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.

House Tour: An Elegant Collector’s Condo

The celebrated Filipina painter Anita Magsaysay-Ho was noted for her cubist, socio-realist paintings of beautiful, strong, and happy women in Philippine settings.

Decorator Grace Moslares made sure that the Magsaysay-Ho paintings would be the focal point in all areas of the home.

So it isn’t any surprise that the woman of the house is an avid collector of Magsaysay-Ho’s works–a strong woman, at that. She called on Grace Moslares of Magara Designs to style her condo, which she shares as a halfway home with her husband. All the decorator had to do was dig through her client’s extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and furnishings that were all just in storage.

More Magsaysay-Ho paintings, Cacnio sculptures, and Murano glass abound in the dining and kitchen areas.

“The owners had such a huge collection of artwork, furniture, and antiques, all we really added to this condo unit were the window treatments and soft furnishings,” Grace admits. “It was just a matter of picking and styling the items. My intention here was for the Magsaysay-Ho paintings to be the focal point in the entire home.”

The cityscape serve as a backdrop in the master bedroom.

To let the magnificent paintings shine, the decorator focused on soft, darker shades of gray, teal, and eggplant to offset the warmth of the artwork. Selected personal antique furniture and ceramics, plus simple woven rugs were then added to complete the look.

In the sitting room of the master bedroom is the owner’s antique wooden secretary (right photo), which was her mother’s.

In all, it was an interesting project for this decorator, not only because of the art, but because of the fact that you can put together something fantastic with what you have on hand.

Follow Grace Moslares on Instagram @magaradesigns.

Would You Live in a VitraHaus?

It’s every design enthusiast’s dream to live in a house with objects and furniture designed by iconic greats such as Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton, the Bouroullec Brothers, and others. Some of the lucky few could achieve it, but the second best thing is to visit the VitraHaus in Germany.

The fantastic selling floor of the Vitrahaus. (Photo by Lorenz Cugini for Vitra)

There is the Vitra Museum, but the VitraHaus serves as a flagship store and conceptual space of sorts for the famous furniture company. It recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with a facelift by starchitects Herzog & de Meuron.

VitraHaus has rooms like in a real house, with imaginary occupants. This delightful living area features Eames bookshelves, a pink Bouroullec Slow chair, and accessories by Alexander Girard. (Photo by Lorenz Cugini for Vitra)

Arranged like in a real (Herzog & de Meuron-designed) house, VitraHaus has “imaginary occupants” with different personalities, lending a different flavor to each room, which range from whimsical and colorful to sleek and minimalist. All pieces are by your favorite Vitra designers, of course.

In a sleeker living room a graceful Arco Lamp frames two Grand Sofas. (Photo by Lorenz Cugini for Vitra)

While we are currently stranded in our homes, we can escape for the moment at the VitraHaus by visiting its website. All photos here are by Lorenz Cugini for Vitra.

Art in the Park Goes Online

Art in the Park, held annually at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Makati, used to be a summer rite of passage for years. Every March or April on a Sunday, hundreds (thousands, recently!) would flock to the community park to view the dozens of galleries (most are known, some up-and-coming), find that affordable art gem, eat ice cream and paella with the kids, hear live music, and guzzle wine or beer into the humid night.

If there’s anything that captures the Art in the Park spirit best, it’s this Yeokaa installation last year.

Sadly, for the first time in a decade, Art in the Park was cancelled because of the pandemic. But then the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and AITP organizers regrouped and put up an Art in the Park virtual fair, which will run from August 10 to 17, 2020.

A lot of art schools participate in Art in the Park, such as FEU, as seen here. Good way for the students to put their works out there!

When you go to the Art in the Park website, select the gallery you want to see, then click on the artwork you want to buy. Payment is made online. Hurry, a lot of the pieces are going really fast!

The popular Potters’ Group section, with works by the Pettyjohns, Joey de Castro, EJ Espiritu, and the Sagada potters.

Aside from shopping, there are online activities like Robert Alejandro’s live drawing sessions on Tuesday, online musical performances, among others. It ain’t the same, but art must go on!

Vinyl on Vinyl
Among the online exhibitors this year: Space Encounters (pictured here), Archivo 1984, Avellana Art Gallery Silverlens, Tin-Aw, Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects, among many others.
What we miss from the old Art in the Park: bringing our kids and meeting up with good friends.

As with before, all pieces sold don’t go beyond P50,000. And sales will benefit the Museum Foundation of the Philippines. Here’s hoping to return to the real park next year.

Art in the Park online will run from August 10 to 17, visit their website to shop. (All photos here are by the author)

Mi KAZA es su Casa

I promised to post a full feature of KAZA Siargao which I missed out on in the vacation that didn’t happen. So here it is, the boutique hotel as designed by interior designer Kristine Neri-Magturo of Urban Abode (that’s her in the photo above, contemplating the Siargao surf).

The clean-lined facade inspired Kristine to pursue a simple, not-too-rustic design for the interiors. (All photos here are courtesy of Urban Abode)

Unlike the usual thatched-hut resorts in the surfing island of Siargao, KAZA is a hotel with a white, modern, clean-lined exterior that Kristine took direction from when designing her interiors.

