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The Homes of Zee

Liz Garcia’s old-world home is a refreshing break from the city

Liz Garcia’s hilltop residence marries rustic charm and nostalgic sensibilities in a home that’s well-lived.

“It’s the white house with the red tile roof.” That was the very specific description to finding Liz Garcia’s home in one of Maria Luisa’s steeper roads. Its white stone façade seems to gleam in the bright afternoon sun, already picturesque as a striking contrast to the thriving foliage surrounding it.

The house's L shape is arranged around the backyard and the pool, with many of the living areas opening up to the outdoors. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The house’s L shape is arranged around the backyard and the pool, with many of the living areas opening up to the outdoors. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The foyer's high ceilings give guests a grand entrance, and its neutral walls serve to ground the collection of antiques and furniture. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The foyer’s high ceilings give guests a grand entrance, and its neutral walls serve to ground the collection of antiques and furniture. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

Our hostess welcomes us, ushering us through the entrance’s antique double doors that were bought in Manila. Beside her a large dog named Emmy gives its own greeting before running across the tile floor to the patio. “This is why we have these floors,” Liz explains as Emmy frisks from room to room. “These tiles are nice and cool, and they can survive all the dogs running around.”

That practicality seems to be the underlying philosophy throughout the entire residence, where Liz, her husband Montito, and two sons have been living for two years. The family used to live in a smaller place in the city until they decided it was time for a change. “Traffic had been getting really bad, and the city started to feel crowded,” she admits. “We thought it would be nice to have a place away from all of that.”

Consulting with architect Pilar Streegan, Liz was clear on the feel she wanted for the place. “I didn’t want it to look like a showroom, like you weren’t allowed to touch anything,” she recalls. “We wanted to go for a Spanish mission-style home, because I wanted that welcoming old-world feel.”

That old-world feel certainly permeates through the house. The foyer enjoys a high ceiling where exposed log beams are a rustic accent to the chandelier. The stairs curve around the wall, the red tiles giving way to more colorful patterns for the risers. “The clay tiles we’d just sourced locally, but the colorful ones are from South America,” Liz points out.

This hat rack that belonged to Montito's mother is a focal point on the landing. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

This hat rack that belonged to Montito’s mother is a focal point on the landing. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The rooms are furnished with various pieces that have been collected through the years—a mirrored hat stand on the stairs landing that once belonged to Montito’s mother, the patio’s round wooden dining table that were bought from an English couple living in Cebu, and even some Restoration Hardware pieces that looked like it had some history to them.

Among the vintage items in the home, the most remarkable is Liz’s collection of linens she had amassed from estate sales, fairs and other sources. “That’s why I have a linen closet—I have so much to store,” she laughs. From delicate lace tablecloths to the patterned quilts in the bedrooms, they are thoughtfully scattered throughout the residence to add an nostalgic touch to the rooms. “I buy them from different places and then restore them,” she says, sharing in a few tips. “I’ll wash them then put them out in the sun, because that helps linens become white again. In fact, what’s even better is to lay them out on the grass. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the grass and the sun that causes a reaction in the linens. That’s why in the more earlier periods in Europe, you’d see linens laid out all over the meadows.”

Here, they serve as delicate accents to the weathered wooden furniture and earthy tones of their home. The tile floors continue throughout the first floor’s common areas, making for a seamless transition through the entrance’s arched doorways and into the patio. An iron chandelier watches over the outdoor furniture, while the tiles eventually give way to the vibrant green grass that leads to the pool. At the other end sits a cabana, where the yellow wall is punctuated by a mural of a horse. “My husband loves horses, so there are elements of that around the house,” Liz explains.

The living room's paneled wooden walls are complemented by white furniture and the greens of the outdoors. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The living room’s paneled wooden walls are complemented by white furniture and the greens of the outdoors. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

Tucked behind the open air sitting area by the pool is a bathroom shower, and rock garden. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

Tucked behind the open air sitting area by the pool is a bathroom shower, and rock garden. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The dining room is a chance for Liz to display her collection of antique jars and lace, complimenting the larger furniture pieces. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The dining room is a chance for Liz to display her collection of antique jars and lace, complimenting the larger furniture pieces. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The patio is adjacent to an indoor sitting area, which opens up to the outdoors on two sides. Here, there’s a slightly more masculine feel with its wooden walls, plush sofas and a pair of leather chairs, although it never feels overwhelming. A nude sketch by Ben Cab hangs on one wall, flanked by photo prints of different cities.

Next to it is the dining room, where a large table sits amidst antique furniture. One armoire holds a collection of jars, its doors draped with one of Liz’s vintage linens—this one is delicate lace in shades of white and powder blue. The kitchen follows the country theme, with wooden stools, decorative plates and paneled cabinetry.

