Form + Function in Fremont

By Vivian Fuentebella Sanchez

“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I happen to stumble upon this quote from Johann von Goethe that made me pause and think. I never thought of music and architecture this way and then I realized that this is what my interviewee could relate to.  If the form and function of architecture flows like the rhythm of music then this may explain why Fremont based designer, John Isaac has a soft spot for such.  Architect aficionado/part time interior designer by day, DJ Cassi by night.

John Isaac is the youngest of 8 siblings and is a husband and father to two kids. I haven’t seen John in a while but through social network I managed to see his interior design works, and his love for all things you guessed it, architect and music.  John and his design Partner, Gari Camaisa are the truly talented duo of Jugendstil Interior & Architecture Design. Their portfolio is simply stunning. They transformed a suburban dentist office into a high end urban spa, a tract home was made less mainstream with custom furnishings, a Hillsborough kitchen becomes magazine ready with their interpretation of modern Tudor and many more drool worthy projects that may inspire or make one reach for the phone to call and be their client ASAP.

John’s childhood recollection of noticing building facades and unusual covered escalators back in the Philippines intrigued him enough to later pursue his love of design. His memory of his mother’s piano playing and his late brother Andy’s music choices also influenced John and his alter ego, DJ Cassi. At the present, DJ Cassi is on hiatus as John dabbles with photography and vimeos. If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then John’s interest in the visuals is evident in his 9 year old son, Rocket. Thanks to social digital media, John proudly shares his son’s collection of photos. “Through the world of R-boy’s lens” is a collage of innocuous everyday things and people photographed by Rocket and through his lens and his viewpoint the mundane and random transforms into art.   A couple of barrel of monkeys hanging, stacked cell phones on a night bureau, a bucket full of popcorn and even the featured photo of John are samples of Rocket’s shutterbug perspective.

I too have a love and respect for design and the arts so I wanted to feature a Filipino American artist that was not only passionate but was authentic. Unlike some who focus a lot on what’s trending, John favors the past in design (obsessed with mid century modern architects and design) and music (1970’s Brazilian  music) and adds his touch of modern.  I expected short answers to my questions and was pleasantly surprised at John’s in depth answers that revealed his joy and love for the arts, his design world and of course, his family.


Please briefly tell us about yourself.

Our family migrated to N.California in 1983. Studied High School in Fremont, Ca. Studied Electro/Mechanical engineering in college. Married to Rhoville for 11 years now. We have 2 Kids. Kylie (10) and Rocket (9). I work as a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) designer full time in Santa Clara.  Work as interior designer part time for Jugendstil design since 2002.


You work at Jugendstil interiors. Why did you and your design partner choose this name for your company?

Jugendstil taken for its literal German meaning “Youth Style” established 1997 in the bay area by principal designer Gari Camaisa. In 2002 I enjoyed the process of how Gari helped me in designing my first condo that I asked Gari if there’s a way my knowledge in CAD can contribute to Jugenstil. I’m very fortunate that he took me under his wing and up to now we still design together.

How it began for me –


What fascinates you in designing? What influences you? Describe your aesthetic.

Something old but could be futuristic.

I love everything Space Age as a kid. I wanted to be an astronaut and a fireman! Lol! I love the 50s and 60s era, the music, clothes, furniture and architecture. A few years ago we had a vacation in Palm Springs. I did a half day architectural tour of P.S. and fell in love with the designs of Albert Frey and Richard Neutra! It was like time travel!

For our 10th year anniversary we decided to go to Brazil. So fortunate to visit and tour Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia. I was in total heaven. Palm Springs on steroids! Total ‘Back to the Future” feeling! The music the furnishing and most of all the architecture! The concrete curves with a dash of water and greenery by Burle Marx. So amazing! Oscar Niemeyer is my idol!

I remember growing up in Blue Ridge my parents would take us grocery shopping at Unimart in Greenhills and Unimart’s fascia/facade reminded me of the spaceships in the TV series Space 1999. Then Virra Mall was built – the concrete building with all the curves. I don’t recall too many 90 degree corners in that building. I was so fascinated with the caterpillar like clear bubble Lucite panels covering all the escalators and the whole angled roof was made of glass. I think these contributed to my latest fascination with Brutalism architecture now.

