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The Homes of Zee

You’re invited to Maris Holopainen’s house

When you’re the visionary behind one of Cebu’s top art galleries, what would your home be like? Qube’s Maris Holopainen shows us the answer.

Maris Holopainen is cheerful and chatty as she welcomes us into her home, offering the choice of beer and wine. “There’s no such thing,” she laughs amid playful protestations that it was too early. The large marble island dominates the home’s open kitchen, punctuated with a piece from Michael Cacnio depicting a fisherman reeling in a net’s catch. “It’s my fake kitchen,” she adds. “I don’t cook.”

Red tones dominate the living area, from the bold Mario de Rivera painting over the console table and the Gil Corcuera sculpture on the coffee table to the intricate prints of the carpets and the patterns on the throw pillows. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Red tones dominate the living area, from the bold Mario de Rivera painting over the console table and the Gil Corcuera sculpture on the coffee table to the intricate prints of the carpets and the patterns on the throw pillows. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Maris Holopainen lounges at her home (Photography by Steffen Billhardt, makeup by Romero Vergara, hair by Jessie Egos/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Maris Holopainen lounges at her home (Photography by Steffen Billhardt, makeup by Romero Vergara, hair by Jessie Egos/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

There’s something very light and affable about Maris, the force behind Qube Gallery and former chairperson of Southwestern University—and it’s reflected in her home. Tucked away in one of the more elevated residential areas (and we mean tucked away—we had to go through two guardhouses and an “I’m lost” phone call to get there), the house’s open floor plan, large windows and unassuming furnishings create an atmosphere of spaciousness.

“I’m a relaxed host,” she says, and it’s apparent in the way she easily carries conversations with the crew. Although she’d earlier confessed that she does not cook, she does occasionally have people over. “I love entertaining around the holidays, when I have more time to plan.”

Of course, relaxed does not mean unprepared. Maris already has the makings of a great party on hand: a stocked bar cart positioned in one corner of the dining area, and an assortment of craft beers in the fridge that could rival that of a small pub’s. Table settings, too, have quite a bit of character—the particular holiday set-up may feature minimal décor and a subdued color palette, but there are stories behind certain pieces. “The plates are from Thailand in the 70s,” she says, gesturing to the mint green set with delicate curved patterns.

The staircase is decorated with rounded sculptures (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The staircase is decorated with rounded sculptures (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Considering Maris runs an art gallery, it’s no surprise that she has a penchant for collecting items that have more value than décor. Far from creating a stuffy space, though, she puts them all together in airy quarters that somehow complement the mishmash of artwork.

Walking into the foyer already introduces guests to several paintings hanging from both walls of the short corridor, and there are pieces in nooks you wouldn’t expect—a sculpture by Michelle Lua under the stairs, a pair of Indonesian wooden busts under the kitchen counter, a parade of wax sculptures on the stairs. “I hang the paintings I love at the moment, the paintings that speak to me at the time,” Maris explains. “Having said that, it is therapeutic for me to move paintings around and repaint walls. I love color on my walls.”

At the moment, one wall in the living room is painted bright red, mirroring the Mario de Rivera piece that hangs on it. But, based on how Maris describes it, it most likely won’t stay that way for long. “I rotate things whenever I feel like it. Or more accurately, when I have a new purchase that I just need to make space for, everything changes.”

The wall next to the staircase is filled with current favorites from Maris' collection. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The wall next to the staircase is filled with current favorites from Maris’ collection. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

It’s not surprising then that Maris considers her house a work in constant progress. “My house evolves! It started off with just a few key items, and I wanted my place to have a minimalistic aesthetic,” she shares. “But I ended up consolidating my belongings from Manila to Cebu, so now I look around and feel my house is so cluttered! So many things I love that remind me of different phases of my life and countries I have lived in. Chapters, really.”

For all the things she’s accumulated over the years, she’s found editing down is not a strong suit. “My space is nothing like I originally imagined it to be,” she admits. “I realized I couldn’t find the strength to de-clutter. I’ve tried to be brutal with all my belongings but my furniture pieces all tell their own story. I have old pieces from when my family lived in Africa, pieces I picked up in Indonesia, and pieces picked up because of another major compulsion of mine—carpets from Kazakhstan and Uzbek fabrics.”

