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Fashion And The Homeowners' Favorite Destination, Japan, Inspired This Glamorous Halfway House

We're talking about Christian Dior gray, Chanel detailing, and hand-painted cherry blossoms

“Life is made of marble and mud,” the great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote. By the time a home is prepped and preened and ready for its close-up, all the meetings and construction woes are forgotten and set aside, and the place looks as if it has always been there, as if all the elements have just magically come together. And yet, as the novelist so dramatically stated, behind the gleam and the dream that marble represents, is the dirt and grit of planning and building that is literally muddy, dirty work.

“As in any condo, you really have to maximize storage; you have to carve out as much storage as you can from the limited space. And even if they tell you, ‘Oh this will just be our halfway house,’ you have to plan it as well as you would a primary residence and just make it as beautiful as you can,” emphasizes Ivy Almario, who handles all the interior architecture for the Atelier Almario projects. “There was also an awkward column in the living room that broke up the space and not in a good way. The ceilings were also not that high so we had to visually expand the place.” Cynthia Almario then interjects, “Our client also said that she wanted like, a mini-foyer because she didn’t want to see everything all at once.” 

“Real elegance is everywhere, especially in the things that don’t show.” Ivy wanted to carve out storage as much as she could so she created closets in the foyer and all around the dining room, and Cynthia chose furniture that could also double as storage pieces. | Photo by Jar Concengco

All the curves and edges 

“So I decided to make a curved wall in that awkward corner, and I created cabinets with paneling all around the place,” Ivy explains. “Can you believe we were even able to create a pantry? And all the kitchen appliances are already stored in the cabinets by the foyer!” 

“The little wall by the entrance that created the mini foyer and the paneling on the cabinets all made it possible to create a dining room. Our client’s favorite place is Japan so we chose to handprint cherry blossoms in the wall right at the entrance and continued that motif in her bedroom. Then we found this chandelier and though it was a major expense, it really defines the dining space!” 

“Real elegance is everywhere, especially in the things that don’t show.” Ivy wanted to carve out storage as much as she could so she created closets in the foyer and all around the dining room, and Cynthia chose furniture that also could double as storage pieces. | Jar Concengco
“Elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care, and simplicity.” With one color uniting the apartment, variety and drama came in the mix of materials, the progression of patterns and the charm in the character of the furniture chosen as well as the tiniest objects. Ivy Almario planned the curved wall to unify the living room into a harmonious whole And Cynthia Almaro orchestrated the interior’s elements, for a seamless and transportive home. | Jar Concengco

Cynthia then points out, “I then chose a curved sofa to follow the curved corner in the living room. Since there is limited space, each piece of furniture has to make its own statement. We decided to find or create pieces that really have a lot of details. We went with a variety of materials, chrome, stone, and wood, to create a balance. All the materials work well together.” 

“For the master bedroom, I added a sliding door to make it connect to another bedroom and so in the future, the other bedroom can be converted into another sitting room or maybe a dressing room for the lady of the house,” Ivy adds. 

“The closets were also pretty basic, so we had to add details to them so that they could become architectural elements,” Cynthia elaborates. For the master bedroom, Cynthia chose trellis-like wooden details and for the daughter’s bedroom, she added studs and upholstery. 

"The detail is as important as the essential." In a flat, each piece must have presence and function because there is limited space. "At first, we were going to do the son's bedroom like a sitting room; with a daybed. But the lady of the house changed her mind and decided to make it look like a real bedroom," Cynthia shares. Ivy then adds, "But we added a sliding door, in case in the future, the lady of the house wants to extend her master suite and she can transform this bedroom into a bigger dressing room or her own sitting room." | Photo by Jar Concengco
“Deep in every heart slumbers a dream and the couturier knows it: every woman is a princess.” “We had to add details to the room. So I thought of making the headboard look like a Chanel handbag. And we upholstered the closets and added studs,” Cynthia reveals the fashion inspirations in the daughter’s bedroom. | Photo by Jar Concengco

“What’s also unique to this space, is that all the bedrooms had fantastic views, which we don’t normally have. Sometimes, it’s just the master bedroom or just the living room, but for this place, they were so lucky that they all have a view. That view made coming to this project a joy! On one hand, you don’t want to compete with the view, but you also want to live up to it,” Cynthia narrates of the balancing act that she and Ivy undertook. 

Trellis detailing in the closets of the master bedroom provide architectural elements in the master bedroom so that the little space feels like a glamorous walk-in closet. | Photo by Jar Concengco
“Individuality will always be one of the conditions of real elegance.” The master bedroom. “Our client loves Japan so we handpainted cherry blossoms in her bedroom,” Ivy says. “And when I told her that we would do Christian Dior gray for the whole flat, she got my reference right away.” | Photo by Jar Concengco

All the perfect imperfections 

“The lady of the house, she is in the image consulting business, so she understands fashion. We were on the same page when it comes to our references. When I said that I would work with a Christian Dior gray, and use it all over the flat, she got it right away. When I said that I would add some Chanel detailing for her daughter’s bedroom, she got it. When I told her that we had to work on building and emphasizing the verticality of the space, she knew what I was saying. She would ask me about the mix of textures in the materials that I was using; she noticed the progression of the patterns and would ask if all these were intentional, and of course they were.” 

A console chest inspired by Jacques Emile Ruhlman gives the master bedroom a tailored edge in line with the flat’s fashion inspiration. | Photo by Jar Concengco

In the course of the interview, Ivy then reveals, “They got to love this place so much that they stay here more than in their primary residence!” 

Asked to summarize the flat, without a moment’s hesitation, Cynthia says, “Seamless. It’s seamless. From the colors to the selection of furniture, there is really a good flow, a rhythmic flow.” 

“Transportive. It’s transportive, it takes you to another place,” Ivy says. 

And indeed, though Ivy and Cynthia have meticulously and methodically laid out for us all the strategic thinking and planning that went into this place, all that matters is they have orchestrated this serene aerie that is both a dream home and a family refuge. 

This article was originally published in Metro Society vol 16. no. 6

Photographs by Jar Concengco