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The Homes of Zee

The Bare Necessities

Practicality does not have to compromise style. This home in the Talamban hills shows how.

by Ian E. Baol photography Genesis Raña

Even before construction, this couple already knew what they wanted for their second home: not much. They were specific, thorough, and practical, which resulted in a well-scaled, low-maintenance abode.

From the onset, Boyet and Chinky Bacalso provided the architect and contractor with the materials and requested that they work with them.

“You can say I was a bit obsessive compulsive about it,” kidded Chinky, an entrepreneur and mother of three. “Even down to the bathroom fixtures, and drainage systems, we chose everything beforehand.”

Meticulous as she was when it came to these things—although the house took just one year to finish—the family already moved in during construction, precisely so they could supervise.

Made up of three levels, the house stands on almost 400 of the lot’s 430 square meters, maximizing the use of the available land. On the owners’ instruction, it has a lot of wooden features even as it is basically made of steel and concrete which are longer lasting and easy to maintain.

The design keeps only the essential elements of a home. The young architect, Jhoanne Rafanan, who is now based in Singapore, carried out unobstructed connections through the living, dining, and kitchen areas, avoiding the use of doors. Five bedrooms, six toilet and baths, a separate dirty kitchen, the laundry area, and the maids’ quarters complete the house’s vitals. A pocket garden of bonsai and santan shrubs sit snuggly decorating the house’s façade, done by a close friend of the homeowners, a professional singer who happens to garden for a hobby.

Inside the house, the color palette is a salient characteristic of modern design—whites, grays, beiges, and browns. Counters and cupboards sit quietly in clean lines. Interestingly, however, sudden bursts of red in furniture accents snatch one’s gaze from the spare walls. Inspired by the red details on the kitchen counter that Chinky had secured from Everything Timber, the couple mixed Detalia Aurora end-tables of the same motif, in the living room.

These, in turn, match stylish but moderately-priced bowls and other home accessories. “Aside from the basic furniture, we didn’t want to put anything too expensive lying around so we don’t have to worry if anything gets broken,” says Chinky. Granted that peace of mind, they could thus let their active four-year-old run around freely.

That the air in the house “flows freely” is Chinky’s favorite feature and, just as the architect does, the part that she loves most is the veranda facing the east.

“Not only is it the perfect place for a quiet breakfast or a lovely late merrienda,” she says, “but opening the glass divisions blend the veranda with the dining room, expanding the entertaining area.”

Going up the magkuno (iron wood) stairs then through a hallway and the family room, we find the bedrooms. I notice something beside the narra master’s bed and point at it: it’s a sofa bed.

Chinky laughed. “My littlest one refuses to sleep in her own room and so we have her makeshift bed here.”

The house has already been lived in for three years, but the couple feels that it’s not yet entirely complete. “Just a painting and it’s done,” says Chinky, glancing at the bare walls while laying down some cloth napkins on the antique, solid narra dinner table that she got from her grandmother.

The streamlined Zen style of the house reflects the homeowner’s Montessori convictions, one of which is of being at peace with one’s self and with the world by creating a peaceful and relaxing environment at home: clutter-free and with everything in their proper place which in effect reflects their desire for it to be “a refuge and a space the family can enjoy.”

This same inspiration has also lead Chinky to develop Smart Owls Children’s Workshop, her Montessori-discipline school for children aged one and a half to two for toddlers, then up to five for pre-school, and then children aged six to nine for primary school, centrally located in Lahug, Cebu City.

The house’s architect’s adopted Asian Contemporary style also easily carried out the homeowners’ visions but Architect Rafanan is reluctant to already commit to a firm design mantra at only 30. She wants to use her chances for growth and self-discovery by dealing with building guideline variations, regulations, and different systems handling projects abroad.

“Knowing the homeowners’ taste and personalities was an advantage in planning out what we envisioned, but it was their selection of furniture and accessories that added the charm,” shared Architect Rafanan of her experience.

I stay a little longer and the home makes me think of the homeowners once more, and how they are not afraid of stripping down to what’s most important, what is essential—the foundation of family.

Smart Owls Children’s Workshop is at 2 Torralba Street, Lahug Cebu City. Call (032)236-5605 or visit for more information.


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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