Twiggy lamps in the common hallways. Numbers painted on oars (just seen) identify the rooms.

“I came in when the main building structure was around 80% complete, and it was so massive, I had to go for the industrial aspect of it, and they didn’t want to do cabana-style [interiors],” Kristine explains.

One of the bigger rooms at KAZA. Mismatched wooden planks mix with bare concrete walls, reed blinds, and traditional banig mats.

“I wanted to mix [that industrial style] with a tropical feel, and also showcase Philippine-made materials and pieces to soften the look,” the designer explains. “Since Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, it had to have a laidback feel that both local and foreign surfers could relate to.”

You’d notice that most of Kaza’s walls have a mix of bamboo, wood paneling, wooden inlays, or painted murals.

It does have that laidback surfer feel, but there is a lot of detailed elegance as well, as seen in the Hacienda Crafts lamps, the themed bathrooms, and the hotel-quality sheets mixed with inabel blankets. There are also a lot of wood-paneled feature walls, as the majority of wood were made of upcycled pieces from one of the hotel owners.

Classic wicker Peacock headboards (from Urban Abode) in a double room.

Kristine also commissioned artists to paint murals along the bedroom hallways and in the bathrooms, and asked them to “distress” the murals to make them look weathered, adding to the hotel’s nostalgic, organic feel.

Almost all of the bathrooms in KAZA have different themes, from all-white subway tiles, to colorful machuka, to handpainted murals.

Once this pandemic is over and the hotel has reopened, do visit KAZA in the future. For more about Kristine Neri-Magturo’s works and Urban Abode, visit them here.

A Tailored Home

Since I’m an old geezer in the design world, I love hanging out with younger designers and architects. They’re just so much lighter to be with; they have tons of fresh ideas, and they always help each other.

This 400sqm home designed by Rod Lascano, uses an open plan in the main living spaces. The live wood topped dining table is by OMO at LRI Design Plaza, and the chairs are from Philux (photos courtesy of the designer).

One of them is Rod Lascano, who I usually bump into at my favorite coffice (sorry, coffice is no more, what with the current pandemic). Rod is a firecracker, and juggles managing his décor biz Metier Home (lovely mod accessories and dinnerware!), spewing invectives online at national misdemeanors, and handling his design projects.

The beautiful ikitchen island also serves as an extra spot to entertain guests.

And what I like about his works is that whether it’s a milk tea shop or a posh lobby, there is always a certain clean crispness to it. Yes, clean, crisp—and polished, which is good!

The luxe kitchen is by Siematic. Drop lights here are from Luxen.

Polished is what I could describe this home that he designed for a family in AFPOVAI, Taguig City, along with co-designers Nadine and Lejeune de la Cruz. “Our overall concept for the design is to make a home that’s modern, but timeless,” Rod says. “We wanted to balance the solid colors with certain wooden textures to give warmth. We kept the colors neutral to add to that cozy feel.”

The living room’s sectional sofa is from Bo Concept. The enormous proportions are just right for this four-storey house for a family of six.
The double-volume ceiling is the perfect spot to hang these Schema pendant lamps.

Here are some photos of the home; there’s a comforting, modern toastiness to it (that sounds strange, but it does feel like it!). Meanwhile, follow Rod Lascano here, and Metier Home here.

All photos in this story are courtesy of the designer.

The Vacation That Didn’t Happen

It was the beginning of my longest weekend a couple of months after being retrenched when my dear friends Kristine Neri and Tom Castaneda asked me to hie off with them for a couple of days in Siargao, when it still was a bit under the hotness radar as a surf and sun destination. Sadly, for one reason or the other (mostly personal), I ended up not going. What an idiot I was.

One of Kristine Neri’s wonderful corners for Kaza Siargao: rustic brick, industrial cement, raw wicker, and modern tropical lamps from Hacienda Crafts (both images here are from Urban Abode).

And boy, look at what I missed: you see, Kristine was designing the interiors of KAZA Siargao, it wasn’t your usual beach resort. For starters, there’s a raw, industrial touch to it, with a dose of tropical modern. There’s also a hint of quirky sweetness to it, as seen in the curly pendant lamps in the hallways, along with the coral and turquoise-blue abel blankets in the bedrooms.

I wish I could say I would see it soon, but we won’t be going anywhere for a bit. 😦 Meanwhile, check out more photos of KAZA and Kristine Neri’s other projects here.


You won’t believe how much I missed the old KISH showroom along Reposo Street in Makati. I missed the launches and the Christmas parties filled with friends and designers mingling around the glittery Christmas trees mixed into a heady setting of 18th-century Scandinavian furniture, silver vessels, russet-colored kilims and Fornasetti plates that winked at you.

I missed it so much that when I went furniture sourcing along Reposo earlier this year, I dropped by the two-storey duplex that was the former KISH showroom (and the former, beautiful, Budji Layug showroom) and saw that it was now a Chinese spa and sauna. 😦

At the new KISH showroom: Santamaria stools and Binhi planters/loungers, both Ito Kish’s original designs. All images in this story are by the author (except for Good Luck Humans photo).

