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The Homes of Zee

Cabin Fever

Destiny, or so it seemed, is how this massive wooden house on a hill came together. Almost by pure chance—according to the homeowners—the buying, the water sourcing, even getting their architect, all felt like a series of fortunate events. Though their original house in the city had so many advantages, there is nothing like realizing a dream home, and to this day, the homeowners and their children have no regret of moving up to the heights of Busay hills.

Destiny, or so it seemed, is how this massive wooden house on a hill came together. Almost by pure chance—according to the homeowners—the buying, the water sourcing, even getting their architect, all felt like a series of  fortunate events. Though their original house in the city had so many advantages, there is nothing like realizing a dream home, and to this day, the homeowners and their children have no regret of moving up to the heights of Busay hills.

A good forty-five meters of ragged terrain were sliced off the hilltop to provide a flat area where this 1,000 square meter, six bedroom, six bathroom house now stands on its promontory, 300 meters above sea level.  The homeowners’ love for natural materials triggered the use of wood all throughout construction. Narra, magkuno, tugas, and pine were brought in from Dipolog, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, and even as far as Papua New Guinea.

On a fateful social event, Architect Tessie Javier also offered her services, feeling challenged by the unique idea of having this log cabin aesthetic in Cebu, and wanted to help them maximize the potential of their design. By fusing nature with technology in a simple tasteful style, the architect extended the rooms from their original sizes; framed the breath-taking surrounding scenery with nearly foot-to-ceiling corner windows; and took full advantage of the already existing spaces by installing gigantic all-natural two-storey magkuno wood pillars all around the house. This is also the architect’s favourite feature, “the first and probably the last I would do in Cebu. It is very unique in Cebu home design,” she says. “Every time I visit I am still awed by these columns.” The architect and homeowners also rave about the towering solid narra main door, made from one huge piece of plank wood almost five centimeters thick, opening into a huge open encompassing the living room  and the dining area flooded with natural light from the expansive glass windows specially cut by Kenneth and Mock’s plant in Manila.

The whole family was heavily involved from the concept to the completion of this dream home. The four children designed their rooms together with the architect. The result are expansive walk-in closets with gigantic mirrors, narra “floating” beds, space saving German-technology sliding screen doors also by Kenneth and Mock, accented by furniture pieces from Kenneth Cobonpue and Vito Selma.  In a separate section, the two boys share a huge room with a bath room that open with glass doors on three sides, and a rain shower that falls on river stones.

To make part of the exterior walls they simply veneered the on-site rock that was excavated, and integrated several pre-war wood planks for the dining area ceiling. Designed and made by the man of the house himself were several outdoor seating sets, and his favorite is a huge magkuno tree root that he turned into an outdoor table. The house is very far from the city, but it is closest to nature with its countless organic and natural facets. This is also generally one home without much fuss. The utilities closets were integrated into the walls through secret push-open closets. Most of the furniture is also new, including architect’s picks of a shell Carlos Lanuza bedroom lamp, Vito Selma dining chairs set against a family-designed lazy-susan from a sawn-off magkuno tree trunk, and the woman of the house’s favorite item, a Maitland-Smith sitting frog tissue dispenser.

Architect Tessie Javier is happy with the outcome of this home, and she hopes that this will become a benchmark for unique residential design in Cebu. Surely wood is difficult to manipulate, the hilly terrain a real challenge to develop, and even sourcing the water at such a raised area presented many hurdles, but these were collective struggles that produced a sweeter, dearer yield. “I feel good that the home owners are happy with my participation,” added Architect Javier. “The house gives me the same pride it gives the owners.” And the family also admitted that the completion of this home has made them feel closer as they all want to spend more time at home. Their lifestyle is more relaxed as the elevated property also promises security and privacy. “Thinking about it makes me feel really blessed,” exclaimed the gracious woman of the house—it’s like just as they say, the higher the “hill” the closer to God.

by IAN E. BAOL photographer GENESIS RANA


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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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