EXCLUSIVE: A Tour Of Maggie Wilson-Consunji's Tropical-Themed Home That Reflects Her Sunny Disposition
When Maggie Wilson-Consunji moved from Saudi Arabia to Manila, she was surprised to discover that here, hanging out at homes wasn’t so common. “When I first got here, it wasn’t really a thing. I could know someone for five years but never see the inside of their house, which I found very strange,” she muses. “I grew up going to my parents’ friends’ houses for barbeques, having lunches and dinners. So I sort of brought that with me.”
She loves having friends over. More often than not, her guests are her gal pals. Once in a while, her husband Victor Consunji’s training buddies meet up in their home for a swim or workout. “When they’re done, I feed them. I find cooking to be very relaxing, it’s therapeutic for me,” she declares. As a little girl, she helped her mom in the kitchen. Baking cookies was as far as she got on her own. It wasn’t until she was about 19 that she was able to whip up her own dish: chicken breast marinated in lemon and rosemary, with buttered veggies. Discovering it to be fun, she kept at it. A short class while vacationing in Chiang Mai is the only formal lesson she ever signed up for. She learned pretty much everything from her mom and watching cooking shows. “When I eat out and I enjoy a dish at a restaurant, I like to try to replicate it at home. So as I’m eating it, I’m trying to figure out what’s in it,” she reveals. The former beauty queen brushes off compliments on her culinary skills but acknowledges that people are happy with her cooking.
Two of her most requested specialties are chicken biryani and potato salad. She tries to make more than what can be consumed during parties so her guests can take some home. The potato salad recipe is a closely guarded secret. “We have a friend who would always bring this potato salad and it was always a hit. I loved it so much that I would always ask him for the recipe and he would never give it to me, he never gave it to anyone. When I got married, his wedding gift was a family recipe book and the first recipe was his potato salad!” she gushes.
Her husband Victor learned to cook partly because of her and partly because of Gordon Ramsay. One evening, they watched Hell’s Kitchen together, and he got so interested that he downloaded the Hell’s Kitchen game, which rewards the player with a recipe for every level completed. So one of the first dishes he ever prepared for Maggie was a lobster spaghetti inspired by the game. “He took off from there. Now he’s the grill master; he makes these amazing steaks and he also makes some pretty good beef tagine which our friends request,” the proud wife shares.
1. The white and gold table setting matches the glamorous interiors of the formal dining room. The gold chargers were purchased during a trip to the US. Maggie likes to haul an empty suitcase when travelling because she always ends up buying things for the house. Not a fan of tropical flowers, she usually uses leaves as accents instead, most of the time picked from their garden. 2. The lanai is their favorite place for dining. Whether it’s just a meal with her husband or with visitors, Maggie likes to set up the table nicely. “I always feel that you eat with your eyes first. And if everything looks pretty, you’re excited to eat,” she says. 3. The resort feel extends to the private areas. The master bedroom is every bit a tropical sanctuary with a huge canopy bed and palm leaf wallpaper. “It should be the space where you feel the safest and most relaxed in,” Maggie reiterates. 4. In preparation for building this home, she took up Interior Design. Learning the in and outs allowed her to properly incorporate her style into her home. Her preferred color palette is made immediately obvious in the foyer where Cezar Arro’s abstract portraits of the couple can be seen. 5. Like his parents, 6-year-old Connor likes to entertain guests too. The den is usually the venue for his playdates with classmates who live nearby. Otherwise, the kids can be found splashing in the pool. On weekends, Connor is busy spending time with relatives, something that mommy Maggie feels is very important to do. 6. Some teals, blues and greens, a little gold here and there, pops of warm orange, and a lot of natural light coming through. The bright ambience reflects Maggie's sunny disposition. On the rare occasions that she gets stressed, all she needs is a glass of wine or a massage and all is right again.
When planning a get-together, they decide on a menu and assign dishes to each other. “We try to do different nights. For one meal, we did Vietnamese food and I made pho, I boiled the bone broth for two days,” she recalls, beaming. For nights when she does most of the cooking, Victor helps with the mise en place, chopping and all. “Yes, yes! We do everything!,” she clarifies while suppressing a laugh at our incredulous reaction. “Some of my closest girlfriends also love to cook and when I’m throwing a dinner, they come a few hours earlier to help. It’s like a bonding thing; it’s an activity I like to do with Victor and my friends. We really enjoy it.” In fact, they hardly ever hire a caterer even for big occasions like Christmas, when they host what they call “orphans dinner,” for friends who live in Manila but don’t have any family around.
