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Inside a Magnificent Bahay Kubo-Inspired Retreat

Nestled in the coastal edge of Nasugbu and surrounded by Punta Fuego's fine white sand, a nipa hut-inspired beach house is the perfect vacation home for its wayfarer owners

“My husband, who is French, dreamed of having a nipa hut,” the lady of the house days. 

While most of the neighboring houses mirror city homes, this couple opted for something low maintenance with abundant natural lighting and flexible with good bones. They collaborated with veteran interior designer Ivy Almario and Cebu-based architect Ed Gallego, who is known for his bahay kubo inspirations and cross ventilation ideas. He worked on the initial drawing of the husband, who happens to be an engineer.

While the idea is quaint, living in a hut is not very practical for a country prone to typhoons. Architect Gallego helped the couple to build a fortified version of a nipa hut home. He brought a modern eye to the traditional ways, retained the best qualities and edited some of the less successful ones. The wife says, “When you enter the living room, the corridor is pretty wide. In case a typhoon visits, we have to close everything and the space is pretty small. The living room can be converted into a fourth bedroom because the sofa doubles as a sofa bed.”

The living room on the ground floor can easily be converted into a fourth bedroom should there be extra guests staying over. The L-shape sofa is a sofa bed in disguise, purchased by the owners’ daughter as a gift. The distressed louvered partitions can be rearranged to create privacy. Since the Interior designer is not fond of air conditioners, the units hide behind slots to minimize their presence. | Paul del Rosario

Continuity and simplicity

Repetition in the architecture and interior design is fundamental to this two-storey house. To infuse continuity and simplicity, the house was restrained in both the materials and palette. Concrete played a pivotal part as the flooring, walls and ceiling. To soften the look, the architect insisted on a surface preparation finishing material called Lanko for the exterior and interior. Specially shipped from France, it produces a milky effect over time.

The sociable couple likes to host intimate parties for family and friends. Guests who decide to sleep over stay in identical bedrooms; even the beds, designed by the architect, are the same. Each room comes with their own private bathroom dressed in the same grey tiles, and kept hidden through distressed louvered doors camouflaged as closet doors.

Before the husband accepted a consulting job in Hanoi, the couple enjoyed spending intimate time with their friends during the weekends. A group of eight to ten people is ideal because when the party is too big, they hardly get to talk to them. Since the beach house is out of town, the guests have the option to stay over in the house that holds three identical bedrooms. Each bed is from one design, customized by the architect and built locally. | Paul del Rosario

Yet, the finished effect is not at all severe. All areas, for example, have display walls for their eclectic, colorful art. The couple acquired them from Vietnam, which is known for their art galleries. Currently, the husband is living in Hanoi so the wife divides her time commuting between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Aside from the art, the husband’s nautical objects are found throughout the beach house. The wife says, “He has been collecting them even before we got married, and we have been husband and wife for 32 years. They come from all over the world, some from French antique shops and some from a 100-year-old boat from the Pakistani navy. They say all boats have to die at a certain point and the government auctions them off. These came from the Admiral’s quarters.” The collection is inspired by the husband’s hobby of sailing, which is a common pastime for the French.

“You know what is nice about working with Ivy? We told her what we had and she worked around it,” says the wife. This is their second project with the designer and it’s worlds apart from their home in Alabang. For this home, the designer had to work with the owner’s several nautical instruments which includes compasses, barometers and a hard hat diving helmet. | Paul del Rosario

View from the south

While the couple is adamant on keeping things simple, they had one requirement while scouting for the ideal property: a view facing the sea going in the south direction. The wife says, “My husband claims it is more alive. You feel an energy that is not present when facing north.”

The property is blessed with just such a view, and the architect and designer focused on producing invisible borders between the indoors and outdoors through large windows and flexible partitions that can open up for more space or enclose one. They maximized the seascape by using sliding doors instead of a permanent wall for the back of the house. This also helps cool the place and make it brighter.

To enjoy the view further, a patio was created with a mini bar, lounge and dining area. For this couple, the heart of the house remains its outdoor spaces. In the daytime, the wife’s favorite area is the swimming pool. At night, she enjoys staying in the upstairs balcony because it is wide, and during the months of October and November, they receive a special treat of falling stars. She says, “We do not really like air conditioners, but we installed them for guests. We just didn’t expose the aircon.”

The couple loves the natural lighting of their beach home and the minimum amount of maintenance it requires. With the common problem of termites in the area, the owners decided to stay away from wood and stick with concrete. They kept the surface raw, dressing it up with Lanko finishing and nothing more. Inspired by the husband’s love for sailing and other water sports, they shaped the canvas into a sail to shade the outdoors. In picking the ideal property, they opted not to settle by the beach. With typhoons threatening the country at least once a year, this area gets a lot of water. The wife shares, “I get seasick when I just see water. This position is an amicable compromise of water and greens.” | Paul del Rosario

Nothing contrived

Due to the husband’s banking career, the couple has traveled the world and changed houses 14 times, residing in such places as Egypt, India, Caracas, and Paris. They previously set up residence overlooking the English Channel, a project her husband was part of. In the Philippines, their house looks Indian. In France, they have a 110-year-old house.

They admit that the styles of their homes vary. However, they stand by one philosophy: Nothing should be too contrived. The wife says, “I do not want guests to be swimming, then telling them later not to sit in certain areas and make them feel uncomfortable. We want everything to be functional and not just for display. Every piece of furniture has to be used. This is a very practical house. Things have to mix and match and we share the love for open spaces.

She admits, “To be honest, we didn’t warm up to the idea of building a home here initially even though we have been members for the longest time. We felt it was too manicured and preferred Tali, but we thought it was a good place in the end because our children had many good memories here when they were younger. “Also, the marina is just nearby. When my husband gets old, he can go down with his telescope and spy on people,” jokes the wife.

The couple decided to work with Architect Ed Gallego after experiencing his beach house in Cebu. He enjoys playing with the structure of the nipa hut and his projects have been featured here and abroad. For this home, he placed wide windows and partitions for the rooms that can open for ventilation. The design is kept simple. The original ceiling was designed with black and white stripes but the husband insisted it should be plain. The husband explains, “I do not want it to look like a five-star hotel because it is not.” | Paul del Rosario

Article by Cal Tavera

Photographs by Paul del Rosario

Special thanks to Metro Home and Entertaining Magazine