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My Take on 2021 Interior Trends

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:

WALLPAPER. Highly patterned wallpaper (such as this Robin Sprong wallpaper from Studio Eleven) and maximalist designs will replace mumsy, subtle, country-ish interiors. “Grandmillennial” or “Granny Chic,” which had its start in the early 2020s, will continue into 2021.
A HOME OFFICE. When physical offices closed at the beginning of the pandemic, the need for an actual home office or work-from-home space became increasingly important. Squeezing in a small but efficient WFH area, as seen in this study area in a bedroom as designed by Rod Lascano, can do for condo units. Read the full story here.
ENVIROSOCIAL DESIGN AND SUSTAINABLE LUXURY. “The world is healing” became the catchphrase of 2020. So why not help it along from now on? More design and furnishing companies like Hacienda Crafts (left) and The Olive Tree (right) are focusing on sustainable and fair-trade production for all their pieces.
RATTAN AND NATURAL MATERIALS. This interior design rendering by Urban Abode for KAZA Siargao, shows two major trends for the incoming year: old-school rattan and wicker furniture. The natural materials add warmth, lightness, and comfort to a home you would stay in for most of the day; not to mention, these are just perfect for our year-round tropical weather.
DARK COLORS, GRAY AND YELLOW. Everyone’s talking about Pantone’s Colors of the Year, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (right), but there is also the other trend of bold, jewel tones (seen left in a Graham and Brown wallpaper from Studio Eleven), which can be used to express your own personality in your home.
EDIBLE GARDENS. Of course, there is the plantita/tito craze that everyone’s getting into. But instead of merely collecting ornamental plants, why not grow edible plants instead? Homeowners who planted their own edible gardens were not at a loss for food during the hard lockdown. Cedarhills Garden Center in Quezon City sells these super-affordable edible grow kits containing seeds, fertilizer, potting medium, and pot.
Here are my own sweet basil cuttings, which I’ve saved from my friend’s own garden, and repotted into new basil plants! So now I have sweet basil all year long!

Images from Urban Abode, Studio Eleven Modern Fabrics, Hacienda Crafts, The Olive Tree, Cedar Hills, Pantone; work-from-home photo by Paulo Valenzuela; basil cuttings, my own photo. Header image from Urban Abode.

Featured

Home Tour: Shades of Gray in a 60sqm Unit

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.

Streamlined, modern pieces feature in Rod Lascano’s condo project.. “The furniture pieces come from different suppliers. The console with the pop of yellow together with the solid wood stool, sofa and bed are from a Pampanga furniture maker we usually work with. He’s definitely a secret gem.”

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.

Different shades of gray: heather, medium gray, and dark gray tones paired with bright accents of blue, yellow, and a hint of red, paired a light ash floor create a soothing, urban escape.

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.

A concrete-finish feature wall also serves as an entertainment center, with all its components neatly tucked inside the built-in floating cabinets and niche, The round coffee table here is from Furniture Republic.

“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.”

Airy modern is what we could describe the renovated unit, which is a far cry from its former state (see the “BEFORE” photo below).

“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.”

BEFORE: In this “before” photo of the unit, you could see how cramped it looked even though it didn’t have any built-ins, yet!

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 Jazz Woodworks dining table with mixed seating saves on floor space and gives off a streamlined look. The Alexander Calder-inspired pendant light is from Ambient Lighting.

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.”

The sole bedroom is compact and soothing in light gray, and comes with a home office nook, which is a must-have in homes these days.

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.”

“Since everything was in cool gray, I needed to add some warmth by adding a wood texture,” says Rod of the bedroom. The interior designer simply used stained ribbon-grain plywood and 25 x 25mm wooden slats as the headboard/feature wall.

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 wardrobe area in the bedroom was formerly an empty, awkward niche. Rod added a built-in closet with open bookshelves and an open space beneath the cabinets for shoe and bag storage, so it wouldn’t look too heavy.

“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.” 

Photography by Paulo Valenzuela, courtesy of William Brothers Manila. Contact Rod Lascano on Instagram @rodlascano

Last Days Before Lockdown

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.

