Set on the highest point of one of Cebu’s most exclusive villages is a structure that may look intimidating on the outside, but packs a lot of surprising warmth inside—just like the impressions you may get from its residents, Michel and Amparito Lhuillier.
“Strike three,” laughs photographer Robo Formacion as we made our third wrong turn while cruising through the maze of hills in Maria Luisa, trying to make our way to the home of Michel and Amparito Lhuillier. From where we were, it wasn’t hard to spot the much-acclaimed abode—an imposing structure jutting out from the lush greenery at the highest point of the subdivision. It was only a matter of finding the right road that would bring us there.
We didn’t go as far as hitting a home run in terms of getting lost: A street sign that read ‘Amparito Drive’ showed that we were finally on the right track. The further we drove, the more we wondered what kind of home the celebrated Lhuilliers lived in. The quiet Michel is, of course, known for building the family business—a chain of eponymous pawnshops and numerous money transfer outlets around the country and the world, as well as other culinary establishments; while the charming Amparito is a schoolteacher-turned-philanthropist, who has sent over 1,500 young people to college through her Amparito Llamas Lhuillier Education Foundation. After graduating from their business-related courses at the University of San Jose-Recolletos, the students duly find placement in Lhuillier-owned establishments. Amparito also supports other charities including the Little Bamboo Foundation that helps disadvantaged children.
A magnificent driveway with manicured lawns leads to the main house. As we pull up front, a household member opens one of the massive wooden doors to usher us in. Dominating the foyer is a grand black piano, proudly displayed on it are framed photos taken during the couple’s anniversary last year. The rest of the high-ceilinged receiving area is adorned with Filipino and Asian art.
As we are escorted to meet the lady of the house in her office, we pass a formal dining area where we’re certain the couple has entertained dignitaries and other important guests. The long table comfortably sits 12 people and is decorated with exquisite silverware arranged French-style, as Amparito insists. The dining room opens to a more casual eating space where the family usually has their meals when the entire brood is in town.
We could hear the unmistakable voice of makeup artist Romero Vergara in lively conversation with Amparito while weaving his magic on her. The lady herself, draped in a simple robe, interrupts Romero’s chatter to acknowledge our arrival as she welcomes us to her office. While everything is in place, the artful clutter gives a lived-in feel to the space, indicating that the woman spends a lot of her time here. Framed magazine covers of Amparito and other members of her family dress up the wall, while more family photos sit on the shelves.
Amparito bids us to explore the house while we wait for her makeup to be done. We view a spacious and spotless kitchen which managing editor Shari Quimbo quickly proclaims to be her dream kitchen realized. It was stark in comparison to the rest of the house, but was fully equipped with everything you could possibly need to cook for a number of people—or a restaurant, at that. Later in the day, Amparito displays how she masterfully organizes her things as she opens cupboard after cupboard to show glassware neatly arranged by design, ready for any occasion that might take place in the Lhuillier home.
Facing the foyer are two living rooms, a formal one which flows effortlessly into a more casual one—blending elegance with the relaxed—which allows them to entertain a flexible number of guests. As with the rest of the house, the rooms are decorated with Filipino and Asian artwork that Amparito is fond of.
The living and dining areas both open into yet another sprawling lawn with a sweeping view of Cebu and Mactan. The city was wrapped in a blue-gray haze on that particular day with the sun threatening to break through the clouds. Off to one side is the patio—another location to entertain guests—where Dedon furniture offers comfortable seating for outdoor gatherings. Right in front of the patio is the swimming pool.
With her makeup done, Amparito beckons us to help choose her first outfit, entailing a tour of the family’s private quarters. Fashion editor Oj Hofer wonders about the small ramp beside the steps leading to it, which prompts Amparito to explain, “That’s for when Michel and I are old,” she says with a laugh. “At least we won’t have to climb the stairs anymore, we can just be wheeled in.” For the moment, the ramp comes into practical use for moving their luggage around.
A staircase from the family room leads up to the children’s private suites (of course, Amparito’s forward thinking had a private elevator installed from the garage), while the master bedroom is straight ahead on ground level. Amparito shows us the recreation area with a flatscreen TV; and adding to its visual interest is an entire wall lined with books. A kitchenette is tucked off in one corner. At the other end is the bedroom, outside it is a much smaller but equally beautiful garden where the couple unwinds with a stunning view of the next mountain.
Of course, with Amparito known as one of the city’s iconic fashion figures, everyone is curious about her closet—a walk-in one, expectedly. “But I have to expand!” she exclaims. “You have to walk in a single-file now just to get to my clothes.” Everything here is arranged with precision, with one cabinet just for her belts and sunglasses. Hanging on a rack are the clothes she anticipated wearing for the shoot, with matching shoes and the planned accessories laid out nearby.
Amparito’s haven is a labor of love. It took eight years of close collaboration with architect Filoteo Jacinto and interior designer Conrad Onglao to put together, with Amparito herself keeping track of the process from beginning to end. She refused to show the house to Michel until it was finally completed a few years ago. Since then, a number of parties have been hosted in this house, notably the Lhuillier’s golden wedding anniversary in 2014. The place truly befits a renowned hostess, but to Amparito, it’s simply home.
by Patty Taboada sittings editor Oj Hofer photography Robo Formacion makeup Romero Vergara hair Jessie Egos
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015. For back issues, subscribe via Magzter.
Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. Part 4
by Christa M. Cañizares IDr.
Part 4: Upgrade your Choices
A. Create different moods with lighting. The use of warm colored indirect lighting such as lamps, colored LED back lights, or even string lights can create a cozy and relaxing vibe after a day’s work.
B.) Convert to smart home systems. From door locks, CCTV cameras, you’ll also be able to control and turn on lights, appliances even if you’re away from home. All you need is a wifi connection and the applications on your mobile phone.
C.) Hire a professional interior designer. We always get an impression that hiring a professional would be expensive, but they actually help you make the best choices and save you from making bad purchases.
Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. Part 3
by Christa M. Cañizares IDr.
Part 3: Maximize Impact of Small Spaces
A.) Storage spaces. You can go with concealed storage systems such as built-in cabinets on walls, under the bed or seating. Keep the items that you use often more reachable than the occasional ones. Choose what works best for your space and for your convenience.
B.) Showcase your collection of interesting conversation pieces, like items you acquire from past travels, an artwork, an heirloom, coffee table books or a collector’s item. Make sure to save a special place for them in your home.
C.) Move things around to attract renewed energy into your space. May it be moving a sofa to the adjacent wall, creating a dining nook near a window, shuffling your accessories on to a different shelf? Little efforts go a long way.
Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. Part 2
by Christa M. Cañizares IDr.
Part 2: Create Visual Interest
A.) Update your space with a fresh coat of paint. Some would love the white / minimalist theme, but one must also not be afraid to make a bold statement and have an accent wall, or even a wall mural.
B.) Mix materials and textures to create depth and contrast. Wallpaper is an amazing decorative material that you can use for an instant upgrade. Another inexpensive approach is to use patterns and texture on soft furnishings such as curtains, pillows and sheets.
C.) Setting up a coffee station, bar carts, vinyl corner, or workstation seems to be a trend to the young professionals nowadays. Add functional pieces that serve as décor at the same time.
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