I always use this photo of my mom from around 1970 every Mother’s Day (or on her birthday!) because of two things: 1. It’s cool (of course!) and 2. There’s a lot of my late dad in this picture, too, even if he isn’t in the photo.
I wasn’t around yet when this photo was taken, so I asked mom about it. It was a Sunday and our family friend Bob Johnson had visited from the US. She cooked lunch for everyone, and the house was just three years old. My dad designed it, and because he was just a young junior architect back then, they took a big risk and got a huge loan just to build it.
I look closely at each part of the kitchen and recognize things I’ve grown up with: the Corelle plates with red borders, the rounded refrigerator (wish we still had that), and the beer bottle at the back which she festooned with garden blooms every morning. The only pieces that remain from this photo is the cookie jar in the foreground, relegated to become a spare change catchall, and the wood veneer cabinets.
I’ve seen this particular pantsuit in real life, and it was a loud psychedelic print with sequins all over it–something that was terribly fancy and uncomfortable to cook in at home on a Sunday morning! But I guess, that’s how she dressed up back then. Dad, on the other hand, would be in his collared tennis shirt and tennis shorts, chatting up the guest and the kids on the front porch.
The rest of my mom’s mid-century photos are of herself or with a gaggle of children (mostly my older siblings) on a sofa in my grandmother’s 1950s house. My dad designed that as well, and it was a cool house, too, but it now only exists in our memories.
Mom lives with me now, and is itching to go home (but we can’t due to lockdown restrictions). She putters around my kitchen, complaining about it lacking a second counter (it’s tiny), and missing the garden outside her own kitchen window. The old home she sometimes describes is a memory of what it was in 1973, or ’83, or ’93, or ’03–but isn’t that what comfort is? Remembering a space and time when life was at its best.
I encountered an odd sight at a gallery once. So, there was National Artist BenCab, fresh off a car from Baguio, bringing his own coffee beans from Tam-Awan Village. Assorted guests gathered around him, as would anyone if a National Artist suddenly popped into your gallery. Then he whipped out his mobile phone and showed us photos of himself harvesting the coffee beans in the early morning northern fog. In the next photo, he was roasting those beans in a massive roaster, cranking it up all by himself—he is in pretty good nick for a 78-year-old man, possibly healthier than anyone in the room.
To add to our luck that day, BenCab brought a bag of his own hand-picked, National Artist-roasted coffee beans for everyone to enjoy. And so, the folks at the gallery decided to brew it for the guests. Everyone was excited, especially BenCab. But then he had to watch in calm amusement as five grown men tried to brew a single cup from a giant espresso machine that was the size of a small car. We ended up drinking instant coffee while the thing was brewing (it was very good instant coffee by the way, I think it was Japanese—sadly, I didn’t stay long enough for the final BenCab brew).
The whole surreal incident made me sigh in relief over my preference for simplified coffee making. I have many friends who saved up for coffee machines that are about half the price of the downpayment of a modest condo unit, and I would never be able to afford such a luxury in my lifetime.
Aside from cost and complicated operations, I also have a thing about coffee waste. I know there are now coffee pods that are completely recyclable, but its single-use packaging makes me veer away from these types of machines, regardless of how affordable they have become. I have also stopped using my two drip coffee makers, because of the thought of buying (and tossing!) those filters, and reusable filters can become yucky-doo (in my son’s words).
So about eleven years ago, I started using a French Press. It’s the simplest, most affordable, eco-friendly, coffee-making equipment my time-hungry lifestyle could take. It conserves all of the coffee beans’ oils, making your cup more flavorful. Others would say it’s a lazy way to make coffee, but I beg to differ—French press coffee making is an art form of sorts. Serious Eats even alludes choosing a French coffee press to picking the right man (as if that were simple). Here’s an excerpt:
“A French press is often treated like Jason Segal’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He’s actually the one you want, but people tend to flock blindly to the flashy, temperamental types like coffee-siphon-somethings or Russell Brands. The French press is definitely a potential coffee happily-ever-after, but as with all things coffee, it ain’t rocket science… but it is science!”