On the house’s other wing is the more private master’s suite, beginning with Liz’s office. A secretary desk sits in one corner, looking beautifully weathered. More feminine elements can be found through the room—from the delicate crystals that seem to drop from the chandelier, to the religious figures in various corners.

The guest bathroom's all-white palette is given a rustic touch with wooden accents in a natural or weathered finish. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

The guest bathroom’s all-white palette is given a rustic touch with wooden accents in a natural or weathered finish. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2015)

This leads to the master’s bedroom where wooden shutters give its occupants the option of opening up to the backyard or keeping the view private. A delicate Japanese screen is folded into a corner. Here, Liz proves it’s all about the details—one night table is a converted Singer sewing machine for that quirky touch. The bathroom is spacious, with a wooden vanity decorated with accessories, old photographs and even a vintage brush and mirror set.

Upstairs, the bedrooms have their own personalities. A study is converted into one son’s bedroom whose focal point is an antique wrought iron bed that was bought from the same English couple they’d gotten the patio’s table from. The other bedroom has a freestanding tub in the bathroom that looks out onto the sweeping views behind the house. A four-poster bed sits in the guest bedroom with a faux fur carpet from Ikea that come together for a take on luxe country living.

“I really can’t live in a very modern house,” Liz shares later while enjoying merienda and a fresh mountain breeze. “Different people will like different things. For me, I like having old things and some history. It makes everything interesting.” Judging from the incredible number of photogenic corners throughout the residence, we definitely agree.

 

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[unitegallery LizGarcia]

photography John Ong

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The Homes of Zee

LOCKDOWN FUN: Whose Crib is This?

Here’s one way residents of Cebu’s exclusive villages created their own fun during zoom parties — guessing each other’s home! Of course, you need a smart mastermind to curate the photos to make sure the homes of each of the amigas are not easy to guess.

So, here’s a short tour of homes that was paraded during this very fun game. Homes are located in Maria Luisa, Northtown Homes, Beverly Hills and a beach house too.  Oh, and one came all the way from Scotland.

We hope your zoom parties are just as fun!

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The Homes of Zee

Seashore Seclusion: A Beachside Abode in San Remigio

A cozy family getaway in San Remigio epitomizes the charm and simplicity of living by the sea.

by Shari Quimbo
photography Ezekiel Sullano

 

Admittedly, there are some challenges that come with living in Cebu; but having pockets of paradise being only a few hours’ away is an upside that’s hard to beat. One such paradise is San Remigio, a town that sits on the northwest side of the island, which means its serene shores are kissed daily by an amazing view of the sunset. Sure, you’ll run into some traffic while driving out of the city, but what awaits you makes the drive up north an easy challenge to live with.

A walkway leads into the house’s main living area, which enjoys an open floor plan for a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

When a chance to visit one family’s beachside getaway landed on our laps, we couldn’t pass it up. After a brief struggle with Mandaue City traffic, we were soon cruising through the towns of the north while the crystalline blue waters of the ocean peeked through every few kilometers.

It wasn’t long after when we found ourselves going up a pebbled driveway where a bamboo gate opened up to a footpath that led to the house. “We wanted to keep it simple,” the owner explains, sharing that he came up with the design while going through photos of houses online. With a thatched roof, rounded columns and a grooved concrete fence, the space is cozy and informal—a place that definitely exuded a laid-back beachside feel.

The living areas integrate into each other, with casual dining set-ups arranged around the open space, while oversized couches surround a solid wood coffee table. There’s a communal vibe that’s slightly deliberate. “We have a lot of friends and family that come in during the weekends, so we created a space that’s ready for that,” says the owner. “We didn’t want anything too formal. Some beach houses make you feel embarrassed to come in with your wet, sandy feet. We want a place where everyone would be comfortable moving around.”

Natural tones are complemented by richly colored fabrics

That said, the concrete floors, made for walking around barefoot, lead to the manicured grass where the infinity pool looks like its about to spill out into the beach below. The blues of the sea and sky complement the more natural tones of the house’s wooden furniture pieces and painted white walls. Pops of color come in with the throw pillows, hammock and matching bright orange lounge chairs that are around the pool.

As if keeping with the house’s casual vibe, the owner’s trio of dogs roams freely around the property, curiously coming up to us for attention. “They just showed up one day,” he laughs when I ask where he’d gotten the dogs, named Beer, Tequila and Scotch—perhaps giving proof of how fun weekends here can be. A bar sits by one of the dining tables and further cements this theory, as does the homemade lamp made from a bottle of Patron.

