A house in the eastern sub­urbs is trans­formed by ar­chi­tect Ra­mon An­to­nio into an el­e­gant fam­ily home in the midst of a lush, ver­dant gar­den, writes Marga Man­lapig


Ar­chi­tect Ra­mon An­to­nio plays up trop­i­cal nu­ances in a hand­some man­sion set in a lush gar­den

Amidst the hus­tle and bus­tle of a ma­jor ur­ban mega­lopo­lis like Que­zon City, a green sanc­tu­ary that is, at the same time, a modern fam­ily home is a breath of fresh air. Lo­cated in an el­e­gant gated com­mu­nity east of the city, a short dis­tance away from the aca­demic clus­ter of Katipunan Av­enue, this breath­tak­ing res­i­dence sits on a 4,340 square me­tre prop­erty and mea­sures ap­prox­i­mately 2,000sqm.

“I wanted this house to re­flect a love of na­ture,” Ra­mon An­to­nio, its proud ar­chi­tect, de­clares en­thu­si­as­ti­cally when asked as to the theme be­hind the design. “The en­vi­ron­ment around it is lushly ver­dant, so apt for a trop­i­cal look.”

The house is lo­cated in an area des­ig­nated as a bird sanc­tu­ary. Decades-old trees line the vil­lage streets, and many houses in the neigh­bour­hood were built around the trees in their re­spec­tive lots. On top of th­ese idyl­lic sur­round­ings, this house also of­fers a mag­nif­i­cent view of the Marik­ina Val­ley down be­low.

The ex­clu­sive com­mu­nity is on high ground, with a gently rolling land­scape which lends it­self beau­ti­fully to a wide ar­ray of dec­o­ra­tive trop­i­cal plants like bromeli­ads, large suc­cu­lents, and red­but­ton gin­ger.

“Oh, we can’t re­ally take any credit for the way the land­scap­ing looks,” the lady of the house ad­mits with a laugh. “We put all our trust in our

ar­chi­tect. Ev­ery­thing—from the land­scape to the ac­ces­sories—was his idea.”

When the prop­erty was pur­chased nearly four years ago, there was al­ready a mid-20th­cen­tury fam­ily bun­ga­low stand­ing on the lot. The own­ers showed it to An­to­nio, whose ar­chi­tect’s eye ren­dered it to be com­pletely out­moded. His ver­dict? To de­mol­ish it and build anew. Which the own­ers fol­lowed. Such was their trust on their ar­chi­tect.

“Up un­til we bought the prop­erty, we were liv­ing in a 450sqm three-bed­room house,” the lady of the house con­tin­ues. Their mar­ried son, his wife, and their tod­dler daugh­ter. The owner’s un­mar­ried daugh­ter is away in Aus­tralia. The num­ber of fam­ily

An­to­nio also sought to bring the out­doors in­side through slid­ing glass doors that open onto the gar­den and let in fresh air

members must have been a fac­tor in the de­ci­sion to move to a big­ger prop­erty. An­other is the fact that the cou­ple both long for the coun­try­side. “My hus­band and I are both from Is­abela Province. We wanted a home that would bring a bit of the coun­try to the city: fresh air, big trees, and plenty of space.”

An­to­nio has cer­tainly de­liv­ered with re­gard to that re­quest. “We tried to keep all of the orig­i­nal trees on the prop­erty,” he says, “save for two which stood where the kitchen is now.”

At first glance, the house ap­pears in­tim­i­dat­ing. Its ver­ti­cal lines were dis­tinc­tively modern. The wide main en­try­way has a rather stern and in­sti­tu­tional feel to it; but ap­pear­ances are de­ceiv­ing, as the in­side of the house is warm, wel­com­ing, and—while re­tain­ing its el­e­gance—is sur­pris­ingly cosy and con­ducive to jovial en­ter­tain­ing.

Earth tones are the dom­i­nant colour palette here: the fur­ni­ture is up­hol­stered in browns that

range from soft beige to rich um­ber, and the narra wood pan­elling on the walls is pol­ished to a golden sheen. An­to­nio also sought to bring the out­doors in­side through slid­ing glass doors that open onto the gar­den as well as a mas­sive paint­ing in the for­mal liv­ing room which de­picts a rain­for­est pop­u­lated by ex­otic birds and lush fo­liage. The vis­ual play on na­ture ex­tends fur­ther into the for­mal din­ing room where the wall­pa­per sports a pat­tern of large leaves and blos­soms.

Sym­me­try also plays a role in the aes­thetic in the re­cep­tion area of the house. Nearly iden­ti­cal seat­ing ar­range­ments are placed fac­ing each other in the cen­tre of the space: large, for­mal couches and arm­chairs, el­e­gantly de­signed cen­tre and side ta­bles, and care­fully se­lected ac­cent pieces. But th­ese are but a way of fram­ing a fo­cal point that lends a great deal to the sense of peace and seren­ity that per­me­ates the house: an ex­quis­ite de­pic­tion of Kuan Yin (the Bud­dhist god­dess of mercy) in a bless­ing pose, carved from a sin­gle solid block of black jade. If one looks up at the in­te­rior bal­cony, a sec­ond Kuan Yin— an older piece with a sterner, more pro­tec­tive coun­te­nance—is po­si­tioned al­most di­ag­o­nally over­head. As a way of el­e­gantly di­vid­ing the space, a mag­nif­i­cent crys­tal chan­de­lier hangs in the mid­dle of the room. The hand­made Murino glass light­ing fix­ture is a cre­ation from Venini Italia.

