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The Homes of Zee

The Neo-Victorian Way

The Victorian era was marked by intricate embellishments filling every nook and cranny of a house. In the modern age, that kind of decadence can border on tackiness, but there are ways to integrate multiple influences under one roof if done the right way.

It takes incredible foresight to be able to mix neo-classical Lladros, Moroccan-tiled doorways, Chinese monkey jars and aged Philippine hardwood, yet still have an arrangement that looks cohesively put together. Then again, if you ran a furniture factory and were a go-to person for interiors, your creativity will know no boundaries when decorating your own home.

Such is the case with the owner of this abode, who first settled into a quaint village in the northern Cebu town of Liloan, to be close to her furniture factory. The house originally occupied one lot but was extended when she purchased the one beside it, creating a bigger canvas for the owner’s out-of-the-box home ideas.

The house’s façade is a standout with the foliage beckoning from behind its white Roman-style fence. It was the owner’s mother, the landscape artist for national monument Luneta Park in the early 1990s, who designed the front yard garden. Other details that set the house apart are its architecture and the contrast between its oxford blue walls and red tile-shingled roofing. Apparently, this play of shapes and colors was only a teaser to what awaited us indoors.

The open terrace, the spiral staircase, the chandeliers and the fountain in a courtyard-esque section of the three-level house reflect a strong Mediterranean aesthetic. The stucco walls in a palette of indigo, cool blue, light pink and warm yellow to mark the divisions between the different areas of the house, and the light that comes in through the vertical windows bounces off the festive colors.

There is the option to dine alfresco in the patio or in the adjacent dining room. The latter has built-in shelves for the owner’s extensive blue and white china collection. In fact, most of the house’s walls have shelf moldings for the owner’s countless collections, which range from porcelain Lladros (that she has been collecting since she was a student) to vintage lamp burners, wooden artifacts, antique jars and trinkets. Even the powder room has an assortment of white antique arinolas on mounted wooden shelves that glow from the sunlight peering through a green stained-glass window.

The indoor dining room opens up to two hallways that lead to the sala, which has two sofa sets—one in red and white and the other a match of brocade with gold trimming, jade and rust orange. There is no hard partition between them, just a large jar on a coffee table filled with fresh birds of paradise and horsetails. This area is a focal point for the house since it is where you start to have a view of the loft-style upper floor. Thus, it is fitting that in the joint where the hallways end—an area also visible from the second level banister—a 1998 painting of National Artist Mauro Malang-Santos or “Malang” is hung. A top executive of a business conglomerate supposedly visited the house a few years back to buy the artwork but the owner decided to hold on to the valuable.

The high ceiling’s wooden panels are very Mediterranean, but there is also a combination of Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Philippine influences in the furnishings so that the theme of the house has become contemporary eclectic with infusions of the old world. The homeowner displayed her know-how in mixing and matching furniture pieces while incorporating her beloved Lladro figurines. The design process involved a balance of elements so that even if there are a handful of items, they do not look cluttered at all.

As one climbs up the winding staircase, the floors transition from neutral stonewashed tiles to varnished wood. What first catches the eye when you reach the second floor is a backlit cabinet against an entire wall filled with the owner’s porcelain figures and antique finds. The next thing you notice is the terracotta brick wall in the entertainment area that is offset by a burgundy couch with patterned throw pillows. The second level has the master’s bedroom, the entertainment room, a mini-library and two bedrooms, whereas the third level is an attic that has been converted into a game room for the owner’s sixteen-year-old son. The space is consistently open and one need just go around the banister to reach all rooms except for the master’s bedroom, which is directly beside the stairs.

As colorful as the house is, the master’s bedroom is the drastic opposite—the owner chose to go all white, from the lace beddings of her poster bed to the accessories that surround it. Its bathroom has a neo-classical tile mosaic painting in blue and white beside the bathtub. But even with the tame color palette, there are traces of wood and metal, just like in the rest of the house. One may let the imagination run wild with varying motifs for every room but it takes a true expert to refine it with consistency.

by Pia Echevarria photography Genesis Raña


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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