FINALE ART FILE, MAKATI, FEBRUARY. I was invited to an exhibit at the erstwhile Archivo 1984, also in La Fuerza Compound in Makati, but it was closed. Visited nearby Finale Gallery instead, where I caught the fantastic exhibit “Something Was Out There”. Here is Froilan Calayag’s painted Volks, “I’m Working at The Zoo.”
PAMINTUAN MANSION, PAMPANGA, FEBRUARY. It was my birthday, and my dear friend Christine took me on a field trip to Pampanga, wherein we toured factories, ate Pho, and ended up at the century-old Pamintuan Mansion, where our hairs stood on end (the guard was spooked, too). Here is the main entrance, opening up like a hungry maw.
IKARUS THEATER PLAY, COMMUNE, MAKATI, FEBRUARY. The last physical play I watched. Here is Ikarus Theater member Kit Singson setting up her group’s pocket play ALTER X COMPASS, two plays about the pain, nuances, and ugly sides of romantic relationships, of which I am all too familiar with.
COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS, UP DILIMAN, FEBRUARY. I went to the new UP Fine Arts building twice in two weeks, with two different sets of friends, seeing two different exhibits, but both visits ending up eating isaw along the sidewalk at Mang Larry’s. Ah, it was so good. Here is the last pottery exhibit of students that they showed in the new building’s second-floor galleries.
RIZAL MEMORIAL STADIUM, MALATE, MANILA, FEBRUARY AND MARCH. Another place I went to twice was the newly renovated, 1930s-era Rizal Memorial, and I was so happy to see it in its fully restored state. (I’ll post a future blog about this)
MALATE CHURCH, CAFE ALICIA, MALATE MANILA, MARCH. This was my last lifestyle article assignment before the lockdown, a roundup of Malate haunts. My favorite was Cafe Alicia (right) in the Art Deco, 1930s Orchid Garden Suites, a delectable and elegant hidden cafe.
RAMON MAGSAYSAY, ROXAS BOULEVARD, MARCH. I finally got to see this beautiful, modernist masterpiece up close.
OPEN PLAZA, MAGSAYSAY CENTER. There were so many people milling around, mask-less in the open plaza in the middle of the center, it seemed that everything was ok in the world. It was at this time that Jilson Tiu, the photographer assigned to the story, said he felt a foreboding of sorts that something really bad would happen soon. He was right. After the shoot, we immediately headed straight to the groceries to stock up.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, ROXAS BOULEVARD, MARCH. One of our last shoots that day was the Met, which unusually had more visitors than usual that day. The PR person mentioned that they noticed more people had visited, anticipating the museum’s closure. Three days after this shoot, the entire country was put on hard lockdown. The Met has yet to open.

All photos here are by the author. Main photo is of the closed-up MRT, and a near-empty EDSA in April.

Remembrances of Christmas Windows Past

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.

iThe all-red, family-dinner-at-home Rustans window display

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.

Kiddie holidays are a theme for SM Home this year and last Christmas.

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 why SM 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.

Industrial designer Tord Boontje’s fabulous window for Swarovski.

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.

Jean Philippe Del Homme illustrations jazz up Barney’s holiday windows in Japan.

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.

KISH’s Christmas is subdued, but still beautiful.

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.

Our Home Has a Brand New Look

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.


Here is the modern-contemporary section, which has their best-selling pieces: the sectional sofas.

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.

Millennial Pink loveseat, anyone?

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.

Check out this slim bar counter/dining counter for tight spaces.

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.

This retro midcentury-inspired set also includes two handsome armchairs.

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.

Take your pick! There’s one in every colorway and fabric type.

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.

Beautiful blue-and-whites are all grouped together in the Classic section.

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.

5 Home Things You Should Know How to Do as an Adult

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!

Before you begin, perhaps you should get your own basic toolkit (in its own bag or toolbox). It’s the only other kit that’s more important than your makeup kit!. Here’s my Stanley kit, you can get this from any home depot or major hardware store.

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.

Sanso Made Fabric Designs for Balenciaga

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.

Sanso’s floral textile design, wherein he possibly used actual flowers to create the patterns.

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.

Sanso’s textile designs are as varied as the medium used, ranging from geometric paper cutouts, and Pollock-style strokes, to watercolor on heavy paper.

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.

Sanso used natural objects like leaves and blooms for creating his designs. Up

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.

The museum’s collaboration with designer Robbie Santos of Septieme Rebelle resulted in Sanso’s textile patterns being translated into gorgeous evening and day wear.

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.

In the mezzanine: Sanso’s works from the ’70s, 80s, and 2000s.

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.

The Secret Life of Inexpensive Plants

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.

My mother’s philodendrons and various lush aracae. The price: zero. They had become tree parasites from cuttings discarded on the ground!

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).

My son in our overgrown garden. The secret to its lushness: volcanic soil, constant rain, and not fussing over them.

Just three years ago, a quick tour of the gardening shops in White Plains, Quezon City would reveal plants that went hardly beyond Php500 (and White Plains was already known as the “pricier” garden place). Here’s a rundown of the 2017 prices: White orchids costed Php50-300; succulents went for a mere Php30-100; potted herbs, Php120-1,200; lucky bamboo for Php250. When I read the recent article of a ten-million-peso succulent being stolen from a local nursery, it was a sign things had gotten out of hand.

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?

(Left) Here’s my Buddha’s palm plant adopted from Tin de Leon (it has since sprouted three more leaves). (Right) Basil I am trying to root from cuttings. They have since grown roots and are ready to pot!

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.

An Alterna-Christmas

With the craziness that was 2020, I was hardly in the mood to put up Christmas ornaments of any sort. But having a child who couldn’t go out for the holidays (the best he could do is look at Christmas lights—if any—from the safety of the car), one does have to scrounge around for whatever holiday décor available for a bit of cheer.

