Casa Roces




A couple of weeks ago, we shot Urban Zone at this “new” restaurant called Casa Roces. My producers told me it was near Malacanang. They said it was an old Legarda house. I had to double check to ask if they were referring to Cocina de Tita Moning, which is known as the Legarda mansion. I’ve eaten there too many times. It’s a place you have to go fasting for before eating there.

Well, it was a pleasant surprise to see another house, also within the Malacanang neighbourhood. This one has a view of the Palace gates. It is literally across the street from the palace. The entire house was recently renovated to be converted into a restaurant and cafe. I interviewed the architect of the renovation, Tina Bonoan. It’s amazing that they respected the integrity of the structure but gave the place all the comforts of contemporary living.

The cafe is named Cape Chino after Don Chino Roces. Everywhere in the house there are reminders of the family’s heritage – prints of La Vanguardia and the old Manila Times news papers, photos and memorabilia from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I ran into Peachy Prieto who runs the business and she told me the story of the house, which her great aunt lived in. I forget the details of how the Prietos, Legardas, Roceses and all are related. Basta they are. Peachy pointed out that this wasn’t a mansion. It was just a regular house built in Commonwealth style. I thought it was gorgeous.

The restaurant is run and managed by the Cravings group. I enjoyed my meal. But please do not expect a full blown food review. You know me and food.

This post is picture-heavy so I split it. Please click on “Read more” to read more…


The gate of Casa Roces is right across the gate of Malacanang.


Interviewing the architect of the renovation/restoration Tina Bonoan. It is a perfect example of adaptive re-use. The main entrance of the house used to be off to the side (left photo). This is now the valet drop-off. Pedestrian guests can enter through the garden side, which Tina opened up to give a more dramatic entrance. They also knocked down walls in exchange for tempered glass picture windows. There’s a big Impy Pilapil sculpture and water feature out front.


The old foyer of the old entrance. Tina barely touched the layout of the great hallway. She just painted the walls and lined parts of the ceiling with pages from the old newspapers of Chino Roces.


The garden-side of the house, which faces Malacanang, has been opened up with sliding doors and a beautiful wooden deck.


Furniture came from the personal collection of the Legardas, Roces and Prietos. I love the mishmash of styles and periods.


The door to the cafe may look familiar to those who’ve been to Morita’s years ago. Morita is also a member of the clan.


The cafe reception is actually an extension from the original structure. It also opens up to a cozy outdoor bar with stone tables. Tina displayed memorabilia from the family. I love how un-stuffy the antiques look. Credit that to the chic/contemporary shelves painted in sunny yellow.


Everything here is original. The wood was just refinished. I love long curtains that drape and gather over the floor. It’s the only way to do drapes. I’m loving the light that comes through in this stairwell. The upper floor has private function rooms.


This is the terrace over the driveway of the old main entrance. Most old homes kept this as an outdoor balcony or smoking area. It was like a sunroom for the old family. Tina converted it to a private dining hall.


Original machuca tiles. This was one of my favourite rooms.


I loved that old homes had generous windows and huge eaves. Lots of natural light came in but no direct sunlight to make the rooms a living hell. I hope new architects never forget how our old homes were built. There’s so much wisdom in the bahay kubo, bahay na bato and their types.

Theres more…

Click to see the rest of the story

Two houses under one roof


Last Friday July 29, we showed this beautiful home in Urban Zone. It is one of the best-designed new homes I’ve seen. The architect and interior designer is Dan Lichauco, amazing amazing talent. There are two houses in this property — the mother’s house and the daughter’s family home. Both houses function separately but are connected in the middle by a formal dining room. The character of the two homes couldn’t be more different from each other. If I didn’t tell you they were under one roof, you’d never guess they were inside one structure.

The property is huge. The family had lived here for many years but opted to build a brand new home to go with a new phase in their lives. So the old house was knocked down to make way for this new one. Interesting that the residents opted for a bungalow instead of multi-level monster home. Let me show you the mom’s pad first then click on the jump below to see how the daughter created her own unique cosmopolitan space.


The living room of the first house. The mom kept a lot of her old furniture. Dan gave them a different feel by giving the wood a darker stain. They wanted to maintain an old-world feel that was a mix of colonial formality and tropical living.


All the rooms in both homes open up to the garden and swimming pool so there’s a lot of natural light.


The inner sitting room with reworked furniture. To give the wooden coffee table a more “European” feel, Dan added a marble table top. I’m loving all those shutter blinds.


Philippine art and a contemporary colonial setting.


Must have fresh flowers whenever you can.


Stunning main door with carved wood and brass art by National Artist for sculpture, Imao.


Detail of the main door and another look at the very sunny living room.


A stunning master bedroom with very high ceiling.


Loved this bathroom.


