Home Tour: Designing Sisters Ivy And Cynthia Almario Transform A Skyscraper Flat Into A Home
One particular flat in the bustling heart of Bonifacio Global City answers the question, characterised as it is by warmth and charm. This particular flat is owned by Ramon “Chito” Villavicencio, chairman of Flying V, the country’s first independent petroleum company, and his wife Carol. It is also a place their family can happily call home.
“We actually live in a bigger house in Wack-Wack,” Chito says when asked about the property. “But I just retired and, seeing how all our children are grown and married, we thought it was time to move to a smaller place.” “This is more like a ‘halfway house,’” Carol adds with a laugh. “This is more of a weekend home for us. It’s right beside Shangri-La [at the Fort], and we wanted a place close to a hotel because [my husband] enjoys going out. We could go just about anywhere from here.”
Despite the flat’s proximity to some of the metro’s best restaurants and entertainment hubs, the Villavicencios wanted to turn the flat into a home where their entire family could relax and enjoy each other’s company, as well as a space where they could host gatherings with friends. To bring this transformation about, they called in designers Ivy and Cynthia Almario.
Transforming a standard-issue luxury flat was a challenge that the sisters gladly took up. “I started with the interior architectural planning [soon after our first meeting],” Ivy says of the project. “When we interviewed them, they said that they had a big family, so even the dining table had to accommodate at least 12. They brought us to the model unit and they wanted us to match or even exceed that level of luxury.”
The end result was a unique flat that combines elegance and warmth in equal measure. Located on the 43rd storey with a generous floor area of almost 300 square metres along with a stunning 180-degree view of the urban landscape below, the space was originally a three-bedroom unit that was given several modifications to suit the needs of this particular client.
Given the family’s penchant for entertaining, the Almarios went with an open concept for the public areas of the space so people could move around freely. It was an idea that made the most out of the flat’s unusual layout where the first thing one sees upon entering is the bar on the immediate right.
“That space was originally the kitchen,” Cynthia Almario explains. “We wanted to conceal it behind sliding doors. But [Carol] wanted a bar adjacent to the dining room.” The conversion of the original kitchen into a bar led to the creation of separate kitchen spaces, considering the Villavicencios’ needs.
The kitchen-bar conversion was one of several modifications that the Almarios made to the unit. Given their clients’ requirements, there was a need for a master’s bedroom that would combine comfort and convenience. “We knocked down the wall between two rooms to turn them into the master suite,” Cynthia says, pointing out the immensity of the room which features a spacious sitting area set around an entertainment system, in front of the bed. The space also boasts of his-and-hers bathrooms just a few steps away, as well as ample storage for clothing and other personal items.
At the same time, there was also an issue regarding a green space that Carol could retreat to with her guests. For this, the sisters transformed one of the inner rooms into a stylised garden.
“I was conscious about giving Carol a garden,” Cynthia says. “As they are on the 43rd floor, I wanted to give her an oasis.”
And what an oasis: pale green Chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper transforms the small room into an urban conservatory without having to add actual plants into the space. The area is furnished with plush couches, and the air is perfumed with fragrances that evoke the sense of being in a cool, verdant garden.
The sisters delivered a space that is a combination of classic and contemporary elements. The bedroom walls are papered in so, welcoming shades which invite those who come in to be at their ease. In the public spaces of the home, the walls are clad in slabs of Italian onyx whose appearance, once the walls were fully assembled, was that of deeply lined letter Vs—a paean, perhaps, to the owners?
“That wasn’t deliberate!” Cynthia exclaims. “In fact, we only noticed the Vs when we were finished with the construction!”
Several elements call to mind solid luxury: the Almarios’ use of European-style furniture, dark-stained wood floors, and the placement of elegant objets d’art collected by the family. One side of the dining area is mirrored to make the area appear more spacious than it is. Despite these bespoke touches, one notices homey items that make the space friendlier and more welcoming: family pictures are distributed among side tables, antique heirlooms from the Agoncillos of Batangas—the maternal side of Chito’s family—positioned in the small office and the dining area, and soft, comfortable seating that can be enjoyed even by the youngest members of the family.
This, for the Almarios, is par for the course. For them, the most rewarding moment is when they see the appreciation in their client’s eyes. More than just a beautiful space, the client is given a warm and welcoming home that elevates their everyday experience from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
This article was originally published in Philippine Tatler Homes Vol 23. To bring you all the latest interior trends and practical advice for styling your home, subscribe to Philippine Tatler Homes through here.
- Photography Toto Labrador