A Peek Into The Cozy, Light, And Airy "Local House" Of Jim And Lydia Paredes
“This house is Lydia’s. She did all the work. All I did was pay for it.”
Not a single question had been asked yet and Jim Paredes—father, husband, composer, writer, artist, one-third of the iconic musical trio APO, and master of the house—shares that their new two-story home is the brainchild of his wife Lydia Mabanta Paredes.
This two-story home of Jim and Lydia Paredes is solar-powered so that it does not consume electricity as long as there is daylight.
Lydia told their architects, UP-educated Edwin and Divina Mallari, that she wanted a bahay kubo built for her granddaughter Ananda. She had specific requests about it: (1) That it be entirely built from the salvaged wood. (2) That it be adult-sized.?
The home is cozy and with a beautiful design made of mostly recycled glass, steel, and wood. Beside it is a small bahay kubo, also made of recycled wood that was built especially for the couple’s 10-year-old granddaughter Ananda. The garden has frog grass, big stones, and plenty of plants and trees. The environment is inspiring and peaceful, ideal for creating a new song, writing an article, or strategizing a plan for nation-building. (All of which, by the way, are endeavors that Jim actively pursues.) He says, “At night and even in the daytime, you forget that you are in Quezon City. Para kang nasa Baguio.”
The new abode is at the back of the main house that Jim and Lydia bought sometime in 1986, after the Edsa People Power Revolution. The main house is in a subdivision in Quezon City; it is where their children Erica, Ala, and Mio grew up in. The kids have since moved out. Jim prefers to make Manila his home base while Lydia shuttles back and forth from Manila to Sydney.
Over the last couple of years, Lydia would return to Manila and become affected by how much their 30-plus year-old home has changed. She says, “It was already getting gray. It needed painting. It needed a new look. The kids were gone. The place just became sad. Every time I would come home I would tell Jim, ‘We should renovate this place.' It was getting depressing already.”
This long table that comfortably sits 20 people is also made from salvaged wood. Carpenters assembled it right in the back yard. The dining area is one of Jim’s favorite places. He says, “I love it! I actually enjoy eating in this long table na ako lang mag-isa. Kahit wala akong kausap, I enjoy the food… I don’t know if that’s strange to you.”
Lydia is a great cook and so the kitchen is her realm. Jim says of his wife, “She likes to cook. Her sisters like to cook. I like hearing them getting busy in the kitchen while I work or watch TV upstairs.”
Jim was hesistant. He was concerned about the logistics of embarking on such a big endeavor, not to mention putting up with major inconveniences. “He had questions,” Lydia says of her husband. “Like ‘How long would it take? Where would we stay? What about the dust flying about?’ I told him, ‘We can rent out.' But he said, ‘I don’t want to spend.’ I said, ‘We can stay downstairs while the carpenters fix the upstairs.’ But he replied, ‘But I don’t like the dust…’”
A solution was reached when their architects, husband-and-wife Edwin and Divina Mallari, broached the idea of putting up a new structure on the site of the studio-cum-office located behind the main house. Lydia says, “Our architects suggested building there since we planned to tear it down anyway.” As such, the dust and debris from construction would be more tolerable.
Imprinted on the pillows are the faces of the Paredes family donning Filipiniana attire. Lydia found a supplier in the province and had these made for them.
A pair of armchairs with colorful upholstery adds a whimsical element to this home.
Something Light and Airy
The renovation project would also put to good use the salvaged materials from a 99-year-old bahay na bato that Jim and Lydia had purchased in 2010. They were driving around Laiya, Batangas when they saw the old house which they learned was going to be demolished to make way for a modern cement building. The couple bought the house with the intention of using its old wood for a rest house they were going to build in Quezon Province. Later on, they decided to utilize the materials for their home in the city.
Vintage-colored glasses add touches of Filipiniana feel to the house.
The house is made from salvaged materials from a 99-year-old bahay na bato the couple found near Laiya, Batangas.
The project was supposed to be simple. “Just one room with a little kitchen,” states Lydia, who collaborated with Architects Edwin and Divina during the construction phase. The task was right up Lydia’s alley, so to speak. An artist herself, Lydia took up fine arts at the University of the Philippines; she paints and does pottery. She obviously takes after her mom, the late Alice Ysip Mabanta, who was a watercolor painter.
Lydia was clear about what she wanted. “I wanted a local house,” she relates. “But I didn’t want an old Filipino house na nakakatakot. I wanted something that has a touch of Filipino but is light and airy.”
It’s Got to be ‘Us’
She made it a point to show the blueprints to Jim, who would usually nod his head and say “okay.” She explains, “He’s like that. Even if you tell him, ‘This is going to be the wall… This is going to be purple,’ it would not matter because he can’t visualize. He just can’t. Like I can’t understand music. If you tell me to go to the piano and find the middle C, I can’t do it.”
The gaps in the staircase were used cleverly as storage space and a bookshelf of sorts.
This restroom is bathed in natural light.
Jim admits that setup worked fine with him because Lydia would sift through the alternatives and consult him when it was time to make a final decision. “She’s the one who brings the matter to a choice,” he says appreciatively. “She would ask me to choose. I would say, ‘This one is not ‘us,’ so let’s go for the other one because it’s more natural; it’s more ‘us.’”
