Once James Linsey opened the oversized wooden double doors that led into his house, it was clear that the star of the morning would actually be the playful doberman that approached us curiously as we walked into the foyer. “I don’t really own this house. It’s actually Atlas’,” James jokes, referring to the dog who was then settling on the living room sofa.
James has had Atlas for almost as long as he’s had the house, which finished construction about three years ago. A retired lawyer from New York City, James decided to settle in the Philippines, where his husband Don Servillas is from. He especially fell in love with this particular piece of land—situated on a slight hill in Lilo-an’s Amara, which looks out to the municipality’s historic lighthouse.
“We call it the Parola House because almost every room has a view of the parola,” James shares, using the local term for lighthouse. The architecture of the house definitely takes advantage of the vista—the main living rooms are positioned towards the lighthouse, with large picture windows that frame the structure as a sort of living art piece.
The couple had worked with architect Jun Ruaya, although James had specifically wanted to take inspiration from Horace Gifford’s work on Fire Island, a small stretch of land off the coast of Long Island that had garnered popularity as a gay vacation destination in past decades. “The Architecture of Seduction,” James says, reading the title of the coffee table book which served as the moodboard for the house’s design. Wooden elements, textured details and streamlined shapes cover the inside pages of the book.
These features found their way into the Parola House in the square spaces of the layout, the high ceilings, linear details and the aforementioned scenic windows. “We really wanted a more American and modern style when it came to the architecture,” James explains. He adds that the high ceilings were particularly important to allow better ventilation and take advantage of the cool ocean breeze. “Most days, I don’t even have to turn the air conditioning on,” he says.
A feeling of spaciousness is certainly felt upon entering the house—the two-storey foyer feels even larger with sparse furnishings, a large staircase, vertical window detailing, and drop pendant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A small indoor garden is tucked beneath the stairs, while across it a wide white wall is punctuated with a large Sio Montera painting and a Barcelona chair sitting beneath it.
Sliding glass doors lead to the den which holds a sitting area and entertainment center, and offers a view of Amara’s sprawling grounds and the sea beyond. Further into the house is the open floorplan of the living, dining and kitchen areas, each tucked into their own nooks.
With its sleek gray counters and modern appliances (“I know—so American!” James laughs when I point to the dishwasher), the kitchen gets a visual boost with the patterned backsplash. “Those tiles were made for us in Morocco, and had to be shipped to New York and then shipped here in balikbayan boxes,” James relates with a laugh.
A similar challenge came when they had the Mies van der Rohe daybed shipped from Hong Kong, along with the Barcelona chair. “There was some delay in customs,” James shrugs. The rest of the furnishings were locally sourced, with James and Don working closely with Murillo for many of the pieces. “Their pieces are so good.”
Finding that balance of modern design and traditional Filipino elements was important to the couple in conceptualizing their home’s interiors, which James and Don had put together themselves.
The dining table, for example, is made from one piece of Ironwood, shipped all the way from Surigao. “It’s Don’s hometown,” he adds.
The traditional design technique continues at the roof deck, whose walls are lined with woven panels. “These guys came in with all the materials, and they just wove it right here on the spot,” he relates. “I really liked the pattern, I felt it was very native.”
The roof deck is one of James’ favorite areas of the house. The third floor sanctuary that looks out to the lighthouse and its grounds features vertical gardens, and has a bar and dining area. I tell him it’s all very New York, and he laughs. “It’s so rare for people to have roof decks here,” James states. With a view like this, it seems all too appropriate.
In my opinion, though, the best room to admire the view is the master suite. Occupying the southeast corner of the house, the bedroom offers 180-degree views of the Mactan Channel and the lighthouse. The bed faces east, allowing its occupants to enjoy the early morning sun. “At around 5 or 6 in the morning, the view from here is just beautiful,” James shares.
Through a walk-in closet is the master bathroom, which certainly feels like the best corner to relax in. A window runs along the length of an entire wall, while sitting next to it is a marble bathtub. “It’s from China, and it’s carved from a single block of Carrara marble,” James shares. The slate gray walls are decorated with capiz-framed mirrors and a ceiling lamp from Murillo.
James’ enthusiasm as he shows us around the house is palpable, and who could blame him? The home that he and Don have built for themselves is chic and comfortable, bringing together remarkable design elements while maximizing some of the best views in the area. “I hardly go into the city,” James admits, adding that he flies back and forth between New York City and Cebu. “I fly there usually about twice a year, maybe in the summer, but probably eight months of the year, I’ll be here.”
“It’s all very functional,” James continues to describe the house. “We wanted rooms that we would really use.” Perhaps that’s really what gives this house its appeal—although the details and fixings are thoughtful and luxurious, it still feels lived in and relaxed. Nothing in the space is there simply for show, and its habitability is something that will continue to draw guests and its residents—Atlas included—in.
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.
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.
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.
Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. 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.
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.
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.
Trendy Renovation Ideas for the Home or Condo. Part 2
by Christa M. Cañizares IDr.
Part 2: Create Visual Interest
A.) Update your space with a fresh coat of paint. Some would love the white / minimalist theme, but one must also not be afraid to make a bold statement and have an accent wall, or even a wall mural.
B.) Mix materials and textures to create depth and contrast. Wallpaper is an amazing decorative material that you can use for an instant upgrade. Another inexpensive approach is to use patterns and texture on soft furnishings such as curtains, pillows and sheets.
C.) Setting up a coffee station, bar carts, vinyl corner, or workstation seems to be a trend to the young professionals nowadays. Add functional pieces that serve as décor at the same time.