THE AMBIANCE IS MOODY BUT NOT DREARY, SOLEMN BUT STILL HOMEY.
“Initially, the ceiling was also dark and painted to match the wood… when I saw the finished ceiling, I didn’t like it. I think the white makes the space feel taller than it really is somehow.” The leatherupholstered sofa was customized to Gio’s design; the metal-andglass coffee table is from West Elm, Estancia Mall.
The designer decided to forego a dining area so that he could maximize the living area instead. “When I was designing this, that Japan trip was fresh and I was still really inspired by that Japanese back alley vibe that’s kind of unpredictable. It’s a combination of modern, traditional, and luxe—accessible luxe,” he explains with a laugh.
to the bathroom—situated right across the kitchen—with the shower area fitting right into the story as though it were a waterfall amongst rocky terrain.
When asked if the living area is the “forest” that one traverses before going into the “cave,” Gino heartily replies, “Yes, that’s exactly it!” Here, the story transitions into something more personal for the designer. “I took inspiration from a trip to Tokyo last year,” he says. “I wanted it to feel like how I felt when I was in the backstreets of Tokyo—super unpredictable in the sense that you have these temple structures right next to these modern structures.” Dark wood panels line opposite walls of the space and wrap over the existing beams, leaving you with the impression of being under a canopy of large trees. A tall bamboo plant sits in one corner of the room, with its leaves in different shades of green and brown, adding warmth, whimsy, and an organic touch to the entire area.
Right off the living room, separated by simple black- framed, clear glass dividers, the narrative reaches its highest peak as you step into the cave itself—the bedroom. Here, you witness the design concept come into full bloom. “I think you need time conceptualizing because it dictates everything,” Gino explains. “You need to establish a strong foundation, a strong point of view. For this, it was just a cave—so when you hear that, you already know it’s going to be dark, it’s going to be moody, and it’s going to be textured.”
And there is definitely no lack of texture in this room: The walls are covered in Vasari plaster, a natural stony finish that subtly simulates the inside of a cave. Taking it a step further, Gino came up with handmade “fungi” appliqués molded from baked polymer clay and meticulously glued one by one onto areas of the wall across the bed. “I created these brown streaks with acrylic paint and a palette knife. I wanted it to feel the way you’d feel inside a cave, with lichen growing around you. That’s the story.” And what a grand story this tiny space is.
In the nook where his study area is, Gino’s amazing handiwork comes into play: his polymer clay “fungi” appliqués painstakingly attached to the wall and painted over to make the accent wall look like it's covered in lichen. The study chair is by Stellarworks, available at Design Story, Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global City.