Enough said, haha. I have been happy with my daily-coffee-via-French-press, and I am now on my third Bodum press; I call her Red. The last one was named Clunker, an eight-cup version, and the first one, long-gone, was Bo. They have all withstood my daily abuse and clumsy kitchen-keeping. Le Creuset came up with its own French press two years ago in its flashy stoneware casing in a bevy of ombre colorways. Nice to dream about, but Coffee Review said underneath the dazzle, the filtering equipment was just the same as your regular press! Get the significantly cheaper Bodum Chambord instead.
If you don’t want the hassle of cleaning out a French press (though I’ve grown used to it, and the act itself I find meditative), there is the other eco-friendly option of the Moka Pot. This coffee classic is the Italian New Wave Sexy Film cousin of the French Press, and just as delicious. I also love seeing the coffee bubble up from the tiny spout in the middle, but of course, you’d still need a hotplate for this.
Or you could try pour-over coffee or aeropress method, the processes of which I find terribly mesmerizing. My friend Tala, who is one of the local bean purveyors at Go Brew, always treats us to aeropress coffee at our product shoots. I love watching her make it—from the weighing of the beans, to the slow pouring of fresh hot water, to the careful aeropress plunging. The whole process takes about 15 minutes to brew a single cup, and if you are fourth in line waiting for the coffee, you’ll get yours after an entire hour. But it is totally worth the wait.
Now that is satisfaction! 😊
Main photo by Anshu A for Unsplash; pour-over photo from Go Brew; Le Creuset is from Sur La Table; other photos are my own.
Around the middle of April 2020, when the whole world was put on hold and when I spent my days and nights thinking of an uncertain future, I looked at my phone’s photo albums and realized I had gone to an entire year’s worth of places and events in the last few weeks before the pandemic lockdown.
It started in early February, when reports of the first few COVID-19 cases in the country trickled in. Back then, it all felt like it was a looming, albeit frightening—yet quite distant concern (oh, how wrong I was). But still, I had this compelling desire to cram all the events and activities that I could in those short four weeks. It seemed as if I had predicted that I would be holed up at home for the rest of the year, but I did not think that at all; I just felt I had to attend all these occasions, see my friends, go to these places. And thank God I did.
As with everyone else’s, my life completely changed right after that. I had to rescue my mother from the province, jobs were lost, friends got sick, relatives stranded in one country or the other, dear uncles and cousins died. Each memory of a life pre-COVID, I held dear, knowing it would be years before I could enjoy it again, if I were lucky.
So, here is a visual diary of most of the places I went to (this is just part of it, I went to more than twenty different locations in 25 days), in the four short weeks before the lockdown.
All photos here are by the author. Main photo is of the closed-up MRT, and a near-empty EDSA in April.
You could say that, in a way, 2020 was a year that “disappeared”—or rather—was canceled, in a really big way. The interior trends of Countryside Chic, Classic Blue, ornate mouldings, and other bold trappings as reported in this 2019 article, all went the way of crowded house parties as soon as the first few reports of Coronavirus infections trickled in.
In turn, people hunkered down, planted their own food, baked pan de sal, and focused on the most important thing: staying at home and surviving. In a way, the pandemic emphasized what should be one of the most important aspects of one’s life—having a comfortable and efficient home. Flashy cars and designer bags soon became déclassé and useless; kitchen gardens, a home office, and a good-quality oven are now must-haves.
More than creating a home that one can brag about to others (please don’t invite other folks to your house for your own safety), it is all about making a home to please yourself this time. Here are some predictions for 2021 interior trends gleaned from Good Housekeeping and Insider:
One recent afternoon, I was rushing off to buy last-minute Noche Buena ingredients at the Supermarket like any other harassed holiday mother when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. In the middle of the global-warming December rain, with shoppers covered up in jackets, face shields, and masks, Rustan’s Department Store turned on all the lights in their windows, revealing their Christmas window displays. Others were stunned as well, and approached the windows like it was some magical thing, gazing at it and taking photos.
Rustan’s is long-known for pulling out all the stops when it comes to Christmas windows, and It was such a relief to see these windows in the middle of the pandemic grayness. There were better displays in the past, and these were in an all-red theme, but the sheer opulence of it all meant that in spite of all the bad news that haunt us daily, Christmas will still push through.
