Home Tour: A Peaceful Refuge In The Suburbs
“If I could, I would live near the sea,” says Patsy Zobel de Ayala. But with daily life and work keeping her in Manila, she went after the next best thing: bringing the outdoors home. “I love everything about nature,” she says. “This house gives that to me."
The home of Patsy and Alexander Floro with their four children is a sprawling two-storey retreat in Alabang designed by the architect Noel Saratan, who also famously worked on her parents’ mountain house in Mindoro. He mentions that like their other projects together, Patsy’s home was a dream job because of their shared architectural philosophies.
“I have worked with Patsy for a long time, and I know her lifestyle well,” says Saratan. Besides being particular about natural light and ventilation, he understood the feeling of wanting to come home to something resort-like rather than purely residential. “It is my goal to create peaceful, healing, refreshing spaces where there can be utmost relaxation for the people who own them,” the architect shares.
The concept for the home was inspired by the property’s corner location, which gave Saratan the idea of starting with no gates leading into a magnificent driveway done in travertine and Piedra Pinoy (Ilocos sandstones). Elevated koi ponds made of Mindoro slates flank both sides of the steps to the front door. Because of the shape of the driveway, he visualised that on entering, the owners should immediately be able to see the garden. “The idea was to obscure the demarcation between the inside and outside,” says Saratan. As such, the front doors open into a lanai area rather than a foyer, where the landscaping details exude a visceral cooling effect: the 25-metre lap pool and water features; the traveller’s palms and tree ferns; the fragrant jasmine blooms. The lanai doors can be used or not depending on the weather.
The ceiling, which is made of UV-protected glass and tanguile (Philippine mahogany) wood panels, is another highlight. No two-panel designs are the same. “I like details,” says Saratan. “I like working with wood and with intricacies.” All-local woods are used in the home. The front doors are custom-made from the remnants of antique doors and windows, which were then steel-brushed for effect. “I wanted to have an old wood door to contrast with the new woods like tanguile and narra,” he says.
Above a floating koi pond, cantilevered stairs lead to the second storey, where most of the rooms have the advantage of a view. “Every room has at least one side that can be opened,” says Saratan. He removed traditional elements such as steel bars to evoke freedom. In the master’s bedroom veranda, for example, plant boxes double as guard rails so as not to hinder from a spectacular view of the pool below.
The master’s bedroom also features an outdoor bath, where the centrepiece is a stone tub Saratan brought in from Bali. “The outdoor bathroom is a standard of mine,” says the architect. “If there’s a chance for me to create one, I do it.” Saratan prefers his bathrooms to have full height and a privacy wall, instead of being enclosed spaces with small windows. “For me a bathroom isn’t just about the necessities,” he says. “It’s a room that should also be a pleasure to use.”
For furniture, Patsy turned to the designer Yolanda Johnson of Soumak, known for her artisanal home furnishings. “A very important thing for me is to have a house where I can put up my feet, and read, and work in any corner,” says Patsy. “For that, I love the furniture of Yola, which is so comfortable.”
For his part, Saratan only had to assure Patsy that the plan for the home was going to be a functional and comfortable one where she would have space for her interests. For example, there are walls for Patsy to display underwater photos by National Geographic husband-and-wife tandem David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes from an exhibit on the world-renowned Tubbataha reef, where she is involved as an advocate of maintaining marine life. “I love Filipino style and find it to be so beautiful and warm,” says Patsy of her inspirations. “There are a lot of places in the Philippines that I haven’t visited, so I’m excited to go out and to see where I can also help out.”
Speaking about their working relationship, she adds that she and Saratan think the same way. “I love everything he does. I like his style totally,” she says, describing it as Filipino and open. Patsy declares that she loves all the rooms in the house, with her preference depending on the time of day. “In the mornings we all have breakfast together in the dining room, but then I like taking my coffee and reading my newspaper in the lanai by the pool,” she shares. “In the afternoons, I will be more in my study or playing mahjong in the sitting room, or curled up reading a book on the super comfy bang sofas from Soumak.”
For Saratan, it is important to be involved in such projects, where there is an organic agreement about what a house should be able to do for people. For a big house, the open plan made even more sense. “I like knowing that the owners can actually use the rooms,” says Saratan. “Aside from creating a tropical atmosphere, I want to be sure about the flow of communication.”
The connected kitchen, dining, and living areas are an example of this, with the family foregoing the use of a formal dining room and turning that into an entertainment room instead. Everybody’s favourite area is around the outdoor misono table. “We would be here for years talking about memorable things that have happened,” says Patsy. “We prefer hosting intimate dinners to huge gatherings, and because of these connected areas, everything has become so participative, social, and special.”
“I don’t want the people in the house to just be disappearing into rooms,” adds Saratan. “People who live in a house together should be able to see each other.” For him, the ideal is to create not only visual but also emotional happiness, and as far as these qualities are concerned, Saratan can call this home a success. “We are absolutely happy here and have nothing more that we want to add,” says Patsy. “I feel that the house itself is already the main decoration.”
Photography: Dairy Darilag | Styling and Production: Mia Borromeo
Originally published in the latest Philippine Tatler Homes, which is now available in all leading newsstands and bookstores, and downloadable via Magzter, Zinio, or PressReader.