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A second home showcasing the works of talented designers, national and local artists and Cebuano craftsmen. 

A second home showcasing the works of talented designers, national and local artists and Cebuano craftsmen.

One of the most fascinating things about my job as an interior designer is the people I meet and the clients I deal with. While a few can really suck the life out of you, most of my clients are really such wonderful people. Designing their living spaces entails a lot of research and getting-to-know-you on my part so it’s not difficult to establish friendships when the project is done.

Such is my story with this beautiful family from Manila. Working with this particular client was a delight because they are a very warm and endearing family, but most of all, they appreciate local art and talent. In the first quarter of this year, I got commissioned to do the interior design of their second home here in Cebu. It wasn’t by chance that led them to the queen city of the south. The cosmopolitan vibe of the city with beaches and mountains in close proximity made it easy for the family to unanimously agree to make this their second home.

From the start, they specifically told me that they wanted their house to showcase national and local artists, Cebuano designers and local craftsmen. I have never met anyone with such an extensive art collection as this family! They have original paintings from Jun Impas, Romulo Galicano, Manuel Baldemor, Mauro Malang, Manuel Sinquenco, Oscar de Zalameda and national artists BenCab and Arturo Luz, among many others. Not to be outdone, their furniture selection also consists of different designer pieces from famed furniture designers like Kenneth Cobonpue, Vito Selma, Rene Ybanez, and Clayton Tugonon; as well as furniture exporters like Mehitabel and Coast Pacific.

In the foyer, a huge Jun Impas watercolor painting is placed directly above a massive console table made of natural coco round core laminate designed by Clayton Tugonon of Classical Geometry. Florentino “Jun” Impas paints in the genre of realism where these seemingly mundane everyday scenes are given life in detail. That particular painting captures ladies doing laundry in the river. It is from these colors that I lifted the green accent color applied to one side of the walls.

During the design conceptualization phase, the wife consulted her psychic friend Stargazer, a reputable psychic medium from Manila who appears in several television programs. She recommended that the beam above the foyer be covered. As a solution, I placed this bamboo carved panel from Halsangz Plating Cebu, a manufacturer of surface decorative panels that come in different materials and finishes. The interlaced bamboo panels gave that modern Filipino twist to the Asian contemporary style of the house. Three tall rattan lamps from Obra Cebuana were suspended from the high ceiling in varying lengths and finished in different stains to add more character to the space.

The house was built on a mountain so it was only natural to do a split-level plan to follow the terrain of the land. Split-level homes offer living space on multiple levels separated by short flights of stairs, up or down. So from the foyer, a few steps down lead to the living room. There one will find a cornucopia of art pieces and fabulous furniture. Kenneth Cobonpue’s award-winning Yin-Yang sofa sits across a pair of handsome lounge chairs with sulihiya weaving in the back designed by Rene Ybanez for Obra Cebuana. On the center is a round coffee table with a simple but elegant marquetry top. A red Chiquita stool sits right next to it.  The Chiquita stool, a Kenneth Cobonpue design, is made of natural rattan poles sitting on top of a polyurethane cushion inside a moulded steel base. All poles are natural untreated rattan. A simple yet brilliant feature of this design is the supreme comfort one experiences when the poles sink softly when sat upon and return to their initial height when you stand up. Behind the sofa is a spin off from Rene Ybanez’s lotus coffee table which I transformed into a wall lamp. This makes for dramatic lighting at night and a focal point in the mustard-colored accent wall.

The centerpiece on the coffee table is a Michael Cacnio sculpture. Filipino artist and 2006 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Awardee Michael Cacnio is a world-class brass sculptor.

The hallway leading towards the kitchen and dining area is like an art gallery of paintings. On one side there is a Romulo Galicano water lily oil painting on canvas, Manuel Baldemor’s European series in oil and a small Malang. On the other side is a couple of Sinquencos showing his signature subject matter of old houses done in colors and shading to produce an old-world style.

As the saying goes, the kitchen is the heart of the home. So it applies to this family as well. The breakfast nook is the wife’s favorite part of the house because this is where her family of four gathers when they are in town. It also overlooks the swimming pool and the garden outside. The kitchen cabinets are of solid wood in dark wood stain, crafted by Anything Timber. The bar stools are a gift from one of the wife’s closest friends, Tina Lo of Coast Pacific. Shining brightly above the nook, a set of modern pendant lights made of Lucite glass was purchased from Imperial House of Furniture.