Asked to elaborate on their taste as a couple, Jim says simply that he and Lydia are not pretentious. “We are not going to put anything (in our home) that we don’t like just because it is expensive at sasabihin ng tao, ‘Wow, mahal yan!’ We don’t care for that kind of thing. Whether it is expensive or not, as long as we like it, that’s ‘us.’”
What was initially planned as a one-room dwelling with a kitchen became a two-bedroom home with a big and lovely kitchen and a spacious living/dining area with a long table that could comfortably seat 20 people. The new home truly exemplifies the values that Lydia and Jim hold dear: country, the environment, and family.
Around the house, there are touches of Filipiniana: vintage-colored glass, the ventanilla, banig mats and, of course, the old wood that had been salvaged from the 99-year-old bahay na bato in Batangas. The wood was transported from the home of designer/entrepreneur Patis Tesoro in Quezon (where it was stored for safekeeping) to the Paredes’ residence in Quezon City. The supply was more than enough, so much that no pre-cut wood from the hardware store was ever needed. Lydia relates that the carpenters sorted the old wood by length and thickness. She says, “When it was time to put a little wall, or a post or a door, or a window, the crew and I would look at each other and say, ‘O, ano'ng kahoy ang gagamitin diyan?’ And then they would go through the entire pile to find the right one.”
The big bed in the bedroom—like most furniture in the house—were from the main house of the Paredes couple.
There is another room, a guest bedroom where daughter Erica and granddaugther Ananda stay whenever they come for a visit. “This house has two bedrooms,” says Lydia. “It got a little bigger than we thought it would be. But Jim and I are happy with how it turned out.”
Other times the design would be dictated by what was available. For instance, Lydia saw there were pieces of carved wood that would look good for the kitchen cabinets so she requested the carpenters to fashion them for the purpose.
“I like using recycled (wood)!” Lydia gushes. “I don’t have to cut any more trees!”
Lydia was not the only one thriled with creating something new out of the salvaged wood. Kin Misa, a nephew with a talent for carving, saw a medium-sized chunk in the pile and immediately told her, “Tita, I can make a lamp out of it!” The young man used the wood as the base of the lamp, on which he carved an image of a dragonfly to symbolize Lydia, and a guitar to symbolize Jim. At night, the lamp, together with the LED pin lights in the living room, can be turned on to create a more relaxing ambience. “The lights can be dimmed or brightened,” says Jim. “So it’s a room that adjusts to your mood.”
The airy bathroom has a big stone and a shower ,which Jim says feels like a waterfall when it is on full-blast. “It’s perfect for when you just want to sit a long time and just soap,” says Jim. “Here, I don’t just take showers, I enjoy showers.”
Old wood from an ancestral house in Laiya, Batangas have found a new purpose in this home.
All the lightings are LED. The couple purposely chose these type of lights for environmental reasons. “We don’t use regular bulbs anymore,” says Jim. “LED is more expensive but they last longer and they save you money on electricity in the long run.”
The biggest energy-saving feature in the home is a solar-power device that “harvests” sunlight to run the appliances during the daytime. “That is my contribution in the design of the house. It was I who pushed for that,” says Jim. The couple’s home in Sydney also runs on solar power. He says, “I saw how effective solar power is in Australia. Nakakabawas talaga sa kuryente.”
To prove his point, Jim cites that the electric consumption of the main house (which doesn’t have solar power), which is occupied by their household staff, is much bigger. “In the new house, our Meralco bill is really low. Malaki na sa amin ‘yung P4,700.”
A Lively Place
Construction took a while (Lydia couldn’t tell exactly how long because she did not keep track of the number of months) before the couple finally moved in June 2014. This home is truly for gatherings. It was like the renovation enlivened the place. Family, relatives, and friends have been trooping for meetings, parties, and reunions. Jim and Lydia’s eldest daughter Erica and granddaughter Ananda are weekly visitors.
“Jim comes from a family of ten. I come from a family of ten also. That’s a lot of siblings plus spouses plus all of our nephews and nieces, plus apos! We’re a whole barangay!” declares Lydia.
“This house is Lydia’s. She did all the work. All I did was pay for it,” Jim says appreciatively of his wife.
Lydia says, “This house is not our children’s house. This is our house already. This is the only home we’ve ever built from scratch. The other houses, we bought and renovated them to our needs. So sabi ko, ‘At least once in our life, let’s build a house.’ I’m glad that wish came true.”
Jim can’t stop gushing about what Lydia, a breast cancer survivor, has done to their home made of old wood, steel, and glass. He says, “I tell my wife, ‘Every corner here is just so pretty.' There’s hardly any place that’s ordinary. Parang you really feel that everything is arranged in a way that matches who we are… The chairs in the garden and in the sala are my favorites. In the morning, I just stay there, or late at night, I just listen to music and the lights are dim… My gosh, it really feels so great!”
Lydia, however, believes that the home is still a work in progress. “It will always be a work in progress with Lydia,” Jim says with a bit of amusement. He then smiles brightly and declares contentedly, “Pero para sa akin, maganda na ito.”
Photographs by Jar Concengco, courtesy of Metro Home & Entertaining