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Inside Architects Jason And Nikki Buensalido's Art Gallery-Like Home

On a regular day, the ground floor is strewn with two-and-a-half-year-old Annika’s toys. But during the shoot for this feature, they were all stashed away, allowing a clean view. And there is much to see in the residence of Jason and Nikki Buensalido.

The laser cutouts on the living room cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling immediately captivate. The lights, which are set at the back, project different shapes and shadows. The patterns are like banderitas seen in typical Filipino festivities.


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The Moon System lounge by Zaha Hadid for B&B Italia occupies most of the living room. Above the door is one of Jason Buensalido’s sculptures. Flanking the TV are Ronald Ventura’s art toys, Anito Bart. On the walls are works by Michelle Perez, Anton Mallari, and Martin Honasan.


“We wanted a positive environment for our baby, no negative vibes in this house. That’s why there’s a lot of vibrant colors, there’s a lot of texture. We wanted this to be an optimistic place, something that’s very hopeful. A place that allows us to celebrate life on a daily basis for us to be happy. Happiness starts within, so happiness should start in the home,” declares Jason, who moved into the property with his wife Nikki in 2012, two months after their wedding.

Both architects at the helm of their own firm, the couple deeply values creativity. Jason explains, “When you talk about creativity, you need to have a larger mindset in terms of what is currently possible. That’s the kind of office that we run; we’re progressive, we push the boundaries and then we sort of imagine possibilities. We challenge the status quo, in a way.


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Sitting on the Bonaldo side tables is a piece by Vito Selma and a small tray by Hay.


“That’s why I love surrounding myself with art because artists see beyond the current reality. They start a discussion, but they don’t necessarily provide answers. By allowing myself to be exposed to alternate realities through the eyes of these artists, when I come back to this reality we’re in, the design process, so many ideas, I’m thinking, what if we try this? And we find solutions! Because that’s what architecture and design is, it’s all about problem-solving and solution-finding,” he points out.

But the opportunity to apply the solutions don’t always come right away. “In architecture, we need a client to build, unless we develop it ourselves. It’s always a response, therefore, you have some creative frustrations in terms of your expression,” Jason discloses. He releases some of these by dabbling in sculpture. His works occupy the walls, alongside those of his wife’s and of big names in the local scene.


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Husk armchair and Fat-Fat circular small tables designed by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.


Eclectic art collection

Their art collection is eclectic, making every nook and cranny of the four-storey a delight to the senses. The range goes from conventional to augmented reality, cute to gory, and everything in between; many are purely decorative while others are functional. Some of the artists in the mix are Lor Calma, Arturo Luz, Ang Kiukok, Martin Honasan, Ronald Ventura, Michael Cacnio, Anton Mallari, Daniel de la Cruz, Keb Cerda, RG Habulan, Demi Padua, Siefred Guilaran, Miggy Borja, Jonathan Ching, Salvador Bañares, JR Urao, J Pasena, Art Sanchez and the Santoses: Mauro “Malang” Soler, and Luis. Jason eagerly shares a little something behind each work, be it technique or message. “I love talking to artists, I know all of their stories,” he enthuses.


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In the dining area is Jonathan Ching’s painting. The table was commissioned by the couple and first used at their wedding, the chairs are from Magis. The lights, which resemble birds, are called Pamana by That One Piece Enterprise.


A few of those on display were commissioned. In a corner of the hobby loft is Ram Mallari’s interpretation of Jason’s brain, continuously churning one architecture project after another with passion. Mounted elsewhere is an ingenious frame of rolled paper especially made by Taka Coloma for Nikki, as requested by Jason for their second anniversary. Thread artist Ginny Alcaide produced a sketch of Annika even before her gender was revealed to her parents. And on the little girl’s bedroom wall is Kris Abrigo’s rendition of the meaning of her name—grace and favor.


Jason and his daughter Annika call this painting “Watcher Boy” by Miggy Borja. It is strategically situated so that it’s looking over the ground.


A recent arrival to their home is this collage by Demi Padua.


 The hobby loft holds creations of Ram Mallari, Pete Jimenez, Lor Calma, Michael Cacnio, Salvador Bañares, Art Sanchez, and Daniel de la Cruz.


“All of these art pieces were not acquired because they will go with the space. I just go to a gallery and if I like it, if I relate to it, then I get it. If it fits, then great, if not, let’s see where it can fit,” Jason explains.

Choices were not always unanimous between the couple. “We really agreed on the core concept like the lighting, the storage, the flooring. A lot of things we agreed on, but there’s a lot of things that she gave in to me and that I gave in to her. Most of the time it’s me who’s more aggressive in collecting art or getting a furniture piece. Of course, I show it to her first. If she says yes, then it’s a go. If she says no, then maybe I’ll save it for another time,” he jests.


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The master bedroom has artworks by Anton Mallari and JR Atienza. Eye-catching textiles are courtesy of New York-based industrial carpenter designer Iñigo Elizalde.


This work area is also where Jason and Nikki enjoy rare late night snacks of fast-food takeout. Overhead is another sculpture by Jason. The Swan chair and art by Mimi Tecson provide pops of pink to the space.


Jason emphasizes the importance of freedom in their method. “In terms of strict mixing and matching, it shouldn’t exist here. There’s not a lot of rules that we follow in terms of design, we try to break the rules. Of course, we try to master the rules, we try to learn them as best as we can so that we can break them.”


The dining table was designed by Jason, originally for office use. The chairs are from Space Encounters. Artworks are by Ombok Villamor and Rey Aurelio. 


They roll out the bar for post-dinner drinks with guests. The guitar belongs to Jason who played in his high school and college bands. Framed piece on the wall is by Ovidio Espiritu III. 


Baby-proofing the house

An example is the seemingly random combination of geometric patterns of their black and white-tiled floors, of the overhead light by That One Piece Enterprise, of the dining room chairs by Magis with the softness of the B&B Italia Husk armchair and circular small tables designed by Patricia Urquiola, and the Moon System lounge by Zaha Hadid. Somehow it works. “That sofa is rounder because we have a baby,” justifies Jason.


The sofa is from Omo Furniture by Mila Naval. Printed chair set is by Moroso. The colorful sculpture by Louie Cordero is Annika’s “friend”. On the walls are works of Gao Rezaga and Kevin Balboa.


When Nikki got pregnant, they did some renovations to prepare for the arrival of another family member. Jason says, “We had to baby-proof the entire house.” A glass balustrade was added to the staircase. They also moved the master bedroom to make way for the baby’s. While they were at it, they added a sky garden, which acts like a canopy on top of the garage. One could glimpse luscious plants in pots of gray, white, and blush.

The penthouse was originally the roof deck, which they had enclosed. “I put in future provisions for a bedroom. In case we have another baby, we can move up and give the other bedroom to the other baby,” he says. Right now, it’s where they entertain guests. From the ceiling hangs a swing by Space Encounters, where Jason used to rock Annika to sleep after their morning sunning session.


The sky garden, located on the second level is a product of the most recent renovation of their townhouse.


From an internal floor area of 120 square meters, the unit has expanded to roughly 200 square meters post renovation. “We’re still designing, we’re still not done renovating. It’s kind of always evolving because in order to be creative, you need to always be open to change. By exposing yourself to outside your bubble, then your realities expand; if your realities expand, then your creativity also expands. And the way we design is experimental so all the more we are going to experiment with our own house,” he concludes.

Clearly, it is not only two-and-a-half-year-old Annika at play in this house.


Photographs by Jar Concengco for Metro Home magazine


*This article was originally published in Metro Home & Entertaining.