sTep inside a conTainer van home wiTh a laid–back, reTro archiTecTural sTyle and Japanese space-saving Tricks
See how this couple―both architects and surfers― maximize a small space with touches of Japanese aesthetics.
h ow thirty-something newlyweds Buji and Nikki found themselves living in La Union, where none of them has roots, is a story worth telling. Both from Manila, they came to La Union to try surfing. Like many others who have taken to the sport, they fell in love with the water and never wanted to leave. “From day one, I was hooked. I fell in love with La Union right away,” Buji says. Surfing was also what brought the two together. Both architects, Buji and Nikki first came here a few years apart in the early 2000s, but their paths eventually crossed as they joined the closely-knit community of surfers in the area. Last year, the two were married—at a beach wedding, no less.
For eight years, they lived with about 10 to 15 friends in a two-bedroom apartment so they could stay close to the beach. They went back and forth to Manila for work, but they had their personal belongings and surfboards stashed in this apartment so they could catch some waves anytime they're in town.
It seemed the most ideal living arrangement until the owner decided to renovate. “Nawalan kami ng tirahan,” Buji relates, but he wasn’t just about to up and leave the town that had become his second home. “I brought my Kombi van, and we lived in that for a year. Nakiki-park
lang kami sa mga hotel. Sobrang sarap. Nag-enjoy ako matulog sa van na yun,” he recalls. Nikki says that it was set up in such a way that they could live comfortably in it: “May electric fan, konting curtains, kulambo.”
Eventually, they got wind of a property for sale in the area. As if a foreshadowing of things to come, there was already a shipping container at the site. In true bayanihan fashion, their surfer friends helped move the shipping container, and Buji and Nikki got down to work on their new home.
It was the perfect material to start with. Buji has always been a huge fan of the 1950s and ’60s, particularly the architecture, fashion, music, and cars of the era. “Parang happy days yun for me. Sobrang nostalgic. Mahilig rin akong
mag-collect ng lumang gamit. Even my architecture is very reminiscent of the golden years,” Buji says.
From that single shipping container, they decided to extend it to accommodate a guest room and a garage. “Binutasan namin for the window, and tinaas for the roof,” describes Buji. “We’re also very fascinated with clean lines. Eh yung container, very linear siya. It’s a box, puwede mong paglaruan yung stacking.
Ang inspiration ng bahay namin is a mix of California and Japanese style. May pagka-mid-century,” he adds.
At that time, they had no plans yet of putting up Vessel Hostel, which currently stands next to their house. “Nag-leave
lang kami ng space,” says Nikki, but that space turned out to be the perfect fit for the hostel (see p.18). The design of the hostel is based on containers as well. The layout of their 70-sqm home is carefully planned, every inch of its space efficiently used. There are no solid partitions, so the living, dining, and sleeping areas flow seamlessly in one open space.
Living so close to the ocean has its perks, the most obvious one being that they can head to the water to surf whenever the waves permit. “Kaya kami tumira dito para maka-surf, so importante talaga sa amin yung surfing. Being by the beach is so inspiring,” Buji explains. So inspiring that it also gave birth to a clothing line called Coast Thru Life in 2012. The store is being moved from Manila to the reception area of Vessel Hostel.
This inspiration that the two surfers talk about so passionately is reflected especially in the architecture of their home. Their space exudes a laid-back feel, a characteristic often associated with the surfing lifestyle. But Buji is quick to clarify:
“Akala ng mga tao, pag surfer, beach bum, walang ginagawa. Pero hindi lang nila alam.”
Nikki says that as soon as they wake up, their schedule starts getting crazy. (Living right next to their place of business is a big plus.) Buji takes care of the maintenance and ongoing construction at the hostel, while Nikki replies to inquiries and bookings. When nighttime comes, they focus on their Manilabased projects.
Whether designing or surfing or attending to hostel guests, Buji and Nikki are simply overjoyed to be able to do all of those things right here where they feel most at home. “Sobrang sarap to design your own home. Kung anong gusto mong gawin, puwede. Dito, nakaka-relax kami. Nakaka-focus,” the couple says. RL
the owner haS alwayS been a huge Fan oF the '50S and '60S, particularly the architecture, FaShion, muSic, and carS oF the era.
air of nostalgia The use of sliding doors not only saves space but also allows for good ventilation. Upon entering the house, all eyes are on this type of vertical wooden lattice accent wall which has a very vintage feel, having been used extensively in houses in the '50s and '60s.
“Wala siyang masyadong solid partition, puro glass and sliding doors para di siya masyadong compartmentalized,” says Buji of the open layout.
STANDING INVITATION. "i liKe how The TangUile wooD SlaTS have DiFFerenT ranDom ShaDeS which relaX mY eYeS when i loUnge on The coUch [or while waTching Tv]," BUJi SaYS.
1. NO LOOSE ENDS. In place of cabinet doors that will make the kitchen look cramped, strings tied from end to end keep essentials secure on open shelves..
2. OLD MEETS MOD. Modern light switches in a color that matches a nearby electric fan contrast against varying shades of tanguile wood.
3. RIGHT ANGLE. Wooden louvered cabinet doors mirror the style and horizontal orientation of the home's jalousie windows. 4. MID-CENTURY MATCH. Square white tiles, complemented by the linear prints on handtowels in this vignette, are among many mid-century design elements found in this home. Find similar tiles at Wilcon Depot.