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The Homes of Zee

Character Check

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

With its tropical weather and laidback atmosphere, Cebu has become a melting pot of cultures and people—people from all over the world finding a place on the island to call their own. The result is a mismatch of cultures and personalities that, having come together, have created a character that has become, in a way, what Cebu is all about today.

Such is the character found in one family home in a village in Talamban, where various influences abound in a place that is somehow still rooted in Cebuano sensibilities. The husband and wife—French and Taiwanese, respectively—have fashioned a residence that embodies their characters, their travels around the world, and their current home country of choice.

“We moved to Cebu exactly 10 years ago,” says the husband. “We were seduced by the idea of a tropical city, where we could enjoy a pleasant lifestyle full of sunshine and still work and create fashion accessories for our export business.” Before 2002, the couple had been in the same business in Taiwan, where the weather can get too cool for comfort. Now, truly, the couple takes full advantage of Cebu’s weather, with a home that opens up seamlessly into the outdoors.

Sitting at the end of a sloping driveway, their one-storey house is large and airy, with rooms that seem to flow into each other. The entrance’s double doors open up into a large living room which, in turn, has French doors leading into the patio. Large entryways lead into the other parts of the house. “We tore down some walls,” says the wife as she motions toward the doorway to the bedrooms. The result is larger spaces and a breezier feel, perfect for the hot weather that prevails on the island.

In fact, the pool right outside the living room is another respite from Cebu’s sometimes stifling hot weather. The cool blue pops against the grass, and is punctuated by outdoor furniture and cozy lounge chairs from Coast Pacific that simply match the tropical atmosphere. “We definitely think that contact with nature is important [so] we arranged part of our house to be outdoors and virtually blending with the garden,” the couple agrees. The lush greenery includes orchids, palms, and other tropical plants that attract birds, dragonflies, and butterflies—creating a veritable “private little resort within the city.”

“We like our home to remain sober while avoiding any overstatement or mainstream fashion,” the husband says. “We like to maintain a certain coziness and peacefulness in it. The idea is for all of us to feel at ease the moment you pass [through] the door.” Venturing further indoors, one would see that the couple was able to do just that.

More than its structure, what makes the house so remarkable is that it belongs to people who appreciate art and culture—a fact that is realized even from the entrance: a figurine of the Buddha playfully displaying strands of colorful beads on one hand, is set on an antique wooden table, while the coffee table is decorated with flower arrangements done by the wife herself.

The living room is almost bursting with pieces that come with their own stories, like the lamps and statuettes that were hand-carried through various flights. Hanging over a console table is an old Chinese painting, which features an elderly man with extremely long fingernails. “It is a sign of wealth,” the wife explains. “Long fingernails mean that he doesn’t have to work.”

More of such paintings of Chinese ancestors may be found in the small study cum library, their subtle symbolisms embodying instant lessons on Chinese culture. Paper soles hint that the person was carried around everywhere, the animal painted on the robe signifies the person’s profession—these, for example, are insights that the residents don’t mind sharing with their guests.

Additions to the couple’s art collection are pieces from their daughter, who often takes to painting when in a melancholic mood. Featuring oddball characters in bold colors, the art gives a breath of modernity into the house. Its surreal shapes are the perfect foil to the classic shapes and neutral colors of the large antique furniture pieces, which come from around Asia but are sourced from a local supplier.

The study has doors that open up into the backyard, but it is filled with items that keep one’s attention inside the room. The paintings are there, as well as a traditional calligraphy set positioned on the wooden desk used regularly by the wife.

Interesting, too, is the dining room, which is anchored by a massive dining table made of two bancas (local outrigger boats) topped with heavy wood. As impossible to miss is the large, beautifully carved wooden arch—an intricate antique from India bought in Cebu. It stands over the doorway leading to the bedrooms.

The bedrooms are simple and reflective of the personalities of those who sleep in them. The daughter’s room is done in white, with colors popping from the artworks and accessories inside, many actually done by her. A Native American headdress sits on one table, and a papier-mâché cat, atop a bookshelf. Personal photographs and mementos are tacked to a corkboard nearby.

To keep the breezy feel of the space, the owners decided to tear down the wall and its small windows, and provided their daughter’s bedroom, instead, with a sliding door that leads into a small lawn. Then, a little farther off, either through the lawn or through the carpet-strewn hallway, is the master bedroom, its low bed and minimal furnishings giving off a really laidback vibe.

The various articles in the house and how they have been put together embody those who had selected them, and that’s exactly how the owners want it. “We didn’t get a designer,” says the wife. “A house should reflect the people living in it.” And that they have managed to achieve, and are planning to do again in their next home, which is currently under construction. The wife explains that everything in the new house is based on what they want, from the design and the layout to all other details—perfect for making sure that the house has spaces that can cater exactly to what the family needs.

That certainly is the case for their current home, where every room has the cozy feeling of being lived in. While some houses may have already become stiff in trying so hard to be impressive and stylish, this one is comfortable in just being a place where its residents can return to and feel completely at home. In fact, this house isn’t trying to be anything; it just is.

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Adrian Yu and Christine Cueto

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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