuppenheimer’s – a popular high-end shop for coats and suits.

Suarez said, “For many years I sold men’s clothing and I’ve always wanted to go back to interior designing. But I didn’t know how. It was not easy moving to the United States and starting all over again.”

But fate was kind to Suarez. His bestfriend pulmonary doctor Mario Magcalas had asked Josel to help design his Italian villa-inspired home in Davey, Fla.

“My house is the first of his creations here in Florida. He was just starting then. I was probably the very few who really pushed him towards this one because this is really what he likes, this is really what his talents are,” said Dr. Magcalas.

Not only did it jumpstart his career in interior design, Mario’s home became Josel’s business card – a living showcase of his talent in design.

“When you create a house, you have to tell a story. The house has to tell you a story. The moment you come into the door, it tells you what that person does. Who is that person?” he said.

For Josel, his talent is a gift that cannot be learned in school.

“I was born with it. I never went to school for design,” Suarez said. “My best client told me the first interior designer never went to school, but the first interior designer created it and you are creating a school.”

His love for the arts and history began at an early age, Then 17-year-old Josel founded the Angeles Historical Society that saved historical homes including the Pamintuan Mansion where General Emilio Aguinaldo — the first President of the Republic of the Philippines — waved the Philippine flag during the first anniversary of Philippine Independence.

Now 56, Josel’s success story is not done yet. It’s just the beginning.

His creations are now being recognized by design magazines. With real estate sales booming in Southern Florida, particularly in Miami, clients here abound in this place known as the playground for the rich and famous.

Even with his new found success, Josel never forgets to give back. He and Steve, his partner of 23 years and husband of two years, volunteer their time for charity by singing for the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus.

You can contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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