Home Tour: How Budji+Royal Architecture+Design Maximised This House's Limited Space
How does one maximise a limited amount of space? If you pose that question to designer Budji Layug and architect Royal Pineda, they will tell you that the question ought to be “How do you transform a limited amount of space?”
The powerhouse duo behind Budji+Royal Architecture+Design has answered that question with a house that certainly looks a great deal larger than its full 500 square metres.
“The owners of the house are artists and designers,” Pineda says of the clients who commissioned the house. “They wanted a house with modern sensibilities, but also one where they could maximise the space.”
This wasn’t the only challenge the team faced with regard to this particular structure. Located in a gated community near Antipolo, Rizal, the clients had to contend with a local ordinance that forbade the construction of fences and gates around individual properties. As luck would have it, the natural environment of the location provided the perfect solution.
The area surrounding the property was a lush urban forest that serves as a habitat for over 60 species of native birds. That said, trees, ferns, and other plants endemic to Rizal province grew in profusion throughout the area, and the ones surrounding the house formed a natural perimeter barrier that doubles as a privacy screen protecting those dwelling within.
“The clients actually wanted to cut down the trees,” Layug recalls. “But we told them: ‘We have to respect what is there.’ And what is there is the beauty and peace of nature.”
As there are no fences, a natural green border covers the 1.5-metre distance between the house and the main road. Just across the street, a clear brook adds another touch of visual and auditory appeal to the area.
The resulting structure is divided into three levels. The lowest, the house’s basement, contains the carport and utilities. The ground floor is an expansive open-layout living area that allows for easy, unimpeded movement from the main sitting room, to the dining room, to the kitchen. Glass sliding doors are a key element for this part of the house, allowing a maximum of ambient light to illuminate it in the daytime, and also opening it up to include theverdant garden outdoors as a way of bringing an al fresco touch, so to speak, indoors. Likewise, an indoor veranda overlooks the sitting room and the high ceiling—around 6 to 6.5 metres from the floor—also helps keep the house cool even on the hottest days of summer.
Originally, the second floor was supposed to consist of five bedrooms. However, the team convinced the client to merge two rooms to create a master’s suite that combines comfort and elegance, creating the perfect sanctuary to come home to at the end of the day. One other key point on the second floor is the addition of a wide deck with wide, magnificent views of the forest canopy—practically an ocean of green as far as the eye can see.
“Imagine standing there, gazing up at the sky, and knowing that you get a completely different view every day,” Pineda says with a smile. “It really is a celebration of nature.”
“We wanted the structure to be responsive to the environment,” Layug adds. “In order to do that, we always try to approach it from the basics.”
By “basics,” Pineda and Layug are referring to the design principles of the bahay-kubo, the simple nipa hut that served as a home for many Filipinos prior to and even well after the colonial era. But while steel, concrete, and glass have replaced wicker and bamboo as building materials, the principles remain the same: natural cross-ventilation to keep the space cool; wide windows to bring air and light into the structure, limiting the need for electrical lighting and cooling; and nature framed in such a way that the house seems like a natural part of the environment as opposed to an inorganic object encroaching upon it.
It is also a neater approach to design. “You don’t need to put in so many elements for space planning,” Pineda explains. “All you need is a fluid plan, and the space borrows connectivity from nature.” Indeed, this particular structure does not involve the usual compartmentalised architecture that so characterises many modern homes. The ceiling and eaves are seamless, and the way external paths and interior staircases are designed calls to mind natural movement: an easy meandering flow from one point to another.
For all its modern sensibilities, however, there is something characteristically Filipino about the interiors of this house. One of Layug’s dynamic paintings dominates a wall in the sitting room, reminiscent of traditional tribal motifs with its bold brushstrokes and monochromatic palette. There are abaca benches on the deck, and the classic solihiya weave used in local furniture gets a modern twist with the use of wire in sturdy but aesthetically onpoint chairs for the roofdeck. Kenneth Cobonpue pieces in key areas of the house further bolster the emphasis on modern Filipino design.
Layug refers to the aesthetic that characterises this particular project as “practical luxury”—essentially the art of maximising any given space and transforming it into a comfortable living environment where one can relax, socialise, and be at peace with the world.
- Photography Marc Henrich Go