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The Homes of Zee

Little House, Big Ideas

La Maïon’s history is given a modern touch with its conversion into creative offices and a getaway that is as stylish a destination as the French Riviera where it’s located.

by Andrea Aldeguer

With its mixture of year-round sunshine, art deco facades and old world lavishness, Nice captures the glamour and lifestyle of the French Riviera perfectly. For Jacques Chahine’s pied à terre on the Riviera, he wanted a house with personality and style, and just the right size. The project was created to house their offices in the area, but mainly Jacques envisioned it as a hideaway where he could be alone with his creativity. Finding this La Maïon on the way to the airport was “love at first sight. This house for me is like a nice antique chest of drawers that belonged to my grandma.”

La Maïon has four levels: the two upper floors are for Jacques’ personal use—which peers over the port of Nice—and the offices occupy the lower levels, which opens to a garden and a small yard. He chose yellow, ochre and white hues to catch and reflect the light, the Côte d’ Azur way. To keep the French Riviera effect all the way to the attic, he installed a glass floor. “This way, nothing could obscure the space,” he explains. Black touches to the pale interiors bring rhythm and make the eyes dance, adding a modern character to a house with so much history.

La Maïon is considerably a historic place. “Originally, it was the toll house for the park of Saint Aignan, which is no longer in existence,” he shares. Of this age, he kept the 19th century stained glass window, which had been restored. The furniture was chosen for its natural facet, a juxtaposition between Provençal simplicity and oriental characteristics. Old prints, antiques, and a light and fertile ambiance reflect Jacques himself.

When you walk up to the door, the doorknocker reminds you of the original vocation of the house as a tollhouse and gatekeeper’s lodge. The stark architecture and character of the house is immediately noticed. When you step inside, the white palette allows the sun to peek through the windows and lends a soft touch of light through the whole space. In the main room are old architectural prints covering majority of the wall, while archeological elements and the Becara chandelier hang above the glass slab supported by old wrought-iron trestles. The spaces are furnished with Moucharaby chairs, little elements brought all the way from Beirut and painted white for a second life.

Using strong visual motifs allows structuring of the space, like the black stripes in a pale room that creates an eye-catching geometrical effect. The windows around the main room were originally 19th century stained glass windows, but refurbished by l’Atelier St. Didier. “The effects of symmetry have always captivated me, as much as the contrast of black and white,” says Joseph Karam, the designer behind the firm Jacques works with.

The system cabinet is tucked under the staircase, inspired by craft furniture, and hides the sink and other electrical elements under its sliding top. It’s a kitchen, then, that becomes invisible. From a functional standpoint, a concealed mixer tap on the system cabinet is practical for washing dishes while looking through the window. The splashes of yellow in the room, like the flowers and the fruits, tie the contrast of black and white elements together.

Once you go up the fourth floor, the double exposure from either side of the ceiling has sunshine radiating right above the bed, offering a stunning view of the port. The sun’s rays shine from the ground floor as well, having the Côte d’ Azur feel extend its way to the fourth floor. Seating in the attic are Louis XV-style armchairs, raw stripped with laced natural linen seating. Lastly, a marble shower reflects the luminosity of the attic in the bathroom.

The La Maïon is a house of character that transcends timeless elegance through its history. It’s given new life as Jacques Chanine’s perfect haven as a creative outlet, or simply a place to get away from the big city.

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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