Gawping at the windows made me forget the pandemic for about thirty seconds, and made me remember how my parents would drive me around the city as a child just so I could see all the store windows and lights. This comforting, return-to-childhood memory was possibly the reason whySM Home chose a candy theme last year, and a children’s theme this year. I loved their Christmas tree forest display in Makati, with toy trains choo-chooing around it.
I wondered about window displays around the world, and while many stores remained prudent, others still went all out in their visual merchandising. Take for example, the frosty, twinkling Swarovski window in Vienna created by Dutch Garland Light designer Tord Boontje–you can almost feel the snow falling on you.
The ne plus ultra of Christmas window displays is the work of Simon Doonan in Barney’s New York, of course, but even that yearly magic had come to an end when that particular store closed in early 2020. Barney’s Japan is still open, their windows less ornate, but still intriguing. Check out the retro Christmas-at-home display above, with Jean Philippe Del Homme’s whimsical illustrations as backdrop.
On local shores, I’ve always looked forward to Ito Kish’s Christmas parties in the former KISH store along N. Garcia; it was so lovely, packed to the rafters with ornaments and friends from the design industry. Kish’s Christmas décor in his new ITO KISH store in Makati is more subtle, but beautiful nonetheless. Simple trees decked either with fairy lights or pinecones, patinated gold ornaments on the wall, and sage garlands still gave off that holiday spirit.
What was your favorite Christmas window memory? Drop me a line or message me, so that I can reminisce along with you!
Images: Rustans photo by me, header photo from Crate & Barrel, Swarovski photo from Tord Boontje Facebook page, Barneys Japan photo from @barneysny on Instagram, Crate & Barrel, SM, and KISH courtesy of the brands.
I couldn’t resist a good home tour so I decided to close the year with this one! I’ve always loved interior designer Rod Lascano’s projects, whose work is quite magical when dealing with small condo units and its available space. Just look at his former project, a 17sqm unit, which has gone practically viral over the past few years.
As seen in that 17 sqm unit, Rod’s projects for bachelor pads (gosh, do they still call them that? Did I just date myself??) don’t fall into the usual man-cave cliché of black leather sofa, giant entertainment system, and the clutter of assorted dude accoutrements.
Take for example, the interiors of this 60sqm unit, which Rod worked on with design and construction outfit William Brothers Manila. The clean and cool-looking heather gray walls offset the industrial-style feel of the finish of the accent walls. The furniture pieces are tailored and sophisticated, and are versatile enough to be guy-friendly and gender-neutral at the same time, if a couple eventually decided to live in it. And wood pieces in walnut finish add just the right touch of warmth to the urban space.
“I guess we were going for something related but more mature or leveled-up,” the interior designer explains of this direction for his client. “He wanted a space to go home to that has a good balance of warm and cool tones. His original condo unit was more of a bachelor’s pad, for this unit our main goal was to make it into a long-term home.”
“We were going for something simple and modern, but still have that punch that would make the user feel that he’s in a well-designed and planned space,” says Rod of the overall style. “We wanted something more adult that both a yuppie or an older generation would appreciate or can live in.”
Rod showed me the “before” photos of the unit (above photo), and it was such a shocker! The living room was dark and cramped, even if it wasn’t fitted with any built-ins, and had distracting beams that seemed to close in on the space. The airiness was masked by heavy drapes, and save for the kitchen, it was devoid of any sort of storage area.
The interior designer revealed that, in spite of the dramatic renovation, everything was done on a tight budget. “We also wanted to reuse the shell of the space, so whatever we can save for example, the carcass of the hallway cabinets and the kitchen cabinets we reused. We just re-laminated them.”
Even though this condo unit was considerably larger than Rod’s old 17sqm and 28sqm projects, storage was still given absolute importance, most especially in the bedroom. “Actually, the wardrobe of the bedroom is originally an awkward niche/corner in the room. To make it look cleaner, I made use of it and covered it with a cabinet. Usually, full height (floor-to-ceiling) cabinet doors look heavy or chunky, so to make it feel more open, I made the leftmost shelves and the bottom also open storage for bags, shoes, etcetera.”
