A Catalog-Perfect Home That Mixes American and European Styles
Walking into the foyer and living room of this house feels oddly familiar, and yet the space is immaculate and seems hardly lived in. The owner later tells me that her family has been living here for almost two years. I realize that it’s like stepping into a Restoration Hardware showroom or having its catalog come to life.
True enough, the California-based high-end home furnishings store was the inspiration for most of the furniture in this house. The main pieces—sofa, coffee table, round table and ottomans in front of the dining room, and beds—were custom made by a local firm, coincidentally also called Restoration (its showroom is in Powerplant, Rockwell), from designs that homeowners Darwin and Andrea Mago picked out online.
With the exception of the piano, which is from Darwin’s father, everything is new but with an old world feel due to the furniture choices that a store like Restoration Hardware specializes in, which is ”the finest historical design…collections of timeless, updated classics and reproductions.”
The couple’s walk-in dressing room is all dark wood and moody lighting, taking its cues once again from a store display, this time for clothing. Certain American shops and showrooms like Restoration Hardware, Ralph Lauren or Banana Republic don’t simply sell clothing or furniture but also espouse a certain aspirational lifestyle, which customers like Darwin and Andrea want to emulate in their home.
American Style and Modern Colonial
This couple had a clear idea of what they wanted their first house to look like. Andrea uses the terms “American style” and “modern colonial” to describe their initial design pegs, although it eventually evolved into a fusion of traditional and contemporary, and American and European styles. They visit the U.S. frequently and want to recreate the experience of vacationing there in their new home.
By “American style,” Andrea refers to East Coast design specifically. Classic East Coast interiors are more formal and polished compared to West Coast styles. East Coast spaces use traditional elements and architectural details such as molding, coffered or beamed ceilings, and feature antique or European furniture. It is characterized by clean lines, wide plank floors, and natural color palettes. Colonial style is probably the oldest and most traditional of American styles, dating from the 17th century and inspired by the architecture and interiors of houses in England.
Darwin, an avid reader of Architectural Digest, took an active role in the construction and decoration of their home. His wife explains, “He was very involved and really saw it through. He sourced the materials himself and had a peg for everything.” He took charge of and was very particular when it came to the sound system and lighting, which is fully automated. Darwin picked the Azcor chandelier that hangs above the double height sitting area in the airy living room. “But I don’t like it. I actually wanted something more traditional,” Andrea says.
They told their architect Anthony Nazareno that they wanted a colonial house. “But during the drawing stages, he showed us sketches of modern European exteriors, which also worked well for us. So the outside is kind of Casa Armani, it’s not so American, there’s a European touch because of the foyer tower that you see at the entrance,” Andrea explains.
The couple collaborated with their low-key designer (she prefers not to be named) on the interiors. Andrea says the designer was extremely helpful with the process, particularly when it came to the drawings and details. She was excited to be working with them because of her training in more traditional interior design and, previous to this project, she was always being asked to do Asian interiors so this made a welcome change.
“Oh my God, I didn’t realize interior design was so hard!” Andrea exclaims. “Everything, from the paint color to the door frames and the staircase…we went through several shades and designs before finally settling on the final choices. I have so much respect for interior designers.”
The 800-sq.m., three-story, four-bedroom abode has a basement level, which contains the den / man-cave (a screening room with comfortable leather couches and a bar), and all the service areas, such as the laundry and storage rooms, the dirty kitchen, and garage.
There is a spacious covered lanai adjacent to the living room, which Andrea grandly plans to decorate soon with dining chairs, a sofa set, and a barbecue grill. The lanai overlooks the garden, which was designed by Mike Asinas, the freelance landscape designer of Greenbelt.
The house juxtaposes tropical garden, modern European structure, and American interiors.
Foyer is the Favorite Area
The couple’s favorite area is the foyer because it contains all the design elements they like, such as wainscoting and dark wood. But the most used room is the open kitchen, which adjoins what they call their “lounge,” a sitting area where her two young daughters watch the Disney channel on a flat screen TV during the photo shoot. “On regular days, we have all our meals here,” Andrea gestures to the kitchen island and four upholstered bar stools.
“When we moved in, this is the room I tried to finish right away, because I knew this is where we would mostly hang out. We wanted the open American style layout where the kids play nearby as the parents prepare lunch or dinner.” The kitchen is also central to entertaining. When they have guests, Andrea serves cocktails and appetizers on the wood countertop; then everyone adjourns to the dining room for the main meal. The kitchen, as they say, is the “heart” of every home.
The first thing that catches my eye in the kitchen is “Darwin and Andrea’s Bucket List.” It’s a handwritten list on a modernized chalkboard made of black glass. It was originally meant for grocery lists, but since they kept scribbling on pieces of paper, they decided, “Let’s just put our bucket list…and it’s become a conversation piece. I put it there to remind my husband what we should save up for. The ones on top are the priority,” Andrea adds with a smile. Top of the list is “House in East Hampton.” I bring up Diane Keaton’s fictional Hamptons home in the movie Something’s Gotta Give and Andrea says she loves that house. This could well be the inspiration for their next home or #firstonthebucketlist.
“We wanted the whole house to be flowing, no walls between the rooms, but we had to take into consideration the air-conditioning.” So they used glass doors to maintain an open and airy feeling throughout the house.
Although the design pegs are American, the furniture and woodwork are by local craftsmen. The Shaker style cabinetry and wood shutters in the kitchen were manufactured in Pampanga. The couple had to compromise on some of their choices because certain materials were unavailable locally. Their contractor had to replicate the imported subway tiles, and the marble they originally wanted for the countertop was replaced with leftover flooring of hardwood used in bowling alleys. The dining table top is mulawin from Darwin’s father’s collection of old wood; it was placed on top of a new base made by Restoration Rockwell.
Super Picky, Neat Freak
“We’re super picky with what we put in our house,” Andrea admits, so much so that even after two years of living in this home, it still feels relatively unused, with a minimal amount of accessories. Or it could also do with the fact that Andrea is a bit of a neat freak, “always cleaning, taking stuff out and decluttering.”
“Actually, when we moved in, I was heavily pregnant, so we couldn’t do a lot of decorating. Then I gave birth and decorating took a backseat. Now that my second girl is old enough, we’re starting to get back into it again.” She mentions that they plan to travel to the U.S. and Europe this year, and hopes they’ll find accessories for the house along the way.
Darwin has a nine-to-five job in the finance department of his family’s business, and Andrea works twice or thrice a week, dividing her time between the yoga studio in Rockwell she co-owns, and her husband’s office in Alabang. They’re out of the house for the most part.
“When we’re in the house, I need it to be spic and span so we can enjoy it. And I have this thing about organizing. When everything’s a mess, when you have too many things, you forget about them. I’m not a hoarder, but my mom is a pack rat. So maybe I got traumatized by that and that’s why I’m the opposite,” Andrea explains.
“A place for everything, everything in its place” seems to be the perfect mantra for Andrea, when it comes to her home.
Photographs by Paola Aseron