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The Homes of Zee

Take a Tour Around James Linsey’s Panoramic Modern Home

Sitting on one of the best locations in Amara, James Linsey and Don Servillas’ home brings together modern architecture, classic design elements and traditional Filipino details.

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.

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The Homes of Zee

LOCKDOWN FUN: Whose Crib is This?

Here’s one way residents of Cebu’s exclusive villages created their own fun during zoom parties — guessing each other’s home! Of course, you need a smart mastermind to curate the photos to make sure the homes of each of the amigas are not easy to guess.

So, here’s a short tour of homes that was paraded during this very fun game. Homes are located in Maria Luisa, Northtown Homes, Beverly Hills and a beach house too.  Oh, and one came all the way from Scotland.

We hope your zoom parties are just as fun!

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The Homes of Zee

Seashore Seclusion: A Beachside Abode in San Remigio

A cozy family getaway in San Remigio epitomizes the charm and simplicity of living by the sea.

by Shari Quimbo
photography Ezekiel Sullano

 

Admittedly, there are some challenges that come with living in Cebu; but having pockets of paradise being only a few hours’ away is an upside that’s hard to beat. One such paradise is San Remigio, a town that sits on the northwest side of the island, which means its serene shores are kissed daily by an amazing view of the sunset. Sure, you’ll run into some traffic while driving out of the city, but what awaits you makes the drive up north an easy challenge to live with.

A walkway leads into the house’s main living area, which enjoys an open floor plan for a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

When a chance to visit one family’s beachside getaway landed on our laps, we couldn’t pass it up. After a brief struggle with Mandaue City traffic, we were soon cruising through the towns of the north while the crystalline blue waters of the ocean peeked through every few kilometers.

It wasn’t long after when we found ourselves going up a pebbled driveway where a bamboo gate opened up to a footpath that led to the house. “We wanted to keep it simple,” the owner explains, sharing that he came up with the design while going through photos of houses online. With a thatched roof, rounded columns and a grooved concrete fence, the space is cozy and informal—a place that definitely exuded a laid-back beachside feel.

The living areas integrate into each other, with casual dining set-ups arranged around the open space, while oversized couches surround a solid wood coffee table. There’s a communal vibe that’s slightly deliberate. “We have a lot of friends and family that come in during the weekends, so we created a space that’s ready for that,” says the owner. “We didn’t want anything too formal. Some beach houses make you feel embarrassed to come in with your wet, sandy feet. We want a place where everyone would be comfortable moving around.”

Natural tones are complemented by richly colored fabrics

That said, the concrete floors, made for walking around barefoot, lead to the manicured grass where the infinity pool looks like its about to spill out into the beach below. The blues of the sea and sky complement the more natural tones of the house’s wooden furniture pieces and painted white walls. Pops of color come in with the throw pillows, hammock and matching bright orange lounge chairs that are around the pool.

As if keeping with the house’s casual vibe, the owner’s trio of dogs roams freely around the property, curiously coming up to us for attention. “They just showed up one day,” he laughs when I ask where he’d gotten the dogs, named Beer, Tequila and Scotch—perhaps giving proof of how fun weekends here can be. A bar sits by one of the dining tables and further cements this theory, as does the homemade lamp made from a bottle of Patron.

Off to the side of the house are the bedrooms, which are simple but spacious. “It’s so there’s space on the floor to bring in cushions for when we have a lot of people over.”

The house’s infinity pool seemingly spills out into the ocean, and is one of the best locations on the property to watch the sunset.

The beach house took just two months to construct about two years ago. “Weirdly enough, we built this house while I was still living in Malaysia,” shares the owner. “My sister manages a construction company, and I would just email them instructions and photos of what I wanted. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy.”

The bar is stocked with a wide array of liquors, and is proof of the residence’s festive spirit.

Of course, when typhoon Yolanda hit northern Cebu, the house saw considerable damage. A quick browse through his photo gallery showed the roof completely ripped off the structure. “I came back the weekend after Yolanda. It took me almost a whole day to get here because we had to clear the road as we went,” he recalled.