Serendipitously enough, this mostly gray (with a slight touch of yellow!) unit was presented on the week that Pantone launched its colors of the year: Illuminating (a vibrant yellow hue) and Ultimate Gray. I asked Rod, Mr. Gray himself, if he was thrilled about it.
“The 2021 Pantone colors are very familiar to me. I was actually excited to find out that it was gray and yellow. For me gray is diverse and flexible as an achromatic color,” Rod gushes. “Gray can be warmer or cooler depending on the feel and aesthetic of the space. It’s an easy color I think that you can match to either another neutral or a very bright accent color…for me the gray color gives you a depth and feel that isn’t too overbearing.”
I used to love the thrill of going from one furniture store to the other looking for different-styled pieces to mix and match. But with the current pandemic (and a whole lot of health and safety reasons), this kind of sourcing is not the best idea, anymore.
So, when Our Home invited me to check out their newly renovated store with fresh, new collections at SM Mall of Asia, it was just as good an excuse to get out of the house. At our extremely physically-distanced tour (I was technically the only guest there for a good thirty minutes), here’s what I saw:
Its new look is fresh, clean, and uncluttered.
If you’re used to seeing furniture stores with a huge mess of sofas and chairs that seem to blend into each other, well, this isn’t one of those stores. Our Home’s interiors now sport a clean-lined, well-lit look with a slight European touch, and furniture sections that are neatly divided into different styles and themes: Scandinavian, Modern-Contemporary, Classic-Baroque, Industrial, and Mid-century Modern.
The Scandi section is adorable.
This was the first section they brought me to, and it was full of pale wood and pastel colors for that light and airy feel—mostly for young, millennial home owners and condo dwellers. I’m not into the Millennial pinks and soft pistachios, but what I like about this collection are its soft beige and light gray sofas, with the emerald green armchairs for accent.
They’ve got lots of pieces for condo living.
In one part of the Scandi section, you’ll find a number of versatile furnishings meant for condo living and small spaces: narrow dining tables, a portable breakfast counter with stools (seen here) for an extremely tight dining room, scaled-down accent chairs and love seats, too.
Their sofa beds don’t look like sofa beds.
For me, this is really important—a lot of sofa beds in the market look like something in a college dorm that’s ready to be used by a classmate who wants to crash for the night! Here, their sofa beds are elegant: midcentury- or art-deco-inspired, tailored, or in trendy colors with nice feet and detailing.
Two new sections: Midcentury modern and WFH.
Don’t forget to check out their new sections, which include Work-From-Home collections of desks, swivel chairs, and storage units that do not look like boring, corporate office furniture at all. The store jumps in on the midcentury modern trend as well, with tapered-leg benches, and couches with a lot of retro-style detailing, all at friendly prices.
There’s a pillow for every interior style here.
Soft furnishings are my fave, because a few new pillows can refresh a tired sofa in a second. And there are literally dozens upon dozens of pillow styles to pick from here—from feminine and frilly to patterned or plain—several for each interior style. I love the embroidered/crewel-work pillowcases, as well as the throw pillow covers with a Bauhaus touch.
You’ll find accessories grouped per theme or type.
My pet peeve in home stores is when I see accessories of different colors and styles all mixed up, like in a bangketa sale (no offense to bangketa sales, tho!). Here, the accessories are grouped in the same colorways or style (like this classical-oriental, blue-and-white grouping) or by type—all the faux flowers are together, rugs, mirrors and wall art, etc., for easier picking.
Visit Our Home at the Entertainment Hall of SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City, or visit this site for other branches. All photos here by the author, except for top header photo, which is from Our Home.
You won’t believe how many articles I’ve written/edited about this topic for the magazine and website—maybe not less than 80 times! 😊 But I do believe it’s essential to revisit these tips.
There a lot of homeowners who are really handy at maintaining their homes, so I’m writing this for a newbie homeowner or renter who is say, residing in an apartment or small condo unit. And also, because I read a condo admin book about maintenance services charging P100 to change a lightbulb. One hundred bucks? That’s the cost of an actual lightbulb!