The dining room also contains big names not only in the furniture industry but also in the arts. The Vito Selma Plumeria table with this tree-like base, wrapped in stained tobacco leaves. The glass table-top shows all the branches that hold it. A perfect complement to the table are the dining chairs from Coast Pacific with a solid wood frame in a rich dark wood stain, rattan back and a removable upholstered seat cushion for added comfort. I chose a brown, leaf-printed fabric that resembled the lines of the rattan weaving on the back for the removable seat covers that were made by my good friend Ina Chona. At the far end of the dining room, a wooden credenza with slim, tapered legs carefully crafted by Mehitabel for Ralph Lauren rests against the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a pocket garden. On the red accent wall, a full-length silver-framed mirror is positioned on center, not only to give the illusion of space but also to reflect the Zalameda painting on the opposite wall. This allows diners to admire the painting no matter where they are seated. De Zalameda happens to be the favorite artist of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and that particular painting is also the wife’s favorite piece. Flanking each side of the mirror are works from national artist BenCab. To add some sparkle to the room, a modern set of pendants lights from Imperial House of Furniture hang directly above the table.

The kitchen, dining and living room all look out to the swimming pool outside with a minimalist landscape overlooking the breath-taking views of the city. The terrace is decked out with the Dedon Slimline collection and a red Kenneth Cobonpue Dragnet chair sits on a corner.

Up a flight of stairs from the foyer leads to the family room. Fun and quirky sets the tone in this living space where a sectional sofa in black and white is complemented by the red Yoda chair of Kenneth Cobonpue. A pair of black upholstered ottomans doubles as footstools, but can also serve as extra side tables. Pay careful attention to detail and you’ll notice that the center table is like a giant book with wooden cabriole legs. A floor lamp that extends to the center was purchased from Mandaue Foam. The scroll bench behind the sectional is an original design by Rene Ybanez for Obra Cebuana made of two-inch rattan poles with skin stained in a deep red. Directly above it is an Arturo Luz painting entitled “Cities Of the Past”, another priceless piece from a Philippine national artist.

Designing bedrooms is a whole different ballgame, but a fun one I must say!  It’s always different for every person. In this family’s case, the daughter wanted a dreamy, purple-colored room; while the son preferred a more masculine approach using greys, blacks and whites with a central theme focusing on his music and records. Making room for his gadgets was a must. Given that this was their second home, the master bedroom was made to look like a hotel room with neutral colors and rich wood stains. The end result is one that makes me happy especially when I hear the children say that their favorite parts of the house are their bedrooms.

If this house in Cebu is just a second home, I can only imagine what other treasures lie in their home in
Manila. But no, their humble answer would always be that the true treasure lies in our country and our local artists and designers. Being a doctor by profession, they have had several opportunities to make a living abroad but they have always chosen to stay at home.


LONDON IN FULL BLOOM: An Exclusive Look at the recent Chelsea Flower Show

Dame Judy Dench (center in white) with gallery owner, Jerry Sibal, Edwin Josue, writer Eva Gullas and artist James Doran-Webb.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London, one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world, returned in full glory in May 2023, captivating visitors with its stunning displays and landscape designs. Held annually on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, this year’s show proved to be a true feast for the senses, showcasing an array of breathtaking gardens, vibrant floral arrangements, and innovative landscaping. The 3-day event showcased 36 outdoor gardens, including four balcony gardens for small spaces. Inside the giant pavilion, blooms compete with each other, exotic flowers, roses, and many more.

Princess Kate Middleton walking the booths at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judy Dench, who owns several of Webb’s pieces in her garden, with James Doran-Webb and Jerry Sibal discussing the works of James.

One of the flower arrangements competing at the show.

The 2023 Chelsea Flower Show embraced a Nature’s Harmony theme, with a strong focus on sustainability and mental health. The show’s organizers emphasized the importance of sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity conservation, inspiring attendees to create beautiful outdoor spaces while preserving and protecting the environment.

One of the floral gazebo displays recycled chairs and salvaged materials.

Shops at the Chelsea Flower Show are mostly from sustainable materials.

What’s Cebu got to do with the Chelsea Flower Show in London? One person. James Doran Webb (, an Englishman working with driftwood, has been displaying his artworks for several years. James collects cast-off driftwood and shapes them into beautiful animal shapes that find places in some of the most iconic gardens. Leaping horses, owls, reindeer, and the occasional dragon, James Webb’s creations are avidly collected by landscapers to add accent to gardens in all sizes, using cast-off wood, fitting perfectly with the sustainable element—something Mr. Webb has done quite well for the last decade.

The impressive dragon of James Doran-Webb


The Philippine International Flower Festival will be held at the PICC in Manila from January 14 to 18, 2024. Watch out for more info from our website!

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