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The Homes of Zee

John Hilson’s Sleek City Space is Beyond Alluring

With a passion for creating stylish urban spaces, John Hilson brings contemporary design
and playful details together in his Arya Residences home.

John Hilson’s flat at Arya Residences in Bonifacio Global City has totally redefined the dramatic entrance for me. From the front door, a narrow hallway leads your eyes straight to the far side of the room, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning 180-degree views of Metro Manila below.

“It’s hands down my favorite part of the home,” John admits, sharing that the large windows were really the highlight of the living and dining areas. “The space fills with an orange glow every evening when the sun goes down. It’s spectacular.”

The small terrace becomes a mini oasis in the middle of the bustling metropolis, the green turf complemented by the bright orange cushions of the outdoor lounge and the pair of starfish that recalls beach holidays

An insurance executive, John has always been interested in design, and enjoys buying and redecorating homes before leasing them out or selling them. “Any day, any time, I could window shop for furniture and accessories,” he shares. “In high school, I was excited about residential architecture but business administration won me over.”

“I would say my design style is urban eclectic. I’m particular when it comes to design, but I like whimsy in my spaces, just like I enjoy some humor in a serious conversation,” John continues. That juxtaposition is certainly seen here—modern black and gray tones are played up with bright patterned wallpaper and home décor in pops of color.

a narrow hallway leads into the living area, the visual made even more dramatic with a mirror covering one entire wall. The triptych depicting New York’s skyline is echoed by the actual view outside the window

John admits, though, that he didn’t have a specific look or style in mind when he was creating the space. “I wanted to work with texture, pattern and color,” he says, laughing when he realizes that these are things that might not necessarily come together easily. “In the wallpaper, polished concrete, paint and building materials, I was able to combine them with a certain harmony, rather than a clash.”

“I’m particular when it comes to design, but I like whimsy in my spaces, just like I enjoy some humor in a serious conversation.” -John

The second bedroom is converted into an office space, the masculinity of the sturdy wooden desk and deer bust sculpture softened by the upholstered cheers and bold patterned wallpaper

The patterns really come into play through the wallpaper John picked for two bedrooms. “I wanted to really bring the bedrooms to life, and the bold patterns worked!” John says and adds that he had gotten the wallpaper from Studio 11 along Amorsolo in Makati. “The master bedroom needed to feel natural, so the oversized green pattern and walnut floors really helped me forget the city on the other side of the glass. The second bedroom was something fun. When I bought the pattern, I asked if anyone else had purchased it. The salesmen told me no, so I had to get it!”

John softens the effect of the bold prints with modern furniture. “I hat to admit it, but some of the furniture is mainstream, like IKEA. I lived in Hong Kong before moving to the Philippines, and some of the pieces I brought with me—from OVOHOME, TREE,” he explains.

The wallpaper of the master bedroom continues into the bath for a touch of continuity, while the side table turned vanity is a rustic touch to the room.

There are some pieces, of course, that come with their own stories. “I’m particularly fond of the master bathroom vanity—it was a side table I picked up at a vintage store in Bangkal. I had it painted black, found a nice marble top and sink, and converted it into a vanity,” John recalls.


“The triptych photo in the hallway is a view of Paris taken from on top of the Arc De Triomphe, and our collection of travel photographs in the front hallway that leads to the study.” Arranged carefully around the unit are also antiques that he’d gotten on trips to Istanbul, Myanmar, Cambodia and other destinations.

Infusing good, contemporary design with personality is something that John seems to have mastered, but he admits it didn’t come so easy. “I had too many ideas!” he exclaims. “Like packing for a trip or getting ready to go out, it’s critical to edit. This was one of my more creative projects, and sometimes having too many ideas got the best of me.”

The earthy tones of the floor and leaves in the wallpaper is punctuated by a bright yellow side table; a very utilitarian space, the kitchen is kept mostly free of décor, save for the trio of lamps that hang above the counter.

Of course, John will be getting more practice—he currently has another Makati condo unit in the works. “It’ll take on a much lighter and fresher feeling,” he reveals. “I’d like to use white, cream and wood tones, and apply color in accessories.”

furnishings were kept gray, as John believes it’s easier to change the look of the place by changing up the decorative elements. For now, he plays up the space with pops of color in the throw pillows, lamps and the striped area rug; wallpapers aren’t the only way to create accent walls—an industrial element comes in through the brushed concrete wall in the living area to provide a contrast to the sleek pieces

With design being a personal passion, John is clearly not confining himself to one particular design aesthetic—each project becomes a character onto itself, and he’s happily gathering more ideas for future spaces. “Research your ideas first. Pinterest and Instagram offer all sorts of inspiration—you’ll find some gems, and maybe some rotten apples,” he advises people who plan on giving decorating a try. “If you think you know what you really want but need to manage the budget, go with earth tones, creams and solid colors for the biggest pieces. Bring color and texture in the accessories—plus, you can afford to change these more often than your sectional sofa!”


