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This Family Home Shows A Fine Balance Between Nature and The Built Environment

Budji Layug and Royal Pineda create a light and airy home using their signature flourishes

“Beneath the pleasure generated by the juxtaposition of order and complexity, we can identify the subsidiary architectural virtue of balance. Beauty is a likely outcome whenever architects skillfully mediate between any number of oppositions, including the old and the new, the natural and the man-made, the luxurious and the modest, and the masculine and the feminine,” the Swiss philosopher, Alain de Botton says in The Architecture of Happiness.

When the esteemed design duo, designer Budji Layug and Architect Royal Pineda designed this home, they seemed to be shaping it in a manner that fully embraces this statement.

Budji Layug and Royal Pineda did away with solid walls in order to give this home a light, airy and open feel. Its main feature is this double height living room. In keeping with the theme of lightness, the stairwell feels buoyant, owing to its glass balustrade. OPPOSITE PAGE: Once nondescript, the home now has an inviting facade, capitalizing on a play on materials, between polished and rough, wood and stone. | Paul del Rosario

The Design Brief

“This project was a major, major renovation,” Royal begins to narrate of the year and a half process that their design firm took to arrive at the current results—open, light, airy, transparent. Their clients came to them with a photo of the house, to which the architect responded, “Where is the front of your house?” Immediately, their clients conceded, “That’s our problem, Architect. We don’t know where the face or the façade of our house is because we don’t see the design happening according to the renderings or the promise of the design,” Royal reminisces of their initial conversations. This dilemma offered a blank canvas for the design, followed by a very detailed questionnaire that the clients had to fill in as a brief for the design team. The wish list was so specific that it described the clients’ days, from Monday to Sunday, including each family member’s routine every waking moment, from the time they rise from bed, to the minute they return to it.

To make circumstances more complicated, Budji and Royal were enlisted into the project eighty percent into its completion. In order to successfully tackle the fruition of the home, the team had to take it back to a forty to fifty percent completion stage, make their interventions, and run with it. Now, that is all easier said than done.

“It is very important to be able to capture a certain atmosphere, an enjoyment of the space,” says Budji. Royal agrees, and adds to this, “We believe that man and nature are one. If you see it that way, then the rest of your creations will always give you a very positive, peaceful outlook. That is where we are coming from. Whatever you do, nature will not harm. Nature works to do its own thing. Once you start to stand in the way, then you become a hindrance. Our common denominator is a love for nature and modernity,” he says, summing up their design philosophy and working partnership. In their firm’s ethos, these reign over any aesthetic expression first and foremost. Hence, in designing this home, they tasked themselves and their team to tackle the givens of the site.

The entrance used to be nondescript, but Budji and Royal's design lent it a tropical, resort-like look. | Paul del Rosario

Working with Nature

“In fact, if you look at the house, one of the traits of it being Budji and Royal is really about understanding nature and the location. When we came in, they were actually about to cut the trees, and these were major mango trees, so when they told us that they were going to cut those, we wouldn’t let them do it because nature has its inherent beauty. Instead, we worked around it,” recalls Royal.

What resulted was an orientation of the spaces towards the natural elements that were indispensible to the firm’s design dictum. They opened up the home, creating a double height space in the living room where there used to be walls. In turn, they oriented the stairwell and a catwalk cum hallway, parallel to this space so that the home’s dwellers are always reminded of nature, its beauty and each other while moving through the home’s traffic areas. Gone are the solid walls that originally resided in this home. In lieu of this, glass walls that render openness, buoyancy and translucence were used; creating a visual line that connects the spaces together, resulting in a shared intimacy within the family members who dwell in the home.

The windows were oriented towards the appreciation of the old mango tree. In the entertainment room that feels weightless, owing to its transparent corners created by glass, giving an impression that it floats, these nimble design moves are especially felt. The design duo allows the space’s dwellers to revel in nature, without sacrificing their privacy. “Our architecture and design is a balance of openness and brightness. It doesn’t mean that if you open things up, you lose your privacy. Here, the slabs privatize you from the road. The roof becomes a cover, so when you are sitting in the entertainment room, you don’t see the people below, but you appreciate the trees and the garden. These things are done because of logic. That’s what makes our design authentic. It’s coming from a strong foundation and philosophy,” Royal points out.

The entertainment room decked out in Kenneth Cobonpue’s Chiquita stools. Budji and Royal’s design allows the outdoors in with the use of large windows oriented towards views of the greenery around the home. | Paul del Rosario

Architecture and interior design in tandem

In their design discipline, Budji and Royal work in tandem, a collaboration where everything is conceptualized from the beginning of the project. Hence, while the architecture is being worked out, the interiors are also taking shape. They are not disciplines that are separate from each other. Rather, both are equal halves to a coherent vision that the duo sees through. “The architecture and the interior architecture become a canvas for the things that [the clients] will start to bring in, from their travels and other things, what’s good is that the canvas itself is already presenting the strong sensibility that puts together that approach,” Royal reflects. Budji adds, “With regards to those details, sometimes the owners have a preference. As long as you are consulted in advanced so that you can work around the details. The actual part that is important is how the accessories or the final touches are done. There are times when they bring in too much from that old space, and there are too many things. You need to actually edit and tell them, ‘No you don’t need this anymore. This is not what the house is calling for. It came from another part of your life, and at this point, do you still need it?’ Of course the things that are precious for you will be there, and you need to add to it and it’s a whole collaboration with the clients.” With this and their philosophy as a guideline, all the elements in the interiors fall into place as a matter of composition. They evolve by the placement of the décor and furniture, nothing superfluous or done just to attain a look. Budji and Royal are always guided by the honesty of their vision and the urgency of achieving it now.

Photographs by Paul del Rosario, from Metro Home and Entertaining 13.2.