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The Homes of Zee

Living on the Edge

It isn’t really living until you’ve lived on the edge: in this case, experiencing total tranquility in a villa on the edge of a cliff. Then you go back to the city, and you’ve had the best of both worlds all in one week.

It isn’t really living until you’ve lived on the edge: in this case, experiencing total tranquility in a villa on the edge of a cliff. Then you go back to the city, and you’ve had the best of both worlds all in one week.

You need to see this,” Fay Hartstein recalled saying to her husband, Jay, showing him in an e-mail, a photo of an infinity pool, somewhere in a sleepy town south of Cebu. It was overlooking Sumilon Island, with sweeping views, they’ve dreamed of owning a house with a view like this for a while. After scouring almost half of southern Cebu, the couple was soon the proud owners of this very private property in the fishing town of Mainit, Oslob.

Fay confesses to love both the openness and intimacy of the place: the former being the ability to see so many islands in the distance such as Negros, Bohol, Siquijor, and Sumilon, and even the tip of Mindanao on a clear day, while the latter being cut-off from the rest of Cebu and the hustle and bustle of the city. Even the sound of commuter buses and cars on the highway are immediately muffled once you reach the main living areas.

The property has three structures: the main house and two guest villas, which were already built before the couple acquired the property. The steps to the ocean, however, were unfinished and the house was unfurnished but this was not a challenge at all for the couple.

“We love the Filipino-native look, but with a modern touch,” and found Murillo furniture to be perfect as the couple had also noted that furniture company had some pieces included in the Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf Kreiss Collection. “Much of the house and the Guest Villa have various pieces of furniture, and we took great care to give the place a feeling of comfort, while keeping a tropical look.” Fay being from Cebu, and Jay being from L.A., the couple shuffles between the two cities regularly, with beautiful daughter Moira in tow. For the time spent away, they decided to rent the place out, and Villa On A Cliff was born.

Villa On A Cliff is a tropical estate suspended on an oceanfront cliff, roughly 20 meters above sea level. It is a fully-staffed vacation home, with four full-time employees. “George and Charito do most of the cooking,” noted Fay. “George is from Bicol so we do a mean Bicol Express at the villa.” Jay also recommends George’s fried calamari and Charito’s bam-i and leche flan “which always seems to get rave reviews.” To maximize your dining experience at Villa, it’s advised to call ahead so they can plan an excellent set menu. A masseuse is also easily available.

The two guest villas are always ready for occupancy. Villa 1 is the most elevated of the levels. It is equipped with its own bathroom, a refrigerator, a queen size bed, and a cozy seating area. It is air-conditioned but you can let the sea breeze in without letting the bugs with the sliding screen doors. The second villa is perched on a lower cliffside and has the same provisions as the first villa. The lower level of the main house also has two bedrooms with a private bathroom and allows exclusive use of the living and dining areas.

Security is not a problem: apart from the towering wall around the villa, and the full-time staff living there as well, the property is also guarded by two big dogs, Bo and Robin. And as it’s better safe than sorry, the couple had installed a security system as well in the main house.

Staying in Villa On A Cliff doesn’t necessarily entail a sedentary lifestyle, although that can be very appealing. There are many activities you can busy yourself with. Oslob has suddenly and is increasingly becoming a popular destination to see and swim with the spotted whale sharks, or butanding. Oslob has its own waterfall as well, Ginatilan Falls, and Kawasan Falls is merely a short bus ride away. “We also love taking our three-seater kayak for a ride down the shore,” mentioned Fay, or take a quick trip to Sumilon island for some snorkeling or hiking, or plan a diving trip to nearby sites, then come back to the villa to slowly take it all in, and reflect on what adventures have gone on in the day.

Oslob’s close proximity to neighboring Dumaguete also makes it an ideal vacation property. When you’re done with the many activities in Oslob and its nearby towns, a daytrip to Negros Island is also very feasible.

For more information on Villa On A Cliff, visit and add them on Facebook: Villaonacliff Cebu, e-mail them at:, or talk with them via Skype: VillaOnACliff

  • by Ian E. Baol
  • photography Genesis Raña

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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