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.
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.”
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.