Off to the side of the house are the bedrooms, which are simple but spacious. “It’s so there’s space on the floor to bring in cushions for when we have a lot of people over.”

The house’s infinity pool seemingly spills out into the ocean, and is one of the best locations on the property to watch the sunset.

The beach house took just two months to construct about two years ago. “Weirdly enough, we built this house while I was still living in Malaysia,” shares the owner. “My sister manages a construction company, and I would just email them instructions and photos of what I wanted. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy.”

The bar is stocked with a wide array of liquors, and is proof of the residence’s festive spirit.

Of course, when typhoon Yolanda hit northern Cebu, the house saw considerable damage. A quick browse through his photo gallery showed the roof completely ripped off the structure. “I came back the weekend after Yolanda. It took me almost a whole day to get here because we had to clear the road as we went,” he recalled.

Repairs to the house took a backseat as the family helped residents around the area before they moved to reconstruct their own house. “It took a month or so to fix the roof and everything else that was broken,” he says.

When lit up with candles in the late afternoon, the walkway takes on a cozily intimate vibe;

Long benches flank the dining table to accommodate plenty of diners.

Now, the house is as inviting as ever. We spent the minutes leading up to sunset drinking beer by the pool. A few fishing boats float off the shore, with many locals walking through the beach. “I like the idea of having no fences and having people passing through,” the owner shares. “I like that it’s open. It makes the house feel more alive.”

Sunsets by the beach are priceless.

That, in a nutshell, describes the beach house. With its cheerful, casual corners, it surely feels lived in—as if remnants of the happy moments people have spent there still hang in the air and even add to its personality. It’s not hard to understand why the owners look forward to the two-hour drive up on the weekends—if we had a space like this, we’d be heading north more often too.

 

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s April 2016 Travel Issue, “Beach, Please” on pages 98-101.)

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The Homes of Zee

Idyllic Isolation: The La Mer Veille

French architectural duo Humbert & Poyet create La Mer Veille in the Italian Riviera, a seaside cabin that has its fair share of charm.

by Shari Quimbo
photos courtesy of Alexandra Public Relations

 

With the azure sea on one side, the verdant mountains on the other and picturesque towns in between, the Italian Riviera is certainly a dream destination. More than its natural beauty, the region seems frozen in another time—a simpler one, when the days seemed long and the people keen to enjoy the moments.

It is here that La Mer Veille sits, a beachfront cabin that epitomizes the simple summer escape. Nestled between Bordighera and San Remo, its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are complemented by its predominantly white palette, down-to-earth décor and delicate materials.

The house is the creation of French architects Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, the personalities behind the firm Humbert & Poyet. Since they decided to collaborate in 2007, the firm has worked on various projects around the world—the Wine Palace at the Monaco Yacht Club, the curated fashion store 55 Croisette in Cannes, and fashion designer Alexis Mabille’s first shop in Paris are just some of the projects the two have worked on together.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

The result is elegant and timeless spaces that meticulously bring together various design elements—the choice of materials and lighting, for example, are carefully thought out to make the most of a space and to ensure the client’s needs and personality is reflected in the final design.

It’s understandable then why La Mer Veille sits at a perfect vantage point where it surroundings can be admired. The seaside cabin is simple and relatively small, but is put together to exude an unassuming luxury that dares not to compete with the views outside.

The living area, shared with the dining room and kitchen, is done in shades of white with earthy tone accents. The Carrara marble counters are complemented with brass fixtures, including a brass sink that was custom-made by Humbert & Poyet. The firm also specially constructed the sofa that sits opposite the wooden table, a find from a market in England. Straw-wrapped lighting, an old-fashioned fireplace and a brass backsplash for the stove just add to the overall rustic appeal.

The bedrooms also have that effortless charm, with various nautical details to remind its occupants they are by the sea—just in case they forget the views beyond the picture windows. The master bedroom features a mattress sitting on an elevated wooden platform, topped with an Ancient African throw purchased from an antique shop.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

La Mer Veille is a space that celebrates its location, and its location is best enjoyed from the terrace. The creamy white palette is carried over to this outdoor space where distressed wooden floorboards and a cushioned seating area invite you to put up your feet and settle in. The mood is set even further with a hammock chair from Etsy hanging easily from the ceiling and some relaxing music from the piano.

Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet

Beyond its architectural details, it is the finishing touches that give this dreamy cabin its character—bunches of baby’s breath and other flowers tucked into pitchers and vases in various niches around the house, wooden stools with rounded seats, antique-inspired knickknacks like an old fan sitting on a shelf and a swinging love seat. These details make the house come to life in an interesting way; and with a view such as this, what a life it is.

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s May 2016 Home Issue, “By the Sea” on pages 72-77.)

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