This wall in Maris' bedroom is dedicated to pieces that have been given as gifts. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

This wall in Maris’ bedroom is dedicated to pieces that have been given as gifts. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Art, however, remains the primary compulsion, and Maris knows each piece in her house by heart. She walks us through many of the pieces that speak to her, including a textured piece by Eric Guazon of toy soldier shapes that come together to form a child’s face, and yet another by Mario De Rivera with bright colored elements and graphic illustrations. “It’s suggestive, no?” she says, pointing out to a small tile that showed off a Kama Sutra-esque drawing.

“I have too many favorite pieces—everything on my walls!” she says when I ask her which of the artwork on display is the most special. She enumerates the different reasons why a piece often makes its appearance in her home: “The paintings my mother gave me, although they do not necessarily reflect my aesthetics as of the moment, all remind me of her and the Cebu she knew. Those that I bought myself—I love too many genres to be consistent.”

More somber pieces, complemented by a gray wall, hang on another corner of the staircase. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

More somber pieces, complemented by a gray wall, hang on another corner of the staircase. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

A Michael Cacnio sculpture serves as a conversation starter in what Maris calls her 'fake kitchen'. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

A Michael Cacnio sculpture serves as a conversation starter in what Maris calls her ‘fake kitchen’. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The home has also become a venue to showcase the work from local artists, an advocacy that she also pursues at Qube. “In the beginning, when I started collecting, I bought artwork in Manila, but now I am making a conscious effort to buy Cebuano,” she says. “For a collection perspective, I prefer being able to ‘follow’ the careers of the artists I invest in. Also, I think in general, Filipino artists just speak to my cultural identity more.” Of course, she also has pieces that reflect on her time spent abroad: “I have my Indonesian, Russian and Kazakh collections—they remind me of my story.”

It may be that Maris doesn’t play favorites with her art pieces, but a special spot is dedicated for those given as gifts. “I have a wall which is delegated to hanging the works that I have been given by friends and family. I have this in my bedroom to remind me of those people.”

The amount of art pieces that Maris has in her home becomes surprising when you realize that she has dogs—a Great Dane, included. “I spend a lot of time apologizing that my home is clearly that of a dog lover,” she laughs, pointing out to a pair of worn cans-turned-chew-toys on the coffee table. “But believe it or not, I don’t need to make any design allowance for my dogs—they seem to respect the artwork, except for my carpets. I love central Asian carpets and wish I could cover every inch of flooring with them. But keeping them clean with dogs? Impossible!”

It might be this lived-in quality that keeps the home from feeling like a gallery, as is its resident’s friendly openness. Maris brings together all these elements in a seemingly effortless way, to create a home that really reflects her personality—with comfortably diverse inclinations, cultured but in a casual, unpretentious way. There might be several art-related reasons to love the hilltop residence, but Maris’ opinion is a little more basic. “My favorite part of living in my home is the quiet! I close the door, birds are chirping, dogs are playing and—when I’m really lucky—my kids are visiting. I wish I could spend more time at home.”

photography Steffen Billhardt makeup Romero Vergara hair Jessie Egos

The Homes of Zee

THROWBACK THURSDAY. Discover Why This Airy, Modern Structure in Busay is Called the Sky House

The Sky House is a truly modern structure, with straight lines and boxy shapes.

Defying Gravity

YKC Premier’s first venture in Busay floats over a cliff and introduces a new brand of living in Cebu.

by Shari Quimbo photography Ezekiel Sullano

 

YKC Premier’s first venture couldn’t be more aptly named—Sky House was spot on—the airy, modern structure that juts out of a ridge in the Busay Highlands couldn’t be called anything else. The drive up the hill levels to a short plateau right before the entrance of the village, allowing ample time for everyone to look up and admire a house that seems to be in defiance of gravity.

“When I saw the property, it was everything you could ask for, and it’s in limited quantities so we wanted to maximize all its assets,” says Victor Consunji, one-third of the group behind the project. “The problem was the land is narrow. Since we have the experience and capability, we thought, why waste all the good things about this property by just building on the ridge? Why not build over the ridge?”

The house, as viewed from the street.

A textured carpet sets the living area apart from the dining, but the palette of grays and light-washed wood carries on even into the kitchen. The room is framed by two art pieces: a rattan sculpture called “Love Locks” by Selina Romualdez, and a painting from young artist Tzaddi Esguerra.