Repairs to the house took a backseat as the family helped residents around the area before they moved to reconstruct their own house. “It took a month or so to fix the roof and everything else that was broken,” he says.

When lit up with candles in the late afternoon, the walkway takes on a cozily intimate vibe;

Long benches flank the dining table to accommodate plenty of diners.

Now, the house is as inviting as ever. We spent the minutes leading up to sunset drinking beer by the pool. A few fishing boats float off the shore, with many locals walking through the beach. “I like the idea of having no fences and having people passing through,” the owner shares. “I like that it’s open. It makes the house feel more alive.”

Sunsets by the beach are priceless.

That, in a nutshell, describes the beach house. With its cheerful, casual corners, it surely feels lived in—as if remnants of the happy moments people have spent there still hang in the air and even add to its personality. It’s not hard to understand why the owners look forward to the two-hour drive up on the weekends—if we had a space like this, we’d be heading north more often too.

 

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s April 2016 Travel Issue, “Beach, Please” on pages 98-101.)

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The Homes of Zee

Idyllic Isolation: The La Mer Veille

French architectural duo Humbert & Poyet create La Mer Veille in the Italian Riviera, a seaside cabin that has its fair share of charm.

by Shari Quimbo
photos courtesy of Alexandra Public Relations

 

With the azure sea on one side, the verdant mountains on the other and picturesque towns in between, the Italian Riviera is certainly a dream destination. More than its natural beauty, the region seems frozen in another time—a simpler one, when the days seemed long and the people keen to enjoy the moments.

It is here that La Mer Veille sits, a beachfront cabin that epitomizes the simple summer escape. Nestled between Bordighera and San Remo, its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are complemented by its predominantly white palette, down-to-earth décor and delicate materials.

The house is the creation of French architects Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, the personalities behind the firm Humbert & Poyet. Since they decided to collaborate in 2007, the firm has worked on various projects around the world—the Wine Palace at the Monaco Yacht Club, the curated fashion store 55 Croisette in Cannes, and fashion designer Alexis Mabille’s first shop in Paris are just some of the projects the two have worked on together.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

The result is elegant and timeless spaces that meticulously bring together various design elements—the choice of materials and lighting, for example, are carefully thought out to make the most of a space and to ensure the client’s needs and personality is reflected in the final design.

It’s understandable then why La Mer Veille sits at a perfect vantage point where it surroundings can be admired. The seaside cabin is simple and relatively small, but is put together to exude an unassuming luxury that dares not to compete with the views outside.

The living area, shared with the dining room and kitchen, is done in shades of white with earthy tone accents. The Carrara marble counters are complemented with brass fixtures, including a brass sink that was custom-made by Humbert & Poyet. The firm also specially constructed the sofa that sits opposite the wooden table, a find from a market in England. Straw-wrapped lighting, an old-fashioned fireplace and a brass backsplash for the stove just add to the overall rustic appeal.

The bedrooms also have that effortless charm, with various nautical details to remind its occupants they are by the sea—just in case they forget the views beyond the picture windows. The master bedroom features a mattress sitting on an elevated wooden platform, topped with an Ancient African throw purchased from an antique shop.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

La Mer Veille is a space that celebrates its location, and its location is best enjoyed from the terrace. The creamy white palette is carried over to this outdoor space where distressed wooden floorboards and a cushioned seating area invite you to put up your feet and settle in. The mood is set even further with a hammock chair from Etsy hanging easily from the ceiling and some relaxing music from the piano.

Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet

Beyond its architectural details, it is the finishing touches that give this dreamy cabin its character—bunches of baby’s breath and other flowers tucked into pitchers and vases in various niches around the house, wooden stools with rounded seats, antique-inspired knickknacks like an old fan sitting on a shelf and a swinging love seat. These details make the house come to life in an interesting way; and with a view such as this, what a life it is.

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s May 2016 Home Issue, “By the Sea” on pages 72-77.)

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