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