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The Homes of Zee

House Tour: A Traditional Eclectic Home in Cebu

Interior designer Hannah Lim brings character into a family home with accessories that play on colors, patterns and textures.

While a neutral palette can be anything but boring, it can sometimes shy away from more artistic adventures—at least, in the case of this house, this was the challenge faced by interior designer Hannah Lim. When presented with a contemporary family residence in one of the city’s subdivisions, Hannah employed bright colors and artwork to give it a warm and homey atmosphere, without going over the top.

The homeowner had approached Hannah after purchasing the house, explaining that they wanted touches of femininity as the house had more of a masculine feel. “He just found it a little bare,” Hannah added. “Basically, our scope of work was really accessorizing it.”

Formal dining table

The hardwood façade painted white opens up to a two-storey living room, where a white couch topped with a mix of patterned and solid pillows is the focal point. 

Wooden blinds extend throughout the room as an elegant way to bring light, at the same time maintaining privacy, while understated décor hang from strategic spots on the wall.

Candles and accessories on the center table.

“My inspiration was the house itself,” Hannah says of how she put everything together. “A lot of the pieces they already had—the coffee table, dinner table, area rug. The couch is also an old one but we had these white slipcovers made to give it a new look.” The homeowner knew he wanted to put in more accessories but just didn’t know how to put them all together.

Hannah did just this by bringing in small pieces that brought character to the space. Geometric candleholders and a vintage chess set adorn a wood-topped table, while a pair of ottomans sits next to a fur rug. “Besides the ones the family already owned, we got a few accent pieces from Rustan’s, H&M and Crate & Barrel,” Hannah explains.

Adjacent to the living room is the dining area where the large wooden table is topped with a table runner with Aztec-patterned accents. “If you look, it actually matches the throw pillows in the living room,” Hannah points out, explaining that she had these pieces custom-made for the residence. The candles sitting on minimalist holders echo the orange hue. 

Kitchen counter

The kitchen is clean and modern, with one wall decorated by mandala-like hangings and framed prints. “The owners had originally wanted a TV there,” Hannah recalls, continuing that when they’d decided against it, she had to find pieces that worked against the white wall, and it did—the pieces complement the kitchen’s contemporary look of sleek cabinetry and appliances.

The study area.

Hardwood stairs lead up to the bedrooms and cozy study area upstairs. This time, a different color scheme welcomes you—the cool shade of blue. “It’s because his favorite color is blue,” Hannah explains, and admits this was her favorite room in the house. The daybed is tucked into a niche beside the window, and flanked by the stone-topped work area. As Hannah later explains, a lot of little details tie the look together—she’d used different shades of blue and patterns in the pillows decorating the daybed, while the corkboard and valances are cut from the same fabric. The stripes of the valances are echoed by the area rug, although this time in opposing tones. 

Wall art

Despite the minimal approach to accessorizing that Hannah took, her attention to even the smallest design elements come together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. The play on texture and color palettes makes the home’s dominant neutral tones far from bland, and gives the family home a relaxed but sophisticated aesthetic.    

Photography by Oliver Echevarria


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The Homes of Zee

THE HOMES OF ZEE: A Cosmopolitan Life

A home for a young couple that mixes tradition and modernity.

By Eva Gullas  photography Pablo Quiza

If Colin and Araminta had a penthouse in Cebu, this would be it. This 15-storey buiding in the heart of Cebu’s financial district is easy to spot but not many people know that its top floor is actually home to a young couple and their toddler son. And a huge King Shepherd dog, Vesian.

After years of residing abroad, the prospect of building a home from scratch, or in this case, the carcass of a whole floor of an unfinished building, is anything but easy. Having to transform more than a thousand square meters of open space into a family home is a daunting task that takes a lot of imagination and is not for the faint-hearted. It didn’t start that way, of course. The original plan was to construct a house in one of the city’s gated communities. But it wasn’t too hard to convince the man of the house that having a home in the city center would give him the ease of being close to the business and a garage big enough for his car collection. “Being born and raised in Hong Kong and having the city below me was something I got used to,” he quips.

