Home Tour: A Minimalist Sanctuary At The Fort
It was not too long ago when the architect and interior designer Juan Antonio “Anton” Mendoza was commissioned to put together this minimalist masterpiece. The 350-square-metre apartment, located within the luxurious Horizon Homes at Shangri-La at the Fort, is the Manila residence of a Filipino finance executive based in Hong Kong, his wife, and their three young children. It is where they stay when the man of the house needs to fly back for work, or when they decide to visit for the weekend.
Prior to purchasing the unit, the family would stay with relatives or check in at a hotel whenever they were in town. It was only last year when they decided to get their own place in the city. “Since they travel a lot, they wanted a space they could easily lock up and leave without having to worry about anything,” notes the designer.
When it came to dressing up the home, the couple adopted a similarly straightforward and uncomplicated approach. The lady of the house was very much a fan of the clean lines and streamlined elements that characterise Japanese architecture and design. It was precisely for this reason that they tapped Mendoza, who is recognised for his contemporary elegant aesthetic, to take charge of furnishing their pied-à-terre. The couple had first come across the architect’s work through features they had read. One day, they happened to visit a showflat he had designed for a prestigious developer in Makati, and it validated their initial decision to commission him to do their apartment.
Construction began last year, just after a few weeks of brainstorming and consultations on palettes and themes. “They had reached me via e-mail, then we met-up in Manila and discussed their preferences and requirements,” recounts Mendoza of his early meetings with the owners. “Their children were also given the opportunity to specify colour preferences—the son’s choice of blue and the daughter’s favourite colour, lavender, influenced the colour scheme of the home.”
As soon as the preliminary design work was completed, the designer set out to transform the space. The existing structure was enhanced and polished with his signature sharp edges, clean angles, and sleek surfaces. Wood shelving units were installed along the foyer to hold the family’s prized art pieces.
Décor-wise, Mendoza, who has an affinity for storied pieces and infusing his works with such, found kindred spirits in the owners, both of whom happen to be avid art and antique collectors themselves. In as much as his architecture is clean, streamlined, and contemporary, his interiors brim with eclectic flavour and references to the past. The couple had the same inclination, and eagerly put out their own trove of treasures to adorn the space. “The lady of the house collects fine Song Dynasty celadon and blue and white antique Ming Dynasty porcelain,” says the designer. Originally made for use at the emperors’ courts, historic porcelain pieces are some of the most collected antiques in the world. The creamy jade glaze of the former and the intricate cobalt blue patterns over the milky white bases of the latter complement the sophisticated interiors of the space. “We also had to incorporate her husband’s collection of oil paintings by Filipino masters Romulo Olazo and Fernando Zóbel. It resulted in a clever mix of contemporary art and classic pieces,” he adds. One of Olazo’s masterpieces hangs by the living area. Its size, abstract shapes, and monochromatic color scheme make it a striking focal point for the home’s common area—a true conversation piece.
Among the couple’s most notable objets d’art are traditional byōbu (screens) from Japan’s Edo period, which date as far back as the 17th century. Crafted out of wood and gold paper, the multi-panelled screens, which bear hand-painted vignettes of nature and life in ancient Japan, provide the perfect counterpoint to the apartment’s minimalist and contemporary structure, and thus enhance the character of the space. One hangs by the dining table. It features a flock of cranes hanging by a forest lake. The scene lends a sense of ease and tranquility to the place.
Apart from beautifying the home, however, the historic screens also serve important functions around the space. There is one in the living room, for instance, that acts as a cover-up for the 80-inch television screen perched on the wall. It was artfully installed this way after the owners expressed their vision for the room. They wanted the living room to double as a family room. There were to be no TV screens in the bedrooms and the man of the house insisted to have one large television cleverly embedded in the living room wall and concealed by one of the Edo screens, only to be revealed when necessary. It is here where they all bond as a family. This is perhaps the room they themselves use most; it’s not just for entertaining guests.
Apart from the living-slash-family room, the couple and their children count their bedrooms as their favourite areas in the apartment. “The owners love the comfort and privacy of their own bedroooms,” says the designer. Each one is outfitted with plush beds and mood lighting for a relaxing ambience. Desks and cushy chairs are also placed in certain corners of each bedroom, creating small nooks where the family can sit back and unwind.
Construction of the apartment finished just a year after it began. It would have been completed sooner, but the designer and his team had to abide by the rules, or the controlled construction hours, of the exclusive residential building. Nonetheless, the space was finished, polished, and turned over just in time for the owners to move in for the holidays.
On New Year’s Eve, Mendoza received a photograph from the family—a gesture of gratitude for his work in their new dwelling. “It was their first Christmas in Manila, and in their own home no less. They were so delighted with their apartment that they had sent me a family selfie saying, ‘Happy New Year! Our first in the wonderful place you created for us.’” One can only imagine the many memorable weekends and holidays the owners will continue to spend in this urban sanctuary. It’s the perfect place for the man of the house to come home to after a busy day of travel and work, and for the young family to escape to during their free weekends. The uncomplicated interior structure and mix of precious personal articles combined create a dwelling that is at once bright, roomy, and comfortingly familiar.
- Photography Toto Labrador