Sum­mer in the City

Amidst bustling Makati CBD is a lux­ury apart­ment that em­bod­ies eter­nal sum­mer


It’s al­ways a tall or­der to cre­ate a refuge within a bustling com­mer­cial area, but for Cynthia Al­mario, one-half of the sis­ter duo at the renowned ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign firm Ate­lier Al­mario, it’s what ev­ery home should be any­way. “Home is a pos­i­tive feel­ing,” she says. “It should be your co­coon—that place where you can take care of your­self.” The apart­ment the firm re­cently com­pleted in Makati City's cen­tral busi­ness district cer­tainly achieves this.

When Al­mario was ap­proached for the res­i­den­tial project in Discovery Primea Res­i­dences, there was al­ready a set struc­ture. “Orig­i­nally, we found the lay­out to be a dif­fi­cult one,” she de­scribes. “Upon en­ter­ing, there was no foyer. It was im­me­di­ately the liv­ing room, and then the mas­ter’s bed­room.” The first task, there­fore, was to for­mally sep­a­rate these spa­ces while en­sur­ing a nat­u­ral flow be­tween the rooms. Luck­ily, other than a re­quest to trans­form it into a vi­brant place, the owner gave Al­mario free reign.

The de­signer sug­gested trans­form­ing the el­e­va­tor en­trance into a foyer that would fol­low a con­ser­va­tory con­cept. “The owner loved the idea of step­ping into a gar­den,” Al­mario says. “It was im­por­tant for her to en­ter into some­thing bright and happy.” The

“the bed­room... is ac­tu­ally one of the most im­por­tant spa­ces in the home be­cause it’s

where you spend most of your time”

team achieved the con­ser­va­tory ef­fect by des­ig­nat­ing a small re­ceiv­ing area, com­plete with ta­ble and arm­chair, and pa­per­ing the walls in Pagoda Gar­den wall­pa­per from Thibaut's Im­pe­rial Gar­den col­lec­tion.

Print is also a high­light in the liv­ing room, with De Gour­nay Earl­ham chi­nois­erie wall­cov­er­ing en­liven­ing an ac­cent wall that sets the stage for a pal­ette of sum­mery greens and blues. “The prints add a lot of in­ter­est,” says Al­mario. “Be­sides that they are be­spoke, hav­ing been made of silk and hand-painted by the artists for three months, they also be­came my DNA for the colours used through­out the house.”

The goal was cer­tainly to cre­ate some­thing warm, alive and ac­ces­si­ble. These are key words for Al­mario and her sis­ter, and the com­mon thread that runs through the mas­sive port­fo­lio of ho­tels and high-end res­i­dences they have de­signed over the course of 25 years. “Our spa­ces might look very el­e­gant and ex­pen­sive, but there is al­ways a sense of ac­ces­si­bil­ity to them,” she says.

“the point is al­ways to im­prove on an idea—to make it your own, and to make a space bet­ter for the owner”

Look­ing back, she cred­its this phi­los­o­phy to Ate­lier Al­mario’s for­ma­tive years in Cal­i­for­nia. “I fol­lowed my sis­ter to the United States in the nineties, and was in­spired by her to take up in­te­rior de­sign,” Al­mario re­calls. “We lived in Cal­i­for­nia, and that was where we honed our skills in cre­at­ing clas­sic-look­ing, but mod­ern-minded and truly up-to-date in­te­ri­ors.”

De­sign so­lu­tions are an­other Al­mario trade­mark present in the apart­ment. There is sym­me­try in the clever twists of their de­sign to turn flaws into some­thing aes­thet­i­cally use­ful. “The din­ing room, for ex­am­ple, had a weird cut. It was too long,” says Al­mario, “so what we did was to use the ex­tra space as an af­ter­noon tea and en­ter­tain­ing area.” That part of the room now fea­tures a mahogany mahjong ta­ble that can eas­ily seat four.

For the boy’s bed­room, the con­cept ac­tu­ally took off from the de­sign so­lu­tion: a metal, ori­en­tal-pat­terned head­board with slid­ing pan­els. “The head­board dis­guises the dif­fer­ent-sized win­dows and also serves as a screen to help dif­fuse light,” Al­mario de­scribes. “The bed­dings and fur­ni­ture are co­or­di­nated with the head­board.” It was the same case in the girls’ bed­room, where the main art­work is a set of botan­i­cal prints sourced from the Al­mario-owned home ac­ces­sory bou­tique, Shel­ter. “The prints dis­tract from the air vents,” says Al­mario. “It’s art­work that fits in with the lo­gis­tics.”

