An interior designer's compact city retreat

An interior designer's compact city retreat 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2006 issue
Metro Home & Entertaining

Forty square meters. That's all the new studio owner had to work with in her new little cubbyhole in one of Makati's newest high rise condominiums. But for this on-the-go restaurateur and interior designer, it turned out to be more than enough.

"When I got this studio, I just wanted to try out having a small space near my restaurant, a half-way house if you will," she recalls. "But having spent several nights here already, I've realized what a huge convenience it is."

The long commutes home to the family residence south of Manila during the week have lessened. More than just a place to rest or freshen up before zooming off to the next meeting, the space has been imbued with a more meaningful purpose. "It's become somewhat of a spiritual center for me. I come here to clear my mind. I even hold Bible study sessions here."

The elegant purity of the tiny space is the handiwork of interior designer Ana Rocha. Emphasizing that this is a place intended to reconnect with clarity, the designer draped white shower curtains by the door to create a small foyer. Stepping through them creates a sense of entering a space shielded from the outside world.

To encourage the cleansing of noise from the mind, the designer retained the studio's original white color. Creating the illusion of added space, she unified a pair of sofas and a daybed against one side of the room by upholstering them in white as well. For practical purposes, she ingeniously employs fabric that's usually used for sneakers. "They're super easy to clean. You just wipe with a rag and you're done!" exclaims the designer. She clad the pillows in the same semi-waterproof fabric she used to create the foyer.

For entertaining the occasional small group of friends, two square wooden tables are placed together to create a long table for dining. A long bench against the walls and chairs on the other create variety while still maintaining a Zen atmosphere. For a personalized touch of creativity, the designer transformed a set of capiz bowls and cups that she "couldn't stand" into centrepieces with a simple glue gun.

Touches of color are courtesy of paintings of fruits and vegetables hung above the couches. "At least that's what they look like to me!" she jokes. Further enhancing the vertical clearance of the studio, two standing lamps are placed on elevated surfaces, making their shades almost graze the ceiling. The lamps' coconut tree trunk design adds an organic element to the room as they flank the picture window.

An elongated oriental lamp in the middle of the room adds a touch of whimsy. "You've got have fun!" encourages the lady of the house. "You have to pick out things that make you happy."

Ana Rocha designs a multicultural Asian-safari home

Ana Rocha designs a multicultural Asian-safari home
By Walter Ang
June-August 2006 issue
Metro Home & Entertaining magazine

A safari awaits visitors to the home of this Filipina and her Irish husband. As one treads through the foyer, the feet and eyes are led into an open space that serves as the living area. Awash in varying hues of the earth, an organic sensation of earth and sand persists, yet a lightness of being pervades.

A herd of elephant figurines and a nest of ostrich eggs are stationed in the living area table. Surrounding it are three long sofas. Swathed in fabrics with interweaving elements, they meld into one another despite their girth. The moss color of this is found in the other, the textured fabric of that is repeated in that one over there, and so on. Leaf motifs are iterated and textures are alternated in the multitude of pillows, almost like a neat row of foliage.

Further down this rectangle hall is another seating area. Surrounded by four wooden chairs, a large kawa (carved from single piece of wood) rises from the floor like a well. Above it is a lighting fixture hung low, in a diaphanous casing that brings to mind the moon. And as if being teased by a mirage, one realizes that the same light also hangs by the sofas.

"I actually designed the whole living space around those two lighting fixtures," recounts interior designer Ana Rocha. "Since the homeowners have three beautiful children, I wanted to imbue this home with a sense of brightness and life. I wanted to explore the things that make them happy."

Nestled into one of the southern Makati villages, the homeowners hunted down Ana to lead the design expedition for their new house. Trekking onwards from her initial concept, Ana has achieved a homey sophistication with her clever compositions.

Using the homeowners' existing furniture and d├ęcor pieces culled from their travels, Ana edited out "pieces that were too whimsical" and layered everything together with finds from antique stores. With several pieces of the homeowners' Oriental wooden chests, bureaus and armoires at her disposal, Ana created what she calls "a multi- cultural Asian safari with an influence of Filipino, Thai and Chinese."

Bending the rules is key in Ana's design aesthetic. "I love to exaggerate and mix things around. Traditionally, the smaller seating area comes before the living area, but I reversed them and brought the kawa closer to the lanai. The Chinese buffet table is used together with locally crafted chairs to create a more interesting combination."

Ana utilizes lighter fabrics and color to keep the darker wood tones and larger furniture pieces from weighing the room down too much. Curtains that recall the color of ivory tusks billow in the wind while shaggy abaca rugs defines her areas.

Punches of color come from paintings flanking the living area together with anahaw leaves freshly picked from the garden. Mixing old and new, organic and structured, Ana punctuates the space with Thai metal figurines with geometric lampshades in staggered heights. "Don't be afraid to mix and match!" she urges.

While Ana juggles this delicate balance, she also makes sure that fun is an integral part of the jigsaw puzzle. True enough, as one traverses the hall, a tremendous pop of fuchsia suddenly springs out from the dining area. The walls and even the curtains here all revel in this whimsical color.

"I like using colors to stimulate the senses. The dining area of a home should make your eyes hungry first. This color is great for tickling the mind first, then it translates into the palette. I want this dining area to make you want to eat!" she explains.

Again, the careful blending of elements comes into play. The wild wall color is anchored by a wooden dining table. A table runner embroidered with golden curlicues are deliberately placed off to the side. "It's just a little bit of fun as part of the design. The design is rich and condensed, but the fabric is light, airy organza, so it doesn't feel heavy at all."

Ana expands this intimate space by simply using mirrors that face the windows, bringing in more of the outside. She reinforces the Oriental touches from the living area courtesy of a wall painting featuring Thai elephants. It's an apt symbol of the life journey that the homeowners and their children (who have lived in the house for only a month) are sure to embark on.