Coolest Offices in Manila: Abbey Sy’s Studio Is Filled With Pockets of Inspiration

The author and visual artist creates her hand-lettered pieces right at home.


( Abbey Sy’s attic workspace is a familiar place to everyone who’s ever looked through her Instagram feed. Amidst handwritten quotes in colorful calligraphy, watercolor splashes, and journal entries meticulously documenting trips and travels are shots of the dramatically sloping ceiling, triangular window, and the organized chaos of Abbey’s work desk.




“I’ve been working at ‘ABC HQ’ since my college days (2012). I used to share a room with my sister, but decided to move up here when I started to take in more freelance work,” she says. Fresh out of college, Abbey immersed herself into the creative work that’s spurred her to conduct well-attended hand-lettering workshops here and abroad to publish books (The ABCs of Journaling) as well as a recently launched magazine.


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While working in an attic does come with its challenges—intense heat when the sun is out, natural light coming in only from one window—the space is meaningful because it has seen the better part of Abbey’s creative journey. And after having laid out her office space herself, Abbey finds it a challenge to rethink her studio now that her work has required her to form a team of four just to manage all her creative endeavors and social media.


“For now I’m okay with the setup, but I would need a bigger space if I had my team with me 24/7,” she explains. “Right now, everything is accessible. It’s easier for me to keep things organized here.”



The wide desk, which spans the width of the window, contains specific areas dedicated to certain tasks. One corner holds books that are in-rotation, as research is an important element of Abbey’s work. Flanking her current reads are London phone booth bookends collected by her mom. Also a frequent traveler, Abbey has made it a habit to pick up a souvenir or two from every city she visits. “They’re a reminder for me to keep going places!”



Laptop and desktop are both essential elements of Abbey’s workflow, as she does bulk of her writing and creative work onscreen.



“My work days are never the same,” Abbey says. “The range of work varies from drawing and brainstorming on paper to doing administrative work, shooting for social media posts (before the golden hour light dies down) to painting. I’m almost always at my desk getting things done.”




“The best part of my studio is the morning light. I use it as my alarm clock,” she shares. The light that flows through her window informs most of Abbey’s paintings. And while she has a lot of room to house a plethora of pens, brushes, and other artists’ tools, Abbey’s number one item on her studio wishlist would be more drawers or shelves to store items in. “I also wish I had a white wall to paste my pegs up on, to serve as my inspiration board.”


“The key to creating your own studio is making it your own. What are your working preferences? What inspires you? Put up posters or artwork that you love,” Abbey recommends. “It’s important that your space is conducive enough for you to create. Every day, when I work in my HQ, I feel inspired and motivated.”


Photos by Toto Labrador


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