An all-out, glittery Christmas spectacle isn’t me, so I thought of subtler, tamer holiday themes that are more suitable to the prudent, or even slightly somber mood of the year. And it was just my luck that many of the popular home brands had that in mind.

Crate and Barrel came up with a line called Nordic Neutral; a collection of fine bone china ornaments with the texture of knitted sweaters (!). You can see these in the anchor photo at the top of the page.

Crate and Barrel’s Nordic Neutral collection is a subtler, lest glitzy take on holiday tableware.

And for those who don’t want their Christmas dinner to be some glitzy affair, then the delicate holly stamping of the Holiday Snowflake Dinner Set is just right (above). Pair it with casual cutlery and a freeform green centerpiece and you’re good to go.

A tiny forest (by Crate and Barrel) for the minimalist condo dweller.

Now if you live in a tiny condo and a full-blown, six-foot Christmas tree won’t fit in your space, then a tabletop forest is more than enough. Here are other pieces from the Nordic Neutral collection: brush trees, faux bois, wood, and ceramic just need fairy lights (or not).

Parol options (trad and modern) from Kultura Filipino.

What’s a Pinoy Christmas without a parol, and where else could you get one conveniently, but at Kultura Filipino? Simple woven abaca parol lanterns (above, left) will look great indoors or out. But if you want something that’s a twist on tradition, try the foldable fabric parol that’s easy to store. Buying one will help the Kababaihan ng Maynila Foundation too, whose members make these lanterns by hand.

Marlene and Nastasja Angel figurines by Chrysara Nest

If you’re looking for décor that could stretch beyond the holidays, look no further than the retro quirkiness of longtime export manufacturer Chrysara Nest. They are known not only for their beautifully ornate creches (belen) and religious figurines, but for their vintage-inspired pieces. Check out these Art Deco-inspired angel figurines (above), and the tree ornaments (below), which are faithful portrayals of actual British isle birds.

West of England Pigeon (left) and British Fantail (right) bird tree ornaments from Chrysara Nest.

Crate and Barrel PH is located at SM Makati, Megamall, and Aura Premier; Kultura Filipino is located in SM Malls nationwide; visit Chrysara Nest at this site.  

The Palace Along Dewey Boulevard

Roxas Boulevard, then called Dewey Boulevard before the War, was a stretch of road that fronted a pre-land-reclamation, pre-Dolomite-invasion Manila Bay. It was also the country’s own erstwhile Millionaire’s Row, with prominent families from the Aranetas to the Zobels living in Mediterranean-inspired mansions along that boulevard, from Malate to Paranaque.

One of a few Fokker-style aircrafts that grace the massive gardens of Palacio de Memoria

Fast-forward several decades later to a greatly diminished Roxas Boulevard. Strip malls and casinos now line the street, and much of the actual Bay has moved several kilometers down past Macapagal Avenue. Almost all of the grand mansions are now gone, save for the towering, white beauty at the end of the Boulevard, with the noses of Fokker planes peeking out from the yard.

The grand staircase of Palacio de Memoria shows subtle hints of Art Deco lines. There is no direct attribution to any particular architect, but it is believed to be the work of Juan Nakpil. The original terrazzo floors are all intact (see topmost photo of Tinikling couple).

The seven-storey (plus observation deck) mansion was restored by the Lhulliers, and formally opened early last year as a prestigious auction house and luxurious venue. Its former owner was a particular Doctor Francisco Villaroman, and in archival post-war photos, you could see a bombed-out Dewey Boulevard, with only this particular house left standing.

The symmetrical spaces of the ground floor serve as the perfect setting for many of the Lhullier family’s collections.

There is no formal attribution as to who is the architect of the mansion, but the sweeping curves of the Art Deco staircase, the perfectly symmetrical main living areas, and the beautiful, original terrazzo floor with bahay kubo and tinikling motifs all hint that perhaps Juan Nakpil designed it.

A taxidermy tiger welcomes guests to the second floor auction showroom area.

The palace’s grand proportions and provenance now serve as the perfect showroom to Palacio de Memoria’s fine European antiques, most of which are showcased on the second floor. There are 18-arm Murano glass chandeliers, 17th-century chairs, Art Deco-era tea sets, Salvador Dali wallpaper, and Restoration de Louis Philippe furniture that could make all your Age of Innocence fantasies come true.

The main floor where most of the pieces to be auctioned of are displayed.

Casa de Memoria’s latest Tercero auction will be taking place this September 26, at 2pm, with part of the proceeds going to the Santa Ana Hospital for the construction of a quarantine facility for medical frontliners and COVID-19 patients. Among those to be auctioned of are extremely fine and dramatic pieces, such as the 17th Century Flemish Bargueno, a portable antique desk made with marquetry and gilded ornamentation.

From Casa de Memoria’s Tercero auction (left) 17th Century Flemish Bargueno; (right) Isabelino-style Mirror

To view Casa de Memoria’s catalogue or to view the auctions, visit their website. Palacio de Memoria is located at 95 Roxas Boulevard, Brgy. Tambo, Paranaque City.