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Inside A Designing Couple’s Home Where Combined Passions Create A Lived-In Feel

Situated in a tropical forest, its surrounding gardens are lush and airy with a healthy amount of respect for space and flow

Driving up through the wide, hilly streets of Kalayaan Heights in Subic remind you of American neighborhoods in California. They were designed like so to make the high-ranking officials of the US Navy to feel right at home. Couple Martin Lazaro and April Trower have moved in the neighborhood 7 months ago citing Subic’s proximity to nature, beaches and good schools outside of Metro Manila. 

Lazaro is a landscape designer and owner of Space Garden, known for his vertical garden setups. Trower makes a living designing yachts. 


“I’ve done four big super yachts. One yacht takes 3 years to do so I always have one big project at a time. So I would take in smaller projects when I can,” Trower explains. It was on one of these “smaller projects” she met Lazaro - during her stint designing the bayside restaurant Ralli’s. Lazaro was the one who installed the vertical gardens that liven up the restaurant.

Lazaro and Trower have been busy renovating their home since moving in.

“The structure was in a humble state. There was so much overgrowth of plants all over the property,” says Lazaro.

“The walls were painted in the usual school yellow. But when we saw the number of rooms we said ‘this will do’. We saw the potential of it and really got into it,” Trower adds.

The house is perched atop an incline almost hidden from view from the street. Cement stairs give you access while cactus, agave, crotons and firecracker plants blanket the surface leading up to the house. The exterior walls have been painted black adding the focus to their garden. Wooden vertical louvers hide the unsightly air conditioning condensers.

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“The condensers are right in the middle and it’s the first thing you see walking up to the house. So I put wooden louvers to cover it up and it changed the whole look. To connect it somehow, I added the same wooden louvers in the porch area. With the black and the warmth of the wood, it’s amazing. It’s like chalk and cheese from the horrible color that we started with,” Trower says. 

An outdoor dining area made of a repurposed door from Trower’s old home is set on one of the landings right before climbing up to the house. Surrounded by oversized papasan chairs and red cogon, the area is cozy offering a space for the owners to entertain guests al fresco. 

“We put breeze blocks and painted it black to keep kids or anyone really from falling,” says Trower. A bar-height wooden counter set on top of the same type of black breeze blocks on the other side of the house is an easy hang out spot as it faces the sunset.

A garden with more cactuses and agave are partnered with pandan, bougainvillea and devil’s backbone. It’s a diverse set of plants but it doesn’t feel overdone. “Our garden style in our home is airy, colorful, and lush but not crowded. It has lots of respect for space and continuous flow,” says Lazaro.

“Everyone’s done the tropical mad look. We still love that look but since we live in the forest, we have to be different,” Trower adds. 

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By choosing smaller scaled plants and hardscaping with pebbles, their garden is lighter and feels more spacious. “If you noticed, there are a lot of rocks and stones in the area. Subic is a tropical jungle already, so if we overdo it with the plants, it’s like overkill. So we wanted a contrast with the forest,” explains Lazaro.

Inside their home sees very little natural light, but nevertheless is filled with plants. “Don’t bring sun-loving plants indoors. All of these plants inside our house are forest plants that thrive in low light. If you want to bring in a plant that needs stronger light, then use grow lights,” Lazaro says.

Grow lights double as accent lights inside their home. Ceiling fans offer air circulation that the plants also require. Terrariums and plants in repurposed vessels dot the home making the interiors an extension of the outdoors.

Artwork by H.R. Ocampo, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, and Ronald Ventura are juxtaposed next to a cow’s skull that Trower found at A-11 Showroom. “I have paintings that I’ve collected through the years, but my favorite art piece is actually the cow skull. I found it interesting putting it together with the masters. I like deviating. I like putting something like that in with some more subdued pieces. It screams of my personality,” reveals Trower.

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An antique Syrian chair that Lazaro acquired a while back has intricate mother of pearl inlay work and is placed near the entryway next to a vintage accordion. A retro television cabinet by Bench Ambassadors is hollowed out and repurposed as a console.

A floor-to-ceiling wall feature displays the combined collection of vinyl records that the couple has accumulated through the years. “When we bought this place, and I saw this area, I immediately knew it was going to be the audio place. This is a nice, cozy listening area. We find ourselves falling asleep here listening to music.”

The home has a lived-in feel and really is a fusion of the couple’s interests and collections. Many of the key furniture pieces were designed and built by Trower - including the round concrete table with metal legs in the porch. Lazaro’s collection of plants are all tenants as well inside the home. It may look eccentric or give off a vibe of insouciance, but Lazaro assures you that it’s more than that.

“It’s more than ‘whatever goes’ for us. The stuff around here is rooted in passion. Rooted in our interests and things we love. Putting things you feel really passionate about, having those things exist in your space - that’s what we did here,” Lazaro says.

Photographs by Jar Concengco