Slater Young and Stephen Ku complete YKC Premier, a group of men who have come together to redefine the art of living with a view in Cebu. “Slater and I have been friends for a while, and I bumped into him at a wedding here in Cebu,” Stephen recalls. “And then we were talking about businesses that we could do together, and he mentioned that he had a nice piece of land that he wanted to fix up. He showed me the place, and I thought it was beautiful. On the way back to Manila, I thought about Vic because I’m also working with him on his project in Manila called Mahogany Tree.”

The trio of Twist lamps over the dining table add an organic, but dramatic flair.

A sunroom off the deck is converted into a cozy breakfast nook, where another of Vito’s lamps adds a touch of whimsy.

Once the three sat down to discuss the venture, Victor was immediately interested and, in fact, already had a vision for the house’s design in his mind. The partnership played up each one’s individual strengths and backgrounds—Victor comes from the family behind DMCI Holdings Incorporated, which have constructed Philippine landmarks such as the Manila Hotel and Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort; Slater has a background in engineering and his family is also in construction; while Stephen is at the helm of Eventscape Manila and is behind some of the hottest restaurants and nightspots in the Philippines. “Victor would be the CEO, the visionary. His expertise is what we brought in here,” explains Slater. “And since I’m also in construction, I was sort of his eyes here in Cebu. I’d be the CTO, Chief Technical Officer, and Stephen would be the CMO, marketing.”

The Constella lights hang over the spiral staircase.

A pair of Vito Selma Paisley chairs are arranged in one corner of the master’s bedroom.

Although YKC Premier already has three strong personalities behind it, the guys decided to bring in another design visionary to help them complete the look of the Sky House. “The Sky House is unlike any other home in Cebu, and it was a designer’s dream to be part of it,” says Vito Selma, who brought in his iconic pieces, along with some custom-made furniture to complete the look of the Sky House. “Given its location and the abundance of windows, I wanted the home to feel just as light and airy—to simulate the feeling of flight. And to stay true to my brand, we just wanted to bring nature into the home, which can be seen in the materials, textures and colors in the space.”

The Arata chair serves as a sculptural accent in one of the bedrooms.

The look is relaxed but sophisticated, with many art pieces that Vito had commissioned especially for this project. “The installation in the entry is by me,” he says of the large textured slab with pieces of wood in different finishes scattered on it. “I made it in a way that when someone walks in the house, they see a reflection of that piece and its materials in other areas of the home.” Other notable pieces are in the living room: a large rattan sculpture of interlocking loops by Vito’s sister Selina Romualdez, and a long painting with strokes in various shades of gray by Tzaddi Esguerra. “I love working with her for all our projects,” Vito admits. “We tell her what colours to work with, and she makes the magic happen.”

With the house finished in just over a year, the guys are looking forward to constructing seven more houses to complete the project, offering a lifestyle that is incredibly appealing. “Young, hip urbanites. Young families. If they’re young, they at least feel young,” says Stephen of who they see living in the space. “People who want to balance work and play, because this place is like a residence and a resort at the same time.”

Victor’s family background and experience in construction came in handy when building the house over the ridge.

“Nowadays, with the way things are going in the Philippines, there is a focus on taking vacations, but not everybody has that chance. Not everybody can just take off whenever they want,” Victor adds. “I really don’t believe that a home is just your home, your vacation spot is just your vacation spot and your work place is just for work. I think you can have the best of all three, and this design incorporates that.”

“It’ll feel like you’re going home to a vacation every day,” Slater adds.

A pair of lounges by the pool makes for a perfect spot to enjoy the fresh mountain breeze and the unobstructed views.

Although these gents are focused on the Sky Houses for now, they look forward to bringing more of this brand of living to other locations. “We’re just looking for the right project, but I think the boys are in agreement that we really want to explore Cebu, particularly because this is the emerging market we want to be in. We just need to look for the right spot, and the right design,” Stephen says.

More than just creating modern and luxurious properties, YKC Premier hopes to change the perception of what living in Cebu can be. “That’s what we want to bring to Cebu,” Stephen shares. “I haven’t seen a development like this in Cebu, and a lot of the times I’d ask Slater, and he goes, oh no, the Cebuanos wouldn’t want to spend for something like this. I kept telling him that if we build it, they will come. Cebuanos are ready for something edgy and daring, and I think this project will be a testament to that.” With the first house already sold, that’s certainly been proven true. After all, with just one visit to the Sky House, it’s hard to imagine a better place to live.

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s February 2016 Real Estate Issue, “Defying Gravity” on pages 68-73.)

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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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