And I am writing this to get you out of the mentality of asking someone else to do simple home maintenance jobs. We tend to do one or all of these three: “Call Manong,” (self-explanatory) “Honeydew,” (Honey do this, Honey do that) and “DIY”(Do It by Yaya). LOL, that last one came from my friend Leona! Tama na. With the pandemic, it is a bit risky letting different people inside your house.
These are five things I can do on my own and you should, too. I admittedly cannot do anything more complicated than these, and holding a hand drill still makes me nervous, but these five will keep you alive and running. Warning: long but necessary post ahead!
Change a lightbulb
I know a few friends who do not know how or refuse to change a lightbulb(!). Not judging, but unless the lighting fixture is really high up in a ceiling, anyone who is 15 and older can do this. Here ya go:
1. Turn off the switch (most important!).
2. Let the pundido bulb cool, esp if it’s not LED. If you can’t wait, wrap your hand in a soft cloth and unscrew the bulb carefully from its socket.
3. Screw in the new bulb, then flick on the switch to test. Dispose of used bulb safely.
Repair a toilet flush
These tips are for a common flapper- or ballcock- (okay, please don’t snicker!) flush toilet. This is not for the dual-flush toilet. If the lever type of toilet doesn’t flush, the usual problem is that the chain connecting the lever to the flapper was broken or disconnected.
1. Remove the ceramic toilet lid and put aside on the floor.
2. Inspect the flushing system and see if the chain is broken.
3. If the chain is broken, a quick fix for this is to reattach the broken parts with a paperclip (!). The chain should have a bit of slack in it (around ½”). This is just a temporary solution though.
4. Adjust the length of the chain accordingly so that the flapper lands flat on the opening.
Know what “tox” are for
I’d bet you’ve heard this term from your resident handyman. You’d need these when hanging picture frames or installing mirrors, shelves, towel bars, whatnot— “tox” or “toks” are simply another term for plastic plugs, or more formally, plastic “anchors.”
You need these tiny things to make a screw or nail fit more snugly into a hole drilled into a wall. Sometimes, rented homes already come with holes already drilled into a wall or cabinet, so if it’s just the right height for your painting, might as well use it by adding a plug or tox.
The tox come in packages of several pieces, and in different sizes. To install it, insert the plug ‘til the end of its lip. If it doesn’t go all the way through, use a hammer to pound it down. If that doesn’t work, then your to is too long for the cavity, but you can trim it to size using a sharp pair of scissors.
Unclog a sink drain
This is a really gross job, but the culprit is usually your hair, soap residue, and other gunk.
1. Boil water in a kettle.
2. Unscrew or lift the drop stopper from your sink drain (that’s that round metal lid on the drain)
3. With needle-nosed pliers, bend a heavy wire (or thin metal hanger) into a hook. Now go in there gently with your hook to dig out the gunk (wear gloves if you’re absolutely grossed out).
4. Pour the boiling water into the drain to melt the remaining gunk. Some recommend a vinegar-and-baking soda mix or whatever, but usually the boiling water does the trick.
Fold a fitted sheet
Not really home maintenance, but this is one of the most annoying household things to do. Working in a home magazine, we were all required to know how to fold a fitted sheet neatly (eek) and put it back in its package, since we did a lot of bed linen shoots.
Just search the Net, and there are so many ways to do this. The lazy (but still effective way), is the lay the offending sheet flat on your bed. Find the four corners and position it accordingly, then turn the garters in (garters should be facing up) to make it resemble a rectangle, and then continue to fold it in like a normal, flat sheet, smoothening out each surface as you go and until it folds up into a neat and small rectangle.
And then there is the “meeting the corners” trick to fold it. It’s a little bit complicated, but it’s much neater. Watch this video to see how it’s done. Enjoy! Haha.
This Museum Girl is sad that almost all the museums are still closed, so I was incredibly thrilled that I got my ultimate wish of finally visiting, and even having breakfast in a museum(!) one quiet morning in the sunny courtyard of Fundacion Sanso.
