You guessed it, I’m bombarding you with design stories and house features from Urban Zone. We are doing some construction on the back end of my blog as I need to avoid crashing the server again despite the spikes in readership. It’s a great problem to have. Thank you, everyone, for reading my website religiously.

Here’s a house I featured back in December 2010. It’s one of those unforgettable homes that has the personal stamp of the owners in every corner. I learned a lot from the owners of this house – that you can live in a vast space even if your lot area is just 140 square metres; and that even a triangular shaped junkyard could be transformed in to the land of your dreamhouse; and that solar panels are totally accessible and affordable these days. I adored this house… designed and conceptualized by the owner himself, Mitch Shiver, an industrial designer.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
The house has an irregular shape (acute triangle). One side of the house points in this narrow corner. That is the depth/width of the house… for real! The Shivers chose the smallest point to be the entrance.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
I love how the space opens up like this.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
And there’s room for a DJ booth under the stairs. It totally packs away and stores under the steps.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
I. Love. Shelly’s. Kitchen.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
Mitch and Shelly’s “Happy Couch” from Heima. I dont have a photo of his work table. It was a stainless steel kitchen prep table from a fastfood place that went out of business. Note the coffee table. It’s actually a trunk filled with Mitch’s audio equipment.


Solar panel
Mitch told me that this solar panel is very affordable. It’s big enough to power the exhaust fan in this corner of the house, which in effect cools down the place. (It sucks hot air out). For info on solar panel dealers locally, please check hardware stores or attend those construction expos.


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
Another solar panel and louvres that help hot air escape out (Remember, hot air rises. So you don’t want hot air trapped in your top floor.)


House of Mitch and Shelly Shivers
All this in a property that measures only 140 square metres! Amazing. Adorable.



Swiss and tropical



Here’s an Urban Zone story from 2010 that a lot of viewers fell in love with. I had posted this in my livejournal but thought it was worth digging up again. The architect of the house is Gilbert Lui.


Architecture by Gilbert Lui
The exterior of the house had to conform to the style of the subdivision. So the facade had a Swiss chalet type feel to it.


Architecture by Gilbert Lui
Faux trellis treatment on the ceiling upon entering. Gilbert wanted the owners to feel like they were entering a tropical space after going through the Swiss chalet facade. It gives the illusion of walking through a long hallway when in fact the space opens up to this…


Click “More…” for the big reveal


Chinese New Year at Mandarin Oriental



Lucky New Year Dishes
Lucky Dishes to welcome the Year of the Water Dragon


Chinese New Year at the Mandarin Oriental Manila has become a tradition for many. I’ve been once – we were ringing in the year of the sheep. Then days after I gave birth to my first daughter. Too much partying haha. I haven’t been back since. But I remember it clearly – the rituals, dragon dance, fireworks, mini parade.  Very festive.

This year that annual celebration will take place on the eve of 22 January at 10pm. To usher in the auspicious Year of the Water Dragon, Master Joseph Chau will again lead the ceremonies and rituals to augur luck in 2012. There will be dragon dances, traditional dotting of the eyes of the lions, and a 10-minute fireworks display. An eight-course Lauriat dinner, the first lucky meal of the year, follows at midnight at the elegantly decorated Ballroom. Tickets are PHP 2,988 net for adults and P1,588 for children.

Other offerings – a Prosperity room package which starts at PHP 6,888++ for an overnight stay for two, and includes international buffet breakfast, a PHP 1,000 dining credit in any of the hotel’s restaurants and a PHP 500 spa voucher. And Tin Hau’s homemade tikoy is also available at Rockwell from January 15 to 22. Is it true that tikoy has to be given to you by a Chinese friend for it to be lucky? Hello, friends. I need all the luck I can get.

If you don’t make it to the grand celebration, there’s always Tin Hau from Jan 23 to 29. In keeping with Chinese custom, the hotel’s master chefs annually lay out menus filled with dishes symbolic of wealth, good fortune, and family unity. With various culinary interpretations and sumptuous ingenuity, the Chinese restaurant’s team headed by Executive Chef Hann Furn Chen has created prosperity menus showcasing dishes that bring luck and harmony.


Poached Hong Kong  Chicken with Ginger Sauce
Poached Hong Kong chicken with spring onion and ginger sauce. A chicken dish is important during Chinese New Year, as eating chicken is considered healthy. The rooster’s crow is a good start to the day; likewise, eating chicken is a good start to the year.


Wok Fried Shrimp in XO Sauce 2
Wok fried shrimp with X.O. sauce. Also considered lucky are dishes that are golden or reddish in color. The cooking method of deep frying symbolizes Gold among the Chinese and serving a golden deep-fried dish, such as Wok fried Shrimp, is representative of abundance in wealth for the coming year.


Five Happiness Combination Platter
New Year’s five happiness combination platter: B.B.Q. suckling pig, roasted pork asado with honey sauce, marinated jelly fish Szechuan style, golden fried shrimp mousse and black moss rolls and crispy fried anchovy with spicy plum sauce.


The New Year’s Five Happiness Combination Platter is a barbecue combination of roast duck, chicken, pork and jellyfish. It is a symbol of a bountiful harvest for the coming year. The combination of different ingredients also symbolizes the gathering of friends and relatives for the occasion of Chinese New Year. Noodles, of course, are a staple on the menu as they are representative of a long and harmonious life.  In the Chinese language, the words “fish” and “profit” are homophonic to each other—they sound the same, and so eating steamed fish during Chinese New Year means more profit for the coming year.

For more information on Mandarin Oriental, Manila’s Chinese New Year activities, call the hotel on 750 8888 or email



Literally, resort-living (repost)



I’ll be reposting some old (but timeless) entries from my livejournal blog. Here’s a story I did in mid-2011. This home was referred to me by my friend Dix Perez. He said it was unbelievable. A French couple decided to take resort-living literally. They have 12 kids. Instead of building a big house, they a placed a huge pool in the middle of their property and surrounded it with a few pavillions and cabins. It was almost like a resort! In a Metro Manila suburb.


French family in Manila with 12 kids
Interviewing the owner of the home, Veronique Legris. They built a pool in the middle of their property and surrounded it with cabanas instead of a “main house.” It’s genius. We should all live like this.


Click “More…” to see the rest of this house.



Tropical home



I shot this house in late 2010. I remember this to have been a very interesting story. The owners had lived in the house for a while when they acquired the property next door. And instead of expanding their home beyond their old boundary, they simply opened up one side and allowed a lot of natural light and wind in via some sliding doors. They also made their outdoor living space larger in order to enjoy that big yard they never had before.


Here I am with Gene Flancia, the architect of this project, at the new extension of the property. They acquired the lot adjacent to theirs and opened up this side of their existing house with sliding glass doors and a porch, but left most of the new property as green open space.


Living area is accessible through the garden.


There is a wooden front door that is barely used because the owners prefer to enter via this sliding door.


The owners of the house chose contemporary pieces in wenge-finish wood  – both store-bought and custom-made.


View from entrance and living area down to the hallway. Mr Flancia created a high vaulted ceiling in this wide hallway. I love it.


Click “More…” to see the rest of this house.