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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

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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