Fast-forward to the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, while the rest of us were soaking up Kdramas and baking ube pan de sal at home, (the original!) visual storyteller Ito Kish was hatching his new KISH showroom, this time near the Rockwell center area.

The new KISH entrance: (left) a valid question these days, (right) the curated, museum-like main entrance foyer of the store.

Nestled amidst industrial-style warehouses along JP Rizal avenue, the new KISH showroom is a surprising in many ways, location notwithstanding. The element of surprise is immediately seen its main entrance, where guests (one can only visit by appointment only, with all the safety protocols in place) enter a pitch-black foyer, lit like a museum and curated like one. Here, in the middle display podium, choice artifacts that are actually decor are exhibited, carefully chosen by Ito himself. The designer mentions that the pieces displayed in this area would be from his recent travels, and only of things he takes deep inspiration from.

The secret room behind a gray curtain holds a treasure trove of antique Scandinavian and European pieces.

The surprises continue onto the main showroom floor, which is beautifully styled with a mix of Ito’s own designs and furnishings from all over the world. Located at one side of the space is a secret room–you draw the gray curtain, and a totally different collection of ornate, antique Scandinavian and European furniture and accessories is revealed.

KIsh’s Retail Season 2 ‘s collaborators include Filip+Inna’s Len Cabili, who teamed up with Ito to create the Gregoria 2 Chair, seen at left.

To subtly (but stylishly) signal his return to design retail, Ito teamed up with Filip+Inna’s Len Cabili, pottery artist Joey de Castro, and Good Luck, Humans’ Apol Lejano to launch Ito Kish Retail Season 2. Each designer and artist’s collaboration with Ito is very KISH, yet each collaborator retains their own individual touch (I know that sounds strange, but that’s the only way I could explain it).

Joey de Castro’s quietly elegant pottery art. The unusual pottery lamps at upper right is his design collab with Ito.

Like for example , Len Cabili incorporated dozens of indigenous handmade fabrics and embroideries that are her signature fashion style into the delicate balusters of Ito’s iconic Gregoria Chair. Joey de Castro topped the wicker base of table lamps with earthy pottery lampshades, a sharp, visual contrast of proportion and play. And Apol Lejano’s whimsically tufted lucky buttons nestled amidst moss becomes Hardin, tucked into the Art Deco lines of Ito’s Arellano vases.

Ito’s own Basilisa bed paried with a Gregoria side cabinet.

The rest of the showroom is filled with delightful vignettes that showcase the impeccable visual merchandising and styling that every KISH store is known for. Each turn of the corner reveals yet another delightful travel find (100-year-old keys! Ceramic dog busts! Parisian objets!) mingling with mid-century modern and contemporary furniture. There truly is never a dull moment inside the store.

My favorite showroom piece: Roman helmets.
Framed Parisian objets above a Scandinavian sideboard (with antique hotel keys).

Visit KISH by appointment only, message them on Facebook or at mobile +63 917 182 0306. KISH is located at 1120 JP Rizal Avenue, Makati City.

Home Tour: My Own Home!

At the very height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, when everyone was either planting vegetables or baking pan de sal, the purveyors of style at fashion website Seek the Uniq called up to ask me if they could feature my home. The catch: because of the lockdown, I had to shoot and style it myself!

My home feature on Seek the Uniq (screencap from Seek the Uniq). All the other photos in this story are by the author.

Now I found this nerve-wracking at first, because after producing home shoots for more than 18 years, I was used to having a photographer and assistant, two stylists, and a writer on board at every shoot. And my home is terribly small and modest, just filled with all my secondhand finds and old family furniture. But Seek the Uniq consultant Vicky Marschadesch calmed me down and told me to treat it as a fun project, so I did.

My living room, which is blessed with natural light from the floor-ceiling-windows (I live in an old building). The wooden chairs are by Benji Reyes, the ottoman by Philux. The crewel-work throw is just scrap fabric from Schumacher.

I shot my home over the period of four days in 95-degree-heat (I had to hide all the clutter, and style each space around the activities of my young son!) using just my Huawei mobile phone on interiors setting mode, and perched it on a small tripod that I bought off the sidewalk (malls were still closed at that time). All rooms were shot in natural light. I’ll show a few of the images here, but if you want to see the rest, along with my interview, read the article here.

I try to fill each space with vignettes so that there’s always something the eye can rest on. The pineapple is from Heima, the faux snakeskin tray is from Firma Greenbelt. My uncle, a fellow Aquarian, gave me the amethyst crystal to help clear bad energy.
This is my work-from-home spot, as well as my son”s distance-learning spot (we do it in shifts). The painting is a gift from my friend Thor Balanon. The ceramics are by Joey de Castro, placemat is from Manila FAME by Vince Uy. Ive had my Tord Boontje lamp forever, and when I switch it on it still looks magical.
My decorator friend Grace Moslares painted my room a medium gray so it’ll be more soothing. The bird poster above the bed i just a P150 find from Biblio. I love to have a mix of lamps for different purposes: the red Kartell for mood lighting, and the sensor-touch Vibia lamp for reading.

To see more of the Stay-at-Home tours of Seek the Uniq, visit their website.