Style builds on itself and never stands still. It is precisely this design philosophy that interior designer Anna Jose judiciously employed while renovating the home of her father, ABS-CBN media magnate Freddie Garcia. “When dad decided to move to Makati, he asked me if I could help him renovate,” she shares. “So far, I’ve only designed my dad’s units. I was basically helping the family out.”
Nestled in a genteel neighborhood, the four-bedroom, 367-sq.m. unit was in dire need of restoration. Previously leased to tenants for the good part of two decades, it would be the first time the property would be occupied by a family member. The age of the building added a unique hiccup to the project. “Before we started, I was trying to look for all the blueprints of the unit. I didn’t find any,” Anna confides. “The building was pretty old, almost 20 years, one of the first condo buildings in the neighborhood.”
You may also like:
Despite this, the odds proved to be surmountable for the designer. “Basically, it was easy to renovate the unit because dad knew what he wanted,” Anna shares. “He tells me what he wants, and I just put it all together. Of course, there are deadlines to be met so you need to make sure that everything gets done.” Work began in January 2019 and completed in July 2019, a definitive nod to Anna’s project management skills.
To revitalize the property, father and daughter tossed around several design options. For a brief moment, they flirted with the idea of a Mediterranean-inspired theme before finally settling for the English Colonial aesthetic. It is a look that is not easy to pull off, where the framework lies in blending disparate stylistic elements into a harmonious and unified design: classic British formality melding beautifully with sun-kissed exotic locations that made up the bygone empire. To successfully achieve it, a place had to evoke a sensibility that is at once bold and soft, evocative of comfortable luxury and rich in a diversity of textures and cultural influences.
It is precisely this intimate interaction of things that don't usually go together that lends an eclectic charm to the entire Garcia abode. Stepping into the foyer, the first whispers of the observable success of the renovation project welcome guests. The hallway leads to an open plan area framed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering a picturesque expanse of Makati’s skyline. Anna opted for a pale, muted palette to help enlarge the room. “For the English colonial design, it’s nice to have high ceilings,” shares Anna. “Here, we didn’t have that luxury, so we opted for white walls and ceilings to make the unit seem bigger. We also used mirrors to achieve the sense of space.” This is important, at least psychologically, as a measured response to an integral Filipino preference of aliwalas, a culturally dictated yearning for expansive living spaces.
Texture is king with English Colonial design, so Anna divided the space into well-defined areas, delineated by heavy, tapestry-style Persian rugs.
In the dining area, the antique set of an exquisite, intricately carved Chippendale chairs and matching buffet tables announces itself elegantly and without ostentation. Beautifully finished in cherry wood, the entire furniture collection picks up the ruddy tones of the Persian rug that Anna designated for the area. A crystal chandelier adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to the otherwise eclectic tableaux.
For the living room, Anna opted for oversized comfortable seat options from Ethan Allen in light and neutral shades that lend a lovely contrast to the beautifully finished wooden floors and coffee tables. It is a quaint spot that invites guests to relax and unwind.
Given the triangular shape of the room, this area made for a particularly challenging interior design conundrum for Anna. “I wanted the guests to enjoy the view,” she shares. “But I can’t make the sofas face that way because of the orientation of the space.” Anna solved it by having the two sofas face each other and incorporating a spatial anchor. “Since we have the bar cabinet as the focal point of the living area, this would be the center,” she points out.
Framed by the design's clean lines and a well curated blending of finishes, the bespoke bar cabinet creates a stylish accent for the area. Housing a curio of oriental vases on open side shelves, its doors open to reveal a stemware rack for hanging wine glasses and snifters, a built-in wine rack for preferred vintages, and spacious shelved storage for bar essentials and a variety of liquors and spirits.
The bar cabinet is also a clue to her father’s penchant for having family and friends over to visit. “My dad as a host is full of life,” reveals Anna. “He loves entertaining.”