The only time they outsource the food is during their son Connor’s parties. “When you have 20 to 30 kids running around, it’s a lot harder to cook and make sure the food is okay, and take care of the kids then host the parents,” she rationalizes.
The six-year-old recently celebrated his birthday on their roof deck, which can accommodate 60 people, comfortably. It’s the newest party venue in their home, fixed in time for their Christmas celebration last year. It’s the most spacious too, complete with kitchenette.
This kitchenette is part of their roofdeck which, aside from being their biggest party space, also has a living room, a small dining room, and a bedroom with its own bathroom.
In building their home, they made sure to have lots of space for entertaining. As well as enough rooms so they can have guests stay over. “I prefer that visiting friends or family stay with me than in a hotel because you don’t see them often enough so I want them to be close to me,” Maggie explains.
For more intimate affairs, they open up the formal dining room, which is glamorously decked with a gold-leaf wall, 12-seater marble table, leather chairs, and touches of brass here and there. “We rarely use it because everyone wants to hang out outside, by the pool and in the garden.” Maggie's favorite—and pretty much everyone’s too—is their lanai. “The lanai was very important for me to have ‘cause I love eating al fresco. I always say if you have the option, eat al fresco, always. Why be in a box when you can be outside, right?”
Even within the walls of her home, the outdoor vibe is strong with the tropical theme. She made sure that the design allowed natural light to come through. Corners are occupied by potted plants, the wallpaper bears prints of greens and flora. “In terms of the structure, it was all Victor, but in terms of the finishing of the inside, it was all me,” she says of their two-year-old home. Having taken up interior design at Sofa Design Institute, Maggie clearly knew what she was doing.
“You build a home to enjoy it, right?,” quips self-confessed homebody Maggie Wilson-Consunji. Aside from her husband Victor and son Connor, she shares her beautiful residence with three dogs, two cats, a tortoise, a turtle, and a rabbit.
She calls designing her “day job.” Her current project involves four model units for her husband’s new real estate developments. She was just in Bali sourcing materials for it. “Very, very exciting times!” she enthuses. She has also done some interior work for Joey Mead-King and another friend, Alex Gutierrez. “I only like to do it for friends for now because it’s easier to work with friends. But eventually, I’d like to do it for other people too because I really enjoy it. The end game, the finished product, really is fulfilling,” she claims.
Her other job is co-hosting Beached with Marc Nelson. In the travel show, which airs on Metro Channel, the duo is shown exploring spectacular beaches and having some thrills trying out the activities within the locality. “I grew up in a coastal city in Saudi Arabia so I was at the beach every weekend. If I wasn’t at the beach, we will be hiking in the mountains. So being able to do this show has been amazing and awesome. What I also love about this show is we also get to pick and decide where we want to go, what we want to feature, what we want to do. I think that’s what makes our show fun to do and in that sense, also very candid,” she discloses. Her favorite experiences so far are the sardine run in Moalboal and canyoneering in Kawasan Falls. “You don’t really realize that the Philippines is so beautiful. When you’re stuck in Manila, you complain about the traffic and all these things. And people like to travel out of the country to see other places but really, there’s so much to see here, so much to do.”
Taping keeps her away for four days at a time. When she’s not working, she savors the chance to be at home. “Having a little break is good but I get bored easily so I’d much rather be busy. I’ve been on the go since I was 14 and I enjoy it,” she explains.
So, she is keeping her schedule packed. Awaiting completion is a new website where she will share more of her travels—tips on how to travel better, where to go, where to eat. It will replace her blog, which she has not updated in a while. “It’s going to be really interactive. I want to get my followers involved in the kind of topics I’m going to be sharing on the site. We’ve got pretty exciting things lined up.” Then there’s her store, Casa Consunji, set to be launched in September. According to its Instagram account, Casa Consunji will offer home decor, textiles, furniture, and sustainable items.
For now, Maggie admits that with all the things simultaneously happening, she is tired. “But definitely not stressed,” she quickly counters. “Busy is good, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m happy,” she says, bounding up the steps to change into another outfit for her next shot.
Scroll down for a peek at Maggie's latest endeavor, Casa Consunji:
This article was originally published in Metro Society's June 2018 issue.
Photographs by Paola Aseron
Makeup by Xeng Zulueta
Hairstyling by Ricky Diokno