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This Mediterranean Residence Designed By Cynthia And Ivy Almario Houses A Covetable Art Collection

“There’s really nothing like great art, right?” enthuses Cynthia Almario as we walk around the family home we are shooting. “When we did this client’s first home, he was still a bachelor then, but he was already collecting art.” Cynthia then admits, “I came late to art and so doing this house has also been an education for me.”


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The greatness of gray

“Our first discussion with the couple involved just a few general, big ideas. They liked the feel of a California home, they liked the color gray, and they really wanted the living room and the dining room to have the [art] masters. The style of this home was Mediterranean and so there were a lot of different sized windows. So Ivy (Cynthia’s sister and partner in Atelier Almario who takes on the interior architecture while Cynthia handles the interior design) thought of adding shutters so there would be a more uniform basis for the art. We wanted that feel of a blank canvas. The shutters created visual harmony. It was also a way to create more atmosphere in the house. It makes you feel that this is a special house.


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“And now I know why Armani insists on always using gray, whether for his clothes, his stores, or his hotels. Gray really makes the perfect backdrop. And then we just chose wallpaper with a subtle texture to give a different spin to it. It really made the art shine, it’s a marvelous setting for the art.”


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Though Cynthia knew that it wasn’t just the man of the house, but the lady of the home as well, who loves art, she admits, “I’m fearless when it comes to placing things. For example, there was this Jigger Cruz painting, I was very drawn to it, I know it is important art, but I wanted to lighten it and that’s why I placed it with the Moooi pig table, just so that it’s not serious.”


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While Cynthia is known to choose the fabrics for living room pillows, there is a more “chaotic” mix in this home. “The lady of the house wanted Filipino fabrics so I had to find more pillows in local fabrics.” For the shelves in the living room, to liven the mood, she found paper art pieces by Tes Pasola. “It’s still art, it’s still Filipino so it fits the mood, but it’s more playful.”


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Mixing and matching

“Sometimes, things just work out spontaneously. For example, for the table in the foyer, I was just looking at some pieces that I found in the home office and put together a sculpture of a vintage diving suit and an old boat, and then my client came in and said, ‘Oh how nice, it’s all objects related to water.’ And I hadn’t really planned it, but it ended up with a theme.”


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The Ang Kiukok depiction of a fishing scene also tied in well. “Though these are works by the masters, they are not the usual. For example, the Borlongan in the foyer is of a man covering himself with an umbrella, but he doesn’t have pants, which is in contrast to most Borlongans that focus on the head. The Marina de La Cruz has a softer, dreamier quality, and the Ronald Ventura, while clearly a Ventura, is not too dark. He has what might be called the usual mix of contemporary artists, but they are not the usual subjects or pieces. It was really a dream working with such an art collection!”


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When asked to sum up a word for the creative process in this home, Cynthia reflects and says, “Collaboration. For example, the lady of the house said she really wanted a Vito Selma. And it was my first time to work with him and I loved it! The coffee table we wanted is a white square, but he customized it for us in a darker finish and a rectangular shape to fit the room. For the lighting fixture by Kenneth Cobonpue, it wasn’t really my style, but when I saw it already installed and because it’s a piece of art in itself, it worked with all the other art in the space.”


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“As I said, this project was really a learning process for me as well. The art is thought-provoking, there’s something purposeful behind it, but we still had to create a home that is livable, that is homey, which isn’t really easy.”

In the end, what makes Cynthia feel most fulfilled is that the home is a true reflection of the family that lives in it. “The home is dynamic, it feels alive because though they are a rather visible couple, they are actually homebodies. Their world revolve around their daughter and they really do love staying home.” And who could blame them? Some newbies might consider art as stiff or removed from everyday life, but this art collection shows that art thrums with life and makes life all the richer because of it.


*This article was originally published in Metro Home & Entertaining magazine.


Photographs by Paul Del Rosario for Metro Home & Entertaining