Pretty bathroom that reminded me of my own bathroom at home except that this is more glam and luxe. I used an antique mirror.


The lady of the house loves to cook. She asked Dan to create a kitchen that was open to the living and dining rooms.


Again, old furniture given new life by upholstery, marble surfaces, and new stain.


The dining area opens to this hallway which is the one that connects the first house to the second house by way of a sliding door.


Both houses are connected by a narrow hallway and this dramatic formal dining room.


The second house is so different but just as stunning.


Click here to see the second house

Two major LV stores to be opened in Asia


This just in from our friends in Louis Vuitton Philippines. They seem to know that I love design stories. Here’s a preview of how two LV stores will look like when they open later this year. The first is at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the other one is the re-opening of our LV store in Greenbelt 4.


Singapore, Louis Vuitton Island Maison

Singapore will welcome a new luxury shopping destination and retail icon when Louis Vuitton opens its first Island Maison at the Marina Bay Sands in September of this year. The Maison will sit on the waterfront of the Marina Bay promenade and will be a distinctive landmark in the celebrated landscape around the bay.

The Louis Vuitton Island Maison is a one of a kind concept for the luxury brand, and will feature nautical- inspired interiors exclusively designed by internationally acclaimed and award winning architect Peter Marino. Visitors can look forward to a unique and sophisticated retail experience as the first Louis Vuitton Maison in Southeast Asia will incorporate art and cultural elements in its retail space.


Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands


The ground floor of the Island Maison will feature the complete selection of men’s and women’s leather goods, ready to wear, shoes and accessories. Keeping close to the brand’s DNA where the desire is to transform every journey into a refined and personal experience, the mezzanine level will celebrate the romance of travel by dedicating an area to travel luggage and accessories in the first Travel Room in Asia Pacific. There will also be a private lounge for intimate presentations as well as an outdoor loggia reminiscent of a deck on a luxury yacht.

From the island, visitors can travel through a tunnel that will showcase pieces of contemporary artwork. The tunnel connects to the Marina Bay Sands mall and visitors will arrive at the Louis Vuitton bookstore, where they can browse through a specially curated range of design, cultural and art books. A spiral staircase on the same floor will lead visitors up to a magnified space which will display timepieces, fine jewellery and exceptional leather bags.

The Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands will be the fifth store for the brand in Singapore and opens to the public on 18 September 2011.



Philippines, Louis Vuitton Greenbelt 4

Louis Vuitton is proud to announce the reopening of its store at Greenbelt 4 this October after an intensive expansion and renovation program. First opened in 2003 on Makati Avenue, the Louis Vuitton store has always been one of the most popular anchor brands of the premier shopping arcade in Makati.

Today, this expansion re-affirms the Malletier’s confidence in the Philippine retail market. Featuring a uniquely conceived façade inspired by the brand’s signature Damier pattern, the new store is a testament to Vuitton’s spirit of combining innovative retail concepts with the tradition of savoir-faire and travel legacy.


Louis Vuitton, Greenbelt 4


The new store will be transformed into a 2-level luxury retail space. The store’s main entrance opens up into an intimate travel area on the left and an expansive leather goods bar to the right. A few short steps lead you up to the mezzanine floor where a dedicated Men’s Area is located. The main staircase takes you down to the Women’s Universe featuring a vast array of leather goods, shoes, and accessories. An entire wall showcases Rare & Exceptional pieces on this lower floor.

Aside from a special room dedicated to after-sales services, a highlight of the new store will be the unique and luxurious VIP salon, offering the ultimate personal and luxurious shopping experience.

The Louis Vuitton boutique at Greenbelt 4 re-opens on October 15, 2011.




Cebu’s house on a hill



Like I said in previous post, there’s something in Cebu’s air that breeds amazing modernist architects. This is the house of Francis Noel, an architect. I always like seeing how architects live in their own house.

At first glance, it looks like just another “modern” house. But after talking with Francis and hearing him explain his concept, I was impressed. I’ve seen too many pa-modern effect homes by builders/owners who know very little about tropical architecture; homes that end up becoming one heat trap. If you’re shopping for an architect you must visit one of his/her projects at 1pm. Check to see how the house handles the heat. Francis’ house is a successful example, not just in modern style but also in terms of the functions of a tropical house.

The site posed a major challenge. Lot size is 416 sqm with a frontage of 22 metres. The shape is irregular (trapezoidal or triangular) with no sides equal. The street front had an inclination of more than 15 degrees from left to right. The highest elevation of the lot reached 9 metres above the subdivision road.

See how Francis Noel solved the challenge and came up with a beautiful and functional Filipino modern home for his family.