“The orig­i­nal own­ers of the house left their chan­de­lier to us when we bought the prop­erty,” the owner shares. “But Ar­chi­tect An­to­nio took one look at it and thought it wasn’t a good fit for the new design he had in mind. So we sold it and bought this.”

The more fam­ily-spe­cific ar­eas of the house, how­ever, re­flect a re­laxed and homey aes­thetic. A cool palette of pale greys and blues de­fine the bed­rooms up­stairs: sooth­ing hues that are very con­ducive to rest and re­lax­ation. Com­mu­nal spa­ces where the fam­ily can re­lax on plush couches are “shoes op­tional” zones, as the floors are cov­ered by soft rugs.

Even the kitchen serves as a place where the fam­ily can en­joy each other’s com­pany. Though the colour scheme is pale, it is quite friendly and invit­ing place. While there is a for­mal din­ing room, the fam­ily prefers to take meals in the kitchen where there is a full-sized B & B Italia din­ing ta­ble for eight with pro­vi­sions for cof­fee as well as still and sparkling wa­ter within reach. The height of the coun­ters and the main kitchen is­land has also been con­sid­ered, mak­ing prep work much eas­ier. There is even am­ple stor­age for the own­ers’ ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of glass­ware, china, and cut­lery—an ad­van­tage as this fam­ily en­joys en­ter­tain­ing.

Speak­ing of en­ter­tain­ing, this house may not have a swim­ming pool—by choice—but in its place, the own­ers built a two-storey gar­den pav­il­ion set be­side a fresh­wa­ter pool filled with brightly coloured koi.

It is si­t­u­ated on the lower part of the prop­erty, with its up­per area on the same level as the first floor of the main house, which also has two storeys. There is a sit­ting area com­posed of weather-re­sis­tant fur­ni­ture set around an el­e­gant en­ter­tain­ment con­sole—just the thing for watching big sport­ing events or for more re­laxed movie nights. Bring­ing food in is not a prob­lem as the dirty kitchen is just a few steps away, and the own­ers’ ex­ten­sive wine col­lec­tion is stored down­stairs in the lower level. Like­wise, de­part­ing guests will not have a hard time get­ting back to their ve­hi­cles as the car­port is just out­side the pav­il­ion.

But even the lower level of the pav­il­ion has a charm of its own. “I de­signed it along the lines of a Scan­di­na­vian flat,” An­to­nio says. “A sim­ple, clean, and el­e­gant look with pieces that are both com­fort­able and pleas­ing to look at.” Along with the wine stor­age sys­tem built into one of the walls, the open-lay­out space boasts

The more fam­ily-spe­cific ar­eas of the house re­flect a more re­laxed and homey aes­thetic

a smaller and more in­ti­mate din­ing area lit by el­e­gant glass lamps.

A some­what darker, but a warmer-look­ing set of earth tones char­ac­terises the colour scheme in this space, one ac­cented by in­tri­cate ink-and-pen sketches by the artist Marco So­liven.

Speak­ing of art, An­to­nio has also cho­sen pieces from some of the best con­tem­po­rary Filipino artists to ac­cent or high­light cer­tain ar­eas of the house. Charm­ing bronze de­pic­tions of fish­er­men at sea and

taho (soft bean curd dessert) ven­dors ply­ing their trade in the streets by the sculp­tor Michael Cac­nio add a play­ful touch to a home of­fice. At the same time, the colour­ful geo­met­ric forms that char­ac­terise the ab­stract work of New York-based Fil-Am painter Lenore RS Lim is an ex­cel­lent con­trast to the earthy colours of the ground floor.

But per­haps the most strik­ing pieces are two Betsy Wes­ten­dorp paint­ings that add a touch of na­ture to the in­te­ri­ors. A del­i­cate de­pic­tion of koi in a lo­tus pond—the painted fish mir­ror­ing the live ones in the pond out back—graces the front hall and acts as a friendly wel­come. And a mag­nif­i­cent sun­rise set on the op­po­site side greets those head­ing up or down the main stair­case, its soft yet glow­ing colours putting even the most rest­less of guests at their ease.

This house cer­tainly has el­e­gance in spades thanks to An­to­nio’s eclec­tic way with design, land­scap­ing, fur­ni­ture, and ac­cent pieces. But for all of the ob­vi­ous airs and graces, this house is more than just a show­place: it is a home built on good taste, friendly warmth, and a wel­com­ing spirit.

NAT­U­RAL EL­E­GANCE (Clock­wise from above) Large three-panel paint­ing mir­rors the gar­den out­side; An­tiques and modern art blend beau­ti­fully in the sec­ond­floor hall­way; A home of­fice

AT HOME WITH ARTSun­rise by Betsy Wes­ten­dorp helps brighten up the ground floor; Black mar­ble adds a luxe feel to this bath­room

LUXE TRA­DI­TIONS French-style chairs in the for­mal din­ing room; An an­tique Bud­dha and a black jade Kuan Yin bring seren­ity into their re­spec­tive spa­ces

THE MASTER’S CHAM­BERS Com­fort­able cush­ions and a neu­tral colour palette char­ac­terise the master’s suite

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