Renovation project



Last night’s Urban Zone episode got a lot of feedback in Facebook and in my Twitter. Well, all episodes do. But last night’s was special because it featured the work of two young architects, Kellyn See and Rex Gapuz. Both are graduates of University of Santo Tomas architecture and both just got their Masters degree in Architecture at Politecnico di Milano. This was their first project after coming back from Milan.

It was a total renovation of a 16-year old house. The couple who had bought the house initially wanted their design services for the interiors only. Kellyn and Rex presented them with two scenarios – new furniture only and/or complete reconstruction of the house. The owners were impressed and went for it.

Here are the results. All photos are from Kellyn See.










Amazing, eh?

As of writing this, Kellyn and Rex don’t have a website yet. For now you can look for them in Facebook. Catch them while they’re still young and (hopefully) affordable.

EDIT:  Here are some photos from my camera before the batteries went dead.


With Kellyn and Rex


The ledge in the front of the house (it’s cement). This has the effect of continuing all the way inside.


The living room.


There’s the ledge


View from the foyer


Cute cottage


I’ve been cleaning up my iPhoto, making backups of backups and uploading them to Flickr for storage, when I found this album from last year. This is the Antipolo weekend home of Wilmer Lopez and Thor Balanon, the design duo behind the hip home store Space Encounters. We featured both their store and their house in Urban Zone. I thought of sharing it with you because it shows what you can do with a small space using vintage furniture and a lot of creativity. The lot area is around 200 square metres and the floor area is 95 sq m.


Cute little bungalow with a door painted in apple green. They left the concrete un-painted and installed newer windows.


Wilmer, an interior designer, was guided by Scandinavian design principles. While Thor’s love for oriental pop-culture from different eras is reflected all throughout the house. Check out the poster of a Chinese soldier from the 50’s a young Mao Zedong.


Wilmer and Thor scoured second hand shops in search of Danish design finds. The rest of the furniture were reproductions – either sourced abroad or made locally.


Mid-century modern furniture.


I adore furniture appliances. I remember when my parents’ old TV came in the form of a side table. This is a phonograph from the 50’s. When not in use, the top goes down and it becomes a console table.


Chairman Mao lamp made of resin. I ended up buying one at their shop.


There’s a tiny courtyard/lanai adjacent to the dining room. I love that most tropical homes find space for outdoor living. It’s very important in terms of harnessing wind (for cross-ventillation).


Sorry that these are all outtakes from the shoot. I don’t have cleaner shots. But this gives you an idea of how the limited space they had.


They tried to maximize space by using benches (instead of dining chairs), a huge mirror and that built-in cantilevered ledge. Floor to ceiling drapes also give the illusion of a higher ceiling.


Their tiny kitchen gets a boost by having exposed beams instead of an actual ceiling. There’s an opening on one side that allows natural light in. Wilmer used light veneers on the buffet/counter surface. Lights were placed inside the cupboards, lined with frosted glass.


Thor and Wilmer.


Their den-slash-TV room is a dream come true for big boys. They had vintage toys and lots of collectibles. Check out that original Bruce Lee poster written in Vietnamese (?).


One of my favourite movies of all time – E.T. I can watch this over and over (and Wall-E too). I think it’s written in Vietnamese or Khmer, can anyone ID?


GI Joes


And more…


If you like Thor and Wilmer’s taste, check out their store Space Encounters and their new coffee shop Subspace both in Ortigas.



Jason Buensalido, architect



Last Friday, we featured a breathtaking penthouse condo in Urban Zone. I’ve never seen anything like it. The deck was bigger than the living area. It measured 180 square metres while the inside measured 140 square metres. I can imagine the owner fell in love with the unit because of this stunning deck.

Jason Buensalido was chosen to be the architect of this ambitious project. The result was a stunning and almost iconic creation.


The deck’s shape resembles a ship’s bow (the front part), but more like the front half of a ship.


This was Jason’s original plan – to have trellises jutting out from the walls of the unit. These trellises were to continue on inside the ceiling of the entire unit.


Jason designed the entire space to be covered by a wooden deck… using cedar from Canada. I could smell the scent. He also placed a little patch of grass turf in the middle. Very cute.


Jason Buensalido, showing me the concept and creative process. You can see all his plans and renderings here.


The bends and waves of the trellis represented points in a vector. They were meant to maximize the views.


However, the developer had restrictions and eventually they couldn’t allow Jason to build the outer trellises.


This young architect has won many prestigious awards. One was the top prize for  “Ang Pinakamagandang Bahay sa Balat ng Lupa”.


Can you imagine, 180 square metres of open space in a CBD?


Jason’s firm did the total design from architecture to interior.


Click here to read more about this stunning penthouse condo

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