“The context of the site, logistics and the drive to create a Filipino Modern abode permitted me to design the house in multi-levels in a boxy form. Cubism is somewhat referred to the “ bahay kubo” ( where I always gets my inspiration). Wanting to be globally modern but yet distinctively Filipino, slim sleek flat roofs with deep eaves suggest modernity and contemporariness. The building envelope with stained wall timber cladding over massive concrete walls suggests Asian sensibility features. Wide glass window openings and doors permits daylight into the house and maximize views for most of the rooms.” — Francis Noel


“With the rugged terrain being offered, I took on the challenge to navigate our house during the planning stage through the rugged contour lines to prevent excessive earthworks and costs. This type of approach really saved us a lot of money. Difference in levels and elevations gave me an opportunity to create spaces that are visually distinctive without the use of too much walls and partitions but instead using user-friendly treads and risers (300mmx 145mm) in accordance to the Disability Act Law or Batas Pambansa 344.” — Francis Noel


The site has an inclination of 15 degrees from left to right.


Francis tried to employ as much green technology or procedures in designing and building his house. He also took a lot of inspiration from the bahay kubo and bahay na bato. Visible from this picture are the opened slats under the eaves. This allows hot air to escape from between the ceiling and the roof. Wide eaves supported by poles (or like a  tungkod) gives enough shade from direct sun. I was particularly enamored by the wooden screen.


Sun baffles or timber screens protects the interior rooms thru the  dramatic introduction of shadows on the floors. With the introductions of layered walls and berm, thermal comfort for the house is generally achieved.


The style of minimalism is adopted in this house as evident of the structural framework being exposed in the interiors.


“Another challenge was to orient the house towards the view (the blue water of Mactan Island) looming in the horizon (East- NorthEast) and the afternoon sun which is at the West-Southwest. Having to build the house within the height limit of 9 meters from the highest lot elevations ( SHHA Guidelines ), the house had to have an extensive digging of 3.50 meters or more down from the original thus created a Berm.” — Francis Noel


I asked Francis what made this house green architecture. “Through the use of recycled materials “finger joint lumber” or “retaso”, proper planning and site utilization, celestial windows and timber screens for optimum visual and thermal comfort, landscaping, rainwater harvesting with the used of cistern tanks. Also by designing the house relative to human scale (floor height elevations), adherence to disability law, passive cooling thru the introduction of cross ventilation (side walls with window openings), long deep eaves to create shadows and depth, white walls and ceiling for natural room illumination. We also employed CFL bulbs and other environmental friendly materials for optimum savings in electricity and adherence towards the principle of sustainable development.” — Francis Noel


Perhaps one of the greater things that makes this house about “green living” is that Francis built his home office within the property — no need to drive a car to go to work. Talk about reducing your carbon footprint. And just beside his home office is a separate unit for his parents’ in law. I love that about Filipino families.


Read more about the work of Francisco Noel Architects.

House with a fish “pond”


I had a lot of fun shooting this house for Urban Zone. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera that day. But good thing, the owner sent me photos… actual prints!… from the shoot. Yes it’s another modern tropical home. Why not? It’s the most practical architectural style for our climate. And basically with a shell that’s more streamlined, you can dress up the interiors any way you can.

It wasn’t just the architecture and design that I find striking about this house. I loved the experience of being here. Here’s why.


A happy home with a big garden, a pool, a separate cottage for visiting in-laws, lots of space for the kids to run around in.


I interviewed the contractor of the project.


I loved that the “front” of the house was off to the side, not favouring the street. It faced the garden and the pool.


They planted fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. I think we can all learn from this. What could be more sustainable than a garden that produces stuff you can really eat!


Most new houses now have a water feature. A lot of them have Koi ponds. It’s no joke maintaining a fish pond. It takes time, money and commitment. Koi fish are not cheap. But this one is a great idea. The owners created a wall where water cascades down, creating the soothing sound of water. And instead of decorative fish pets, they had fish from their fish farm. They run a fish farm out of town. So every week they bring in live fish and “raise” them here in the city for a few days or weeks. Then when it’s time…


They just go fishing in their back yard. What could be more luxurious than fresh tilapia and pangasius (dory)? From fishpond, to kitchen, to dinner table!


The owners gave us a gift that night. They sent me home with two tilapias and one dory fish! I was a bit stressed out about real live fish and the idea of killing and cooking it. But these are farmed fish meant for eating.


I went home so thrilled about this experience. Now I’m thinking, should we have a little fishpond at home too? But none of us are interested in raising fish. Plus the owners had a real working fish pond in their farm, we don’t. But it’s a great idea though.

Oh by the way, I’m still getting a lot of questions about the new schedule of Urban Zone. Here’s our new ad.


Oops, looks like we forgot to edit the copy. We’re on now every Friday night, after Trip na Trip on ABSCBN. The schedule on The Filipino Channel varies per region.