This impromptu trip to the museum courtesy of its director and my “neighbor” Ricky Francisco was also a good excuse to see the Fundacion’s current exhibit of selected textile designs by Juvenal Sanso.
I absolutely did not know this before, but Ricky explained that from the 1950s to the ’60s, Sanso made textile designs to augment his income when he was in Paris. European companies like Synergie and Bianchini Ferrier purchased his designs, but his biggest break came in the 1960s when the House of Balenciaga purchased an entire book of his textile patterns to be printed on silk. This lucky purchase sustained him for a year and allowed him to pursue his painting.
Up close, the textile patterns are breathtaking beautiful. The themes run the gamut from florals and geometrics to ethnic patterns and pop art, and look contemporary to this day. Sanso used natural materials like actual flowers and leaves to create the prints and repeating patterns, and all have his painterly touch–you wouldn’t know it was a textile pattern unless someone would point it out to you.
Some of these beautiful patterns are printed onto scarves and gift wrapping paper sold in the museum shop (do drop by, it’s a treasure trove of adorable gifts!), and used in a fashion collaboration with couturier Septieme Rebelle. I do wish these fabric designs would be used in more fashion collabs in the future.
The rest of the morning was spent touring the museum and discussing how it was selling its limited-edition giclee prints (c’mon, pronounce it: zhee-klay) to help benefit another museum, Museo Pambata, which has suffered quite a bit because of the pandemic lockdown. This also led us to discuss IATF’s restrictions and how art is not considered “essential”. It is strange that crowded malls are open and yet museums, which are hardly full of people even on peak days, remain closed.
Makes one think, if the arts and culture aren’t essential, then what would we all be like without it?
Fundacion Sanso is located at 32 Vito Cruz, San Juan. It is open from 10am to 1pm for appraisals and visits by appointment. Go to their page for details.
As I write this, in the middle of an almost year-long pandemic lockdown, plants have replaced expensive designer handbags as the must-have items du jour; and they cost just as much, too.
It was also a couple of weeks ago that a good friend had sent a post (it has since been deleted due to backlash) from the Rare Plants Group on Facebook touting potted plants, some of them looking worse for wear, ranging from Php30,000 to Php300,000 for a sad specimen.
I am an impossible gardener with a permanent Black Thumb, though I do my best to keep whatever indoor babies I have alive. But all that ridiculously priced greenery being passed around as “rare” gave me a better appreciation of my mother’s garden, where cuttings thrown on the soil become full-grown plants a couple of months later. Her own rhapis cuttings from a few years ago by the garage had become so overgrown as adult palms they were in danger of overtaking our car (see main image above).
I showed my mother the online price of golden pothos (Php300 for a tiny plant with three leaves and Php5,000 and up for one with tendrils) and she nearly fainted in shock, especially since she had asked our neighborhood Manong to hack down the giant golden pothos that grew over our backyard’s fence (size of leaves: one and a half feet each; price: Zero pesos).
Blame it on inflation, but I could give you three reasons why plants are so expensive now: 1. People are bored indoors and need new hobbies (it’s all good) 2. It’s a trend 3. It’s a status symbol. And because of this, demand will definitely drive up the prices. Some plant species are very rare, and merit that cost, but you must also think: shouldn’t it be in its natural habitat like a rainforest or in some lush and fertile province where it will thrive, and not cooped up in an airconditioned condo?
If you’re really into plants, here’s an idea: why not do it the old-fashioned way and do a swap meet with like-minded plantitas and -titos? (It is possible to do this online, as well.) Patronize the sellers with the reasonable prices, or those with an excess of plants who would give away cuttings, or sell them at a low cost. Tin de Leon (follow her on Instagram @krist_ima) occasionally sells her plant babies or has friends “adopt” them. And “ordinary” plants are just as beautiful, sometimes even more so, than the rarest plants out there.
One of the saddest outcomes of the gardening trend is when plant owners don’t know how to take care of their plant babies and neglect them. Because like pets, if you get into plants, you have the responsibility to keep them alive (ask the seller about its care; it will also give you a clue if the seller is legit). And please don’t get suckered into buying an overpriced plant for yabang’s sake–you might be better off buying the designer bag, instead.