My goal now is to visit and feel the city Le Corbusier designed in India – Chandigarh.


Check out this vintage photo of Greenhills below. That small “cute” guy is me. LOL!











Any signature piece you leave behind a design assignment?

None. I think the completed space should reflect client’s style.


Favorite color?



Favorite designer? Design blog?

Jaime Hayon.

Getting lost in Vimeo,  and Instagram ,  are taking up most of my free time.

I enjoy the images at


Best find so far?

Our house in Fremont. It was love at first sight when I entered a party in an Eichler house in Sunnyvale. Unfortunately, we can’t afford the real deal with the expensive housing market in the bay area. Luckily a realtor friend of mine showed me a “Like-ler” in Fremont which is affordable.


Best thing about living in the bay area?

The weather, the diversity of people and how it so close to the beach, mountains and deserts…cliché.

If only I knew about Tokyo when I was younger I would have planned my life so I can work and live there. I’ve been there four times na since 1999 and that’s where we had our honeymoon.


Favorite local spots?

SOM in the mission district of San Francisco unfortunately the owners changed last month and the club now renamed to Slate is going on a different direction.


You also DJ? Where?

Yes I dj as dj caasi. My #1 love! Started dj’ing in the mid 80s and my best friend and I formed a mobile dj duo called Social System. We threw a lot of Filipino parties around the bay area till about 2000. From 2001 – 2003 we concentrated on the non-filipino crowds and dj a lot of fashion shows in SF. I stopped to dj when Rocket was born. It was to hectic to having 2 kids a year and half a part. And then slowly started djing again back in 2009.

Last time I spun was at a Brazillian party called Braza! inside SOM bar in SF back in March.  Medjo pause muna for dj’ing now. Currently crazy about photography and creating the visuals for parties.

Here’s a sample of the visuals

Photography –

Here’s an old mix I did that won in URB magazine.

Photos from the last party I spun in.


What is your go to playlist?

I’m stuck with 70s Brazilian sound at the moment. Artists like Edson Frederico, Osmar Milito and Marcos Valle.


Guilty music to listen to?

Pop hits Bossa nova-fied! LOL!


Favorite Filipino artist?

I’m not exposed to Filipino artists so much but the ones I like are the playful sculptures of Pete Jimenez

And the films of Khavn De La Cruz.


Favorite Filipino song/music/band?

Lately I have not been listening to Filipino music. I enjoy the happy soul of defunct band – Juan Pablo Dream.


Favorite and/or least favorite Tagalog word?

My favorite tagalong word for now is YUN! used as “That’s it!”

Least favorite is BADUY. Baduy for one could be fantastic for someone else.


Favorite Filipino food?

Hmmmm…..I’m hungry for some tuyo, fried eggs and sinangag now.


Who among the Isaac’s are artist(s) as well? Did he/she influence you?

I have 3 brothers, 4 sisters and of course my mom and dad all influenced me in some way.

I noticed in some of the visuals that I recently made I would be putting piano tracks. I believe listening to my mom play the piano in our house making me feel good when I was a kid subliminally influenced this.

Our late brother Andy a photographer influenced me with the Brazilian sounds of Sergio Mendes, Antonio Jobim and Flora Purim in the 1970s. Maybe my rediscovering of the 70s Brasilian sound again a few years ago has something to do with my current interest in photography.


Any of your own children been bitten by the artist bug as well?

I would like to say both Kylie and Rocket but Kylie says she’s not. Even if we see a 10 year old fashionista in her. So funny what Rocket said to us yesterday after his basket ball team lost he said “I can beat them in art”. LOL! He takes lots of photos and is into stop-animation now.




Lastly, what earthly possessions would you like to bring if stranded in an island?

Ipod, headphones and solar powered charger.


For more on John Isaac and his design world, please visit: is currently under construction and migrating to


Photo Credits: John Issac, Feature Photo: Rocket Issac.

From the top left: Rhoville, Rocket and Kylie,  John by Rocket, Inside John’s house, Vintage Isaac family picture circa 1970′s, Exterior of John’s Like-ler home.

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