First on the design plan was to ensure a double-height ceiling fronted by a wall of glass that would give clear views of the sky, the city’s business center and Mactan Island beyond. The partitions came next. For this, the home-owners, Martin and Claudia Yeung, consulted with Arlen de Guzman, the Manila-based interior designer whose discipline comes mostly from working on projects involving the hospitality industry. Arlen spent 20 years working for HBA in Hong Kong, including the design for the Grand Hyatt Hotel, before setting up his own shop. 

The mutual respect shared between the client and Arlen has made this home the way it is.  As expected from someone who moves in and out of some of the most stylish homes and hotels, Martin has a very particular taste. With his direction, the decorator executed most of the division plans, including a space for a gym and a pool table, and the master’s bedroom with a loft TV room and a huge space for the closet area and en suite bathroom. In the loft area, the most private sanctum in this home, a highly coveted collection of Hollywood memorabilia is on display. The treasure trove features Achilles’ helmet worn by Brad Pitt in the movie Troy, the Lannister mask from Game of Thrones, and the Roman cuirass used by Maximus played by actor Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator, among others. “It started as a hobby, but now it’s turning into a good investment as well,” Martin laughingly adds. Prices for these items bought at auction have more than doubled in recent years.
Entry to this private residence goes through a series of security checks, from guards and protection details at the lobby level, to the many cameras that are strategically positioned. If that doesn’t deter unwelcome guests, the ginormous size of 200-pound Vesian should stop anyone in his tracks.

 The very essence of sophistication meets guests the moment the elevator doors open. At the entrance, a large rococo framed painting against a wood paneled wall, a modern glass chandelier and dark hide floor covering set the tone for things to come. Tall wooden doors on both sides of the elevator serve as access to the apartment. Stepping inside, the expansive view and the sheer enormity of the living and dining areas that almost spans the entire width of the building is something you don’t often see unless you check in to a luxury hotel like an urban Aman or a Four Seasons. 

An open kitchen of wood and black glass anchors the far side and is equipped with a built-in refrigerator, ice-maker, freezer and storage cabinets hidden below the counter while behind its wall is the service kitchen. On the opposite end of the kitchen is the powder room, concealed neatly with 2 sides of exposed glass walls overlooking more city views.

The open floor plan has several seating arrangements—dark leather sofas and club chairs with Italian tables, a dining table made of solid hard wood with 14 seats and a bar filled with bottles of single malt scotch. Lighting is a big deal as well in this home. Several easel lamps and dark wrought-iron chandeliers play a huge role, but it’s the hidden ceiling lighting fixtures, with its various mood-changing combinations activated by remote control, that truly add to the drama. Set against a backdrop of glass and bare cement walls, leather and fine wood carpentry, the lighting effects evoke a welcoming luxury and a refined urbanity with the cityscape sprawled before your eyes. The layering of different styles is the main point in the over-all design. “I would think that it’s a good balance of tradition and modernity,” Martin sums it up.

If there’s not enough space, one floor up is the rooftop deck which provides more entertaining room. Furnished with outdoor sofas and added dining areas, this is the perfect venue for a good party on any given night.

As the only son of an industrialist family, Martin is actively involved in moving the family corporation forward. He is heavily invested in tourism with the company’s real estate portfolio including some of the most desirable beach properties in Cebu. The first premium resort he developed is the posh resort of Kandaya in the north. He’s currently developing an expansion that would offer an alternate lodging that is more affordable.

“Cebu is home to me and my family now,” admits the itinerant gentleman who is well-loved by his employees. “There’s a lot of potential here, and we would like to be part of the growth of this country.”

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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.


Beautiful lighting can transform a small modern apartment.


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.

Smart phone apps can also control lights and home appliances.

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.

Go over design options and your color palette with a professional interior designer to get better results and save more.


IDr. Christa M. Cañizares, piid
Founding Member, Philippine Institute of Interior Designers – Cebu Chapter
Principal Designer, CMC Interior Design
Specializes in residential and commercial design.
A homebody and renovation aficionado.



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Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. Part 3

Trendy Home & Condo Renovation Tips. 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.

There are many affordable storage options to de-clutter your room.

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.

Your personal collections can be nice decorative pieces.

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.

Update your living/family areas with bright color accents that complement the dining area.


IDr. Christa M. Cañizares, piid
Founding Member, Philippine Institute of Interior Designers – Cebu Chapter
Principal Designer, CMC Interior Design
Specializes in residential and commercial design.
A homebody and renovation aficionado.


Continue Reading