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The Homes of Zee

You’re invited to Maris Holopainen’s house

When you’re the visionary behind one of Cebu’s top art galleries, what would your home be like? Qube’s Maris Holopainen shows us the answer.

Maris Holopainen is cheerful and chatty as she welcomes us into her home, offering the choice of beer and wine. “There’s no such thing,” she laughs amid playful protestations that it was too early. The large marble island dominates the home’s open kitchen, punctuated with a piece from Michael Cacnio depicting a fisherman reeling in a net’s catch. “It’s my fake kitchen,” she adds. “I don’t cook.”

Red tones dominate the living area, from the bold Mario de Rivera painting over the console table and the Gil Corcuera sculpture on the coffee table to the intricate prints of the carpets and the patterns on the throw pillows. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Red tones dominate the living area, from the bold Mario de Rivera painting over the console table and the Gil Corcuera sculpture on the coffee table to the intricate prints of the carpets and the patterns on the throw pillows. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Maris Holopainen lounges at her home (Photography by Steffen Billhardt, makeup by Romero Vergara, hair by Jessie Egos/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Maris Holopainen lounges at her home (Photography by Steffen Billhardt, makeup by Romero Vergara, hair by Jessie Egos/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

There’s something very light and affable about Maris, the force behind Qube Gallery and former chairperson of Southwestern University—and it’s reflected in her home. Tucked away in one of the more elevated residential areas (and we mean tucked away—we had to go through two guardhouses and an “I’m lost” phone call to get there), the house’s open floor plan, large windows and unassuming furnishings create an atmosphere of spaciousness.

“I’m a relaxed host,” she says, and it’s apparent in the way she easily carries conversations with the crew. Although she’d earlier confessed that she does not cook, she does occasionally have people over. “I love entertaining around the holidays, when I have more time to plan.”

Of course, relaxed does not mean unprepared. Maris already has the makings of a great party on hand: a stocked bar cart positioned in one corner of the dining area, and an assortment of craft beers in the fridge that could rival that of a small pub’s. Table settings, too, have quite a bit of character—the particular holiday set-up may feature minimal décor and a subdued color palette, but there are stories behind certain pieces. “The plates are from Thailand in the 70s,” she says, gesturing to the mint green set with delicate curved patterns.

The staircase is decorated with rounded sculptures (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The staircase is decorated with rounded sculptures (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Considering Maris runs an art gallery, it’s no surprise that she has a penchant for collecting items that have more value than décor. Far from creating a stuffy space, though, she puts them all together in airy quarters that somehow complement the mishmash of artwork.

Walking into the foyer already introduces guests to several paintings hanging from both walls of the short corridor, and there are pieces in nooks you wouldn’t expect—a sculpture by Michelle Lua under the stairs, a pair of Indonesian wooden busts under the kitchen counter, a parade of wax sculptures on the stairs. “I hang the paintings I love at the moment, the paintings that speak to me at the time,” Maris explains. “Having said that, it is therapeutic for me to move paintings around and repaint walls. I love color on my walls.”

At the moment, one wall in the living room is painted bright red, mirroring the Mario de Rivera piece that hangs on it. But, based on how Maris describes it, it most likely won’t stay that way for long. “I rotate things whenever I feel like it. Or more accurately, when I have a new purchase that I just need to make space for, everything changes.”

The wall next to the staircase is filled with current favorites from Maris' collection. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The wall next to the staircase is filled with current favorites from Maris’ collection. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

It’s not surprising then that Maris considers her house a work in constant progress. “My house evolves! It started off with just a few key items, and I wanted my place to have a minimalistic aesthetic,” she shares. “But I ended up consolidating my belongings from Manila to Cebu, so now I look around and feel my house is so cluttered! So many things I love that remind me of different phases of my life and countries I have lived in. Chapters, really.”

For all the things she’s accumulated over the years, she’s found editing down is not a strong suit. “My space is nothing like I originally imagined it to be,” she admits. “I realized I couldn’t find the strength to de-clutter. I’ve tried to be brutal with all my belongings but my furniture pieces all tell their own story. I have old pieces from when my family lived in Africa, pieces I picked up in Indonesia, and pieces picked up because of another major compulsion of mine—carpets from Kazakhstan and Uzbek fabrics.”

This wall in Maris' bedroom is dedicated to pieces that have been given as gifts. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

This wall in Maris’ bedroom is dedicated to pieces that have been given as gifts. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Art, however, remains the primary compulsion, and Maris knows each piece in her house by heart. She walks us through many of the pieces that speak to her, including a textured piece by Eric Guazon of toy soldier shapes that come together to form a child’s face, and yet another by Mario De Rivera with bright colored elements and graphic illustrations. “It’s suggestive, no?” she says, pointing out to a small tile that showed off a Kama Sutra-esque drawing.

“I have too many favorite pieces—everything on my walls!” she says when I ask her which of the artwork on display is the most special. She enumerates the different reasons why a piece often makes its appearance in her home: “The paintings my mother gave me, although they do not necessarily reflect my aesthetics as of the moment, all remind me of her and the Cebu she knew. Those that I bought myself—I love too many genres to be consistent.”

More somber pieces, complemented by a gray wall, hang on another corner of the staircase. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

More somber pieces, complemented by a gray wall, hang on another corner of the staircase. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

A Michael Cacnio sculpture serves as a conversation starter in what Maris calls her 'fake kitchen'. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

A Michael Cacnio sculpture serves as a conversation starter in what Maris calls her ‘fake kitchen’. (Photography by Steffen Billhardt/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

The home has also become a venue to showcase the work from local artists, an advocacy that she also pursues at Qube. “In the beginning, when I started collecting, I bought artwork in Manila, but now I am making a conscious effort to buy Cebuano,” she says. “For a collection perspective, I prefer being able to ‘follow’ the careers of the artists I invest in. Also, I think in general, Filipino artists just speak to my cultural identity more.” Of course, she also has pieces that reflect on her time spent abroad: “I have my Indonesian, Russian and Kazakh collections—they remind me of my story.”

It may be that Maris doesn’t play favorites with her art pieces, but a special spot is dedicated for those given as gifts. “I have a wall which is delegated to hanging the works that I have been given by friends and family. I have this in my bedroom to remind me of those people.”

The amount of art pieces that Maris has in her home becomes surprising when you realize that she has dogs—a Great Dane, included. “I spend a lot of time apologizing that my home is clearly that of a dog lover,” she laughs, pointing out to a pair of worn cans-turned-chew-toys on the coffee table. “But believe it or not, I don’t need to make any design allowance for my dogs—they seem to respect the artwork, except for my carpets. I love central Asian carpets and wish I could cover every inch of flooring with them. But keeping them clean with dogs? Impossible!”

It might be this lived-in quality that keeps the home from feeling like a gallery, as is its resident’s friendly openness. Maris brings together all these elements in a seemingly effortless way, to create a home that really reflects her personality—with comfortably diverse inclinations, cultured but in a casual, unpretentious way. There might be several art-related reasons to love the hilltop residence, but Maris’ opinion is a little more basic. “My favorite part of living in my home is the quiet! I close the door, birds are chirping, dogs are playing and—when I’m really lucky—my kids are visiting. I wish I could spend more time at home.”

photography Steffen Billhardt makeup Romero Vergara hair Jessie Egos

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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