In keeping with a hallmark trait of the English Colonial style, the lush fronds of potted palms and arrangements of white flowers in crystal vases soften the look of the room, adding a touch of tonal variation while giving a touch of the Philippine tropics. Anna stresses the importance of selecting the right touches of floral accents. “Flowers in muted tones, no spring arrangements, please,” she admonishes. “I like white because it’s crisp and clean, simple and elegant. You’ll never go wrong with Phalaenopsis Blume orchids. Casa Blanca is also a classy choice.”
Punctuations of elements and memorabilia are also fundamental in creating the layered, multicultural look of the English Colonial style. To bring a global expression to the entire unit, Anna mixed together a wealth of eclectic accoutrements sourced from the main family house. “I was able to save a lot. Since dad had a lot of accessories, I didn’t have to buy anymore,” Anna laughs. “Coffee table books, knickknacks, everything came from his house.”
The entire aesthetic was also grounded by a clear statement of Filipino identity through the smattering of important Philippine art pieces: paintings and sculptures by greats such as Arturo Luz, Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, and Impy Pilapil, among others, punctuate walls and occupy nooks, offering a peek into her father's distinguished taste. It was the media boss himself who chose the paintings.
Horses are an underlying motif, judging from the number of art pieces found throughout the place that bear the animal's image. A bronze sculpture of exuberantly racing horses stands proudly on a coffee table while an oriental-looking wooden steed stands behind a mustard tinged jar. Another bronze stallion perches his hooves atop a pile of books, while yet another wooden sculpture captures a galloping courser goaded by a young boy frozen in mid-action. A gilded frame hosts a painting of frolicking stallions. “He loves them,” says Anna fondly. Horses, of course, symbolize freedom and power, of moving from one place to the next unrestrained.
The bedrooms are comfortably sophisticated spaces, what with the pared down elegance of contemporary furniture from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel. Anna installed wooden panels and floating shelves to add more warmth to the area. Woven details, another key ingredient to English Colonial design, add an interesting contrast. “I got this because of the solihiya pattern,” Anna says, pointing to a chair she had reupholstered to coordinate with the rest of the furnishings. “It matched the headboard.”
All the bathrooms were renovated to look identical to each other, complete with automated water closets and full-length mirrors. Convenience was paramount. They gutted out all the bathtubs and converted the spaces into shower stalls, retaining only the tub in the master’s bath. “We changed everything: tiles, all the fixtures, shower enclosures,” relates Anna, disclosing that the white marble design was based on those they encountered in the Peninsula hotel in Beijing, including the capiz shell frames which she had copied. “Dad fell in love with their bathroom.”
Her dad’s personal zones also had to have a vital piece. “He loves to watch TV,” Anna shares. “He has to have one in his bedroom and in his study.” For the study, a customized wall cabinet in dark wood finish was installed to house the entertainment fixture, as well as to store her father’s knickknacks, and to exhibit the plaques and trophies Mr. Garcia accumulated throughout his long career.
Click on the images for slideshow
Horses are a big motif when it comes to Garcia's personal effects.
A Tam Austria is the elegant dining room's piece de resistance.
The entrance hallway.
The bedroom is all about comfort and sophistication.
A bronze scuplture depicting racehorses beside a Bencab.
A bronze sculpture. Right, a glass Impy Pilapil.
Many of the pieces are from Garcia's old house. Right, another horse object, galloping in the living room below an Arturo Luz painting.
Racehorses in bronze.
A wooden horse sculpture on one of the shelves.
Anna also appreciated her father’s keen appreciation for design details. “Dad is very matiyaga when looking for things he wanted,” Anna discloses, adding that he accompanied her during her furniture hunting excursions. “When I look at furniture, he tells me: ‘Anna, what do you think of this sofa and all? Will it look nice in the unit?’”
While family collaborations sometimes turn out to be a sore experience for most, such was not the case between Anna and her father. The project further bonded the two together, owing to several months of close collaboration. “Dad is always very encouraging, with anything that I decide to do. He also appreciates what I do,” Anna shares. “It’s nice to hear from him, because sometimes it’s hard to please him. When he compliments me for a job well done, it touches me.”
This story first appeared in Metro Home & Entertaining's latest issue. Photographs by Daniel Soriano