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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 12

Christmas House No. 12 – Heart-felt Holidays at the Hofers’

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

Nestled in Banilad, Cebu City, the George Hofer residence stands as testament to enduring elegance. Constructed in the late sixties to early seventies, the mansion exudes timeless charm with warm brown molave wood panels and pristine white marble floors.

Stepping into this grand abode during the Christmas season unveils a journey into a beautifully storied past. This season, Molave wooden entance, intricately carved with the Hofer couple’s monogram, are adorned with opulent yuletide garlands. White velvet poinsettias and persimmon peonies alongside mother of pearl camellias are interspersed with pearlescent berries. Archangel Michael showers the guests with  blessings from above, while a macassar ebony wooden effigy of Saint George (slaying the dragon) pays homage to the house owner’s namesake.

Adjacent to a private elevator, a grandiose Christmas tree stands tall, welcoming guests into a sprawling waiting hall. Here, an angel in teal and gold lamé cloth grouped together with exotic blooms gracefully plays the lyre; seemingly entertaining those who await entry.

Further down the hall is an ecru grand piano, where the lady of the house, a skilled pianist, performs Monti’s Czardas, Schubert’s Ständchen, and other rhapsodies on special occasions. A commissioned portrait of George and Dulce hangs on a wall above a console table that separates the hall from the formal dining area.

The Hofer home exudes old-world elegance that is seldom found today, yet its true charm lies in the joyous laughter and warm greetings of the Hofers, who gather annually to share Christmas cheer and delightful yuletide stories in this vibrant space.

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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 11

Christmas House No. 11 – Christine Pelaez

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

Designed by the noted Cebu architect Teng Jacinto, this expansive residence stands as a testament to the artful curation of Jun Pelaez. Over the years, he has meticulously assembled a collection of artworks, transforming the home into a gallery that reflects his discerning taste and appreciation for the aesthetic.

As the holiday season graces the air, the residence undergoes a festive tone under the artful touch of Jun’s wife, Christine. Embracing tradition, she bathes the home in the classic Christmas palette of reds and greens, infusing each corner with warmth and seasonal charm. The interior becomes a canvas for the holiday spirit, adorned with wreaths, ornaments, and the timeless glow of twinkling lights.

However, the true heart of this home lies in its welcoming spirit. There are two dining rooms, with chairs adorned with red bows and festive centerpieces,  where family and friends converge for an equally sumptuous meal.

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The Homes of Zee

The Homes of Zee–Holiday Edition: Christmas House No. 10

Christmas House No. 10 – The Hudsons’ Christmas Chronicles

Check out why this holiday home is on our list of 12 Cebu homes this season. offers a glimpse of Cebu’s holiday homes from far and wide. Please follow our series as we bring you a different home in the next few days!

The Hudson’s household buzzes with enthusiasm each time the holiday season unfolds. The heart of their Tokyo home, the  Hudson Christmas tree, stands tall and proud, adorned with tinsel and cherished trimmings that span the years of their family’s growth. Each ornament tells a story, marking the arrival of a new family member with the annual addition of baubles bearing their names: Mary, George, Victoria and Charles.

Charles, the youngest Hudson at twelve, beams with joy as he proudly places the Christmas star atop the tree. No longer reliant on his father’s shoulders, Charles revels in his newfound height and the welcomed responsibility that comes with it.

In addition to the twinkling blue lights, the festive icons and the white-and-silvery ornaments, another cherished tradition had been completed at the beginning of the joyful season. The Hudson’s much-anticipated Christmas cards, an exciting accountof  the family’s adventures, had been creatively crafted by Rose and Karl. The lively narrative chronicles the milestones and quests of each family member, with Karl’s animated storytelling and Rose’s artistic touch bringing the tales to life.

Rose shares, “by mid-November we print two hundred post cards of the Hudson family chronicles. The entire family, from the oldest to the youngest, gathers around to sign each card. Envelopes are lovingly addressed, and the kids lend a hand in labeling.”

In a heartwarming shift of roles, the Hudson parents, Karl and Rose, prepare to pass the baton. The careful planning and distribution of the Christmas cards are soon to become the responsibility of the eager younger generation. 

With laughter, love, and a touch of adventure, the Hudson family embraces the season, creating and sharing memories that they and their friends treasure for life.

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