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This Home Is Akin To A Museum Of Light

The first thing that greets you as you approach the main door is the forged metal number signage that doubles as a receptacle for a small patch of green, perhaps symbolic of the family life within. Beyond the entrance are spaces tailor-made for a young family of five, everything designed true to who they are and what they hold dear.

A photographer, the man of the house confesses, “Actually, during our first meeting with Architect Denise De Castro, I had sort of like a Powerpoint presentation that introduced us, who we are, what we do. We wanted her to know all the aspects of our life and how that would be incorporated into the house. And then we had pegs, even layouts that show, okay, for the first floor, this is what we want.”

His wife, a busy headhunter who serves a bustling corporate clientele, continues to share their aspirations that shaped their home. “We rented an apartment as soon as we got married. We lived there for two years and then we were able to purchase a condo unit in Fairview. My mom said, ‘You know what? Lumalaki na ’yung family niyo, ’pag laki ng anak niyo, you’d need a house. Maliit lang ’yung condo namin, 60 sq. m. How will you raise children here? So think about it,’” she recalls their previous homes, stressing their growing need for more space, as the family continued to flourish.


"Tara! Let’s Build a House" 

They then looked into a suburban Quezon City area, until they found a 300 sq. m. property in a quiet subdivision. In 2013, the couple met Architect Denise who provided the design direction for the home. “Denise was referred to us. When we met her, may chemistry! So kami,Tara! Let’s build a house,’” the lady of the house narrates, to which the man of the home adds, “And she was one of the few who was able to give us a proper portfolio online. The others wanted to meet with us to show their work. It was very important for us that she was able to show what she has done without the extra time for a meeting in order to know if we liked her work.”

Carving a name for herself for her conceptually strong work, Denise graduated from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. She earned summa cum laude honors upon graduation, cross enrolling in selected courses at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Her academic life culminated in a graduate degree from the GSD (Graduate School of Design) in Harvard, where she was exposed to the works of the “starchitects” Eero Saarinen, Le Corbusier, Rafael Moneo, and Paul Rudolph. After a stint with Ed Calma, Denise built DDC, her own studio, in 2005. “My practice is based on process, experimentation and collaboration,” Denise once said. “I don’t like the word ‘style,’” she stressed.

Indeed, it shows, when the homeowners shared the many studies her team had produced. “When she found out that I am a photographer, she wanted every room to treat light in a different way, so it would be like a museum of light,” the man of the house says, giving insight into the DDC design process that involved extensive questionnaires on how the couple wanted to experience light throughout the home; detailed studies on how much natural light were let into each room versus how much artificial light illuminated the spaces, yielding calculated analyses that showed how light filtered throughout the home during various times of the day, and gradients that revealed which rooms received the most natural light, versus which rooms were the darkest. Clearly, for this architect, the joy of designing lies in her thorough process.

The wife reveals, “We didn’t really have a clear design direction in mind. ’Yung iba, medyo art deco, ganyan. Kami, sabi namin, ‘We want a box. Very simple. We don’t want it flashy, especially outside, but we want it timeless.’ When someone walks in, we don’t want them to say, ‘Oh, you built this in 2013.’ Clean lines lang. Ganoon lang. Ang gusto nga namin all white and gray. The wood was her suggestion. We didn’t even have wood in mind.” With this as a fraction of the design brief, Denise gave them what essentially is a home made of two slipped volumes punctured with light wells wherever they can be achieved: in the kitchen, in the residual spaces of the living room, surprisingly, in a sliver where the floor meets a wall in the master bedroom and a pocket garden, the height of which spans all floors.




Lighting and Sustainability
If light was one major home feature, sustainability is another. All the wood used in the home were sourced from Finland. Amazingly, some of these members span a few floors. In the garden, the husband made sure to plant fruits and vegetables that can be incorporated inthe family’s meals. Homegrown herbs are also present in the kitchen, seasoning the family’s cooking.

The architect’s conceptual and process-driven approach to designing the home yields a result that is quite timeless, as it prizes the basic elements that define good living spaces: light, ensuring that the allocations for each room are comfortable and a healthy understanding of the family’s traffic and movement patterns. Collectively, the walls, lighting diagrams and materials that informed the design process cease to be mere design elements. In this home, the family and its needs are king, a successful feat for the architect and her team.

From a no-nonsense conceptual approach to the home’s structure, how does one decorate? “With meaning,” the man of the house is quick to answer. “It should reflect you. Ang daling magpa-design, and it will look fabulous. Pero if it doesn’t reflect you, who you are, where you’ve been, maganda lang siya talaga, pero meaningless. Saan ba ’to galing? I can tell you. This was a wedding gift from Lane Crawford
(gesturing to a pitcher), and this came from our first apartment in 2009, and we use it a lot. We didn’t put this here because we wanted to display it. It’s because we use it. They have a story,” the woman of the house is quick to elaborate on her husband’s decorating dictum.

Both believe that a home should speak of the family’s many memories, their travels, the many life events and stages. “Otherwise, it can be cold,” the man of the house reflects. True to this philosophy, the couple decorated with a combination of things that they have owned in the past and evocative finds that authentically portray who they are. Together with their architect’s process and this penchant for unpretentious decorating, this home
is a warm haven for this growing family. One can imagine their brood growing up in this space crafted with faithfulness to values that are distinctly their own.


Photographs by Jar Concengco, courtesy of Metro Home and Entertaining