The de­signer adds it is para­mount for her to get the bed­rooms right. In a weekend home such as this one, where the owner fre­quently has her grand­chil­dren and other guests over, Al­mario made sure the bed­rooms were given just as much thought as the liv­ing and din­ing ar­eas. She rea­sons, “You tend to for­get about the bed­room, but it is ac­tu­ally one of the most im­por­tant spa­ces in the home be­cause it’s where you spend most of your

time.” Al­mario adds, “Once again, that is your co­coon, your sanc­tu­ary.”

In­deed, the apart­ment’s three bed­rooms feature beau­ti­ful wall­pa­per, mag­nif­i­cent beds draped in ul­tra-soft, em­broi­dered bed­dings and lounge ar­eas that can also dou­ble up as eat­ing or read­ing nooks. “I al­ways want the bed­room to be a five- or even seven- star ex­pe­ri­ence,” Al­mario says. “We have re­ceived funny but flat­ter­ing com­ments from clients whose chil­dren have said that their bed­rooms are more lux­u­ri­ous than the ho­tel rooms they go to on hol­i­days. That’s al­ways great to hear.”

In terms of de­sign­ing to en­ter­tain, she shares that it is crucial to be aware of bal­ance and sym­me­try not only in the de­sign but in the prac­ti­cal as­pects as well. “If the din­ing room seats 16, we make sure that the liv­ing room can also seat 16,” Al­mario ex­plains. Be­cause the firm caters to clients for whom en­ter­tain­ing is a part of every­day life, she and her sis­ter have be­come very con­scious of de­sign­ing homes that are both per­sonal and so­cial spa­ces.

As the process is a con­stant di­a­logue that in­cludes learn­ing about the own­ers’ mo­ti­va­tions, in­ter­ests, and styles, it is in­evitable for them to form close bonds with the fam­i­lies they have de­signed for. This al­most al­ways leads to their be­ing in­vited back into a home no longer as de­sign­ers but as guests. “It’s in­cred­i­ble be­cause in those mo­ments we’re able to see a new pride in the own­ers,” Al­mario in­tones. “Af­ter we’ve worked be­hind the scenes, we ex­pe­ri­ence the home from the other side and it is so heart­warm­ing to hear first­hand about how el­e­vat­ing the de­sign is for both the own­ers and their guests.”

For this apart­ment, the lady of the house cer­tainly has only good things to say. “The fam­ily loves how vi­brant it is from the minute they en­ter,” Al­mario shares. “They feel they’ve been trans­ported to New York.” She and the owner agree that the prints and fresh colours have made all the dif­fer­ence. There is now also an ef­fort­less sym­me­try and a nat­u­ral flow of en­ergy through­out— proof of how smartly and cre­atively the de­sign team was able to ex­e­cute the owner’s vi­sion and take on the is­sues of the orig­i­nal lay­out.

Whether it’s a project like this where she is given to­tal free­dom, or one where she treads the del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween ac­ced­ing to the owner’s ideas and push­ing for the proper ar­chi­tec­tural di­rec­tion, Al­mario de­fers to the wis­dom of ex­pe­ri­ence: “In the end, it’s the space it­self that will tell us what works.”

The prospect of cre­at­ing ‘dream homes’ is one that con­tin­ues to be ful­fill­ing for the firm, which sees each project as part of its con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion. “There are al­ways men­tors and peers to look up to as in­spi­ra­tions,” Al­mario says. “But the point is al­ways to im­prove on an idea... to make it your own, and to make a space bet­ter for the owner.”

Flow­ers Are For­ever this page A col­lec­tion of pressed flower prints is the main art­work in the girls’ bed­room Op­po­site FROM top The defin­ing piece in the mas­ter’s bed­room is the Ka­bala La­goon wall­pa­per by Har­lequin; the den in shades of grey...

FROM Left The boy’s bed­room is a five-star ex­pe­ri­ence that has its own lounge area and makes use of an ar­chi­tec­tural head­board as a de­sign so­lu­tion; the bath­room is done in white marble and com­mands an ar­rest­ing view of the city

FROM Left The liv­ing room mixes prints and sum­mery hues like the geo­met­ric car­pet with more un­der­stated el­e­ments such as the ice mint marble ta­ble top with stain­less steel legs in chrome fin­ish; the din­ing room chairs were de­signed by the Al­mar­ios...

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