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This Ancestral Home Is Renovated For Humans And Plants To Co-exist

In honor of his parents, Space Encounter’s Wilmer Lopez turned their family’s ancestral home into a greenhouse that lets its homeowners as well as flora thrive together


“The greenhouse serves as an inspiration to start anew. Villa Emerita Greenhouse emotionally healed and liberated everyone who was a part of it,” designer Wilmer Lopez tells Metro.Style about his recently-completed greenhouse, located in Nueva Ecija. 


Villa Emerita Greenhouse is a 170-sq.m. property rustic tropical haven that serves as the family’s resthouse and shop. It is surrounded by endemic fruit bearing trees, ornamental plants, and vegetable gardens. It includes a façade entrance, a main garden or the actual greenhouse, a display area for the plants on sale, one bedroom, dining hall, kitchen, loft café, propagation studio, and powder room. 


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“At the entrance, there’s a pair of huge screen white industrial doors that serve as the main entrance where we placed a century old doorknob that I collected a few years back,” narrates interior designer Wilmer Lopez. | Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez


This ancestral home, which was acquired by their family in the 1950s, cradled countless memories of their happy family life from his childhood and beyond. However, an unfortunate incident happened that, quite literally, burned down parts of those wonderful recollections.


“This is where my siblings and I and the next generation grew up surrounded by all this lush vegetation and trees,” Wilmer shares. “But in December 2019, a fire burned the entire house down—leaving only the walls and flooring. There were some few parts that were left like windows and old furniture pieces.”


The gallery below shows photos of the property before Lopez's renovation into a greenhouse:


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It was a tough time for the family, and the toll on their emotions quickly increased with the onset of the pandemic just a few months after. However, as they spent more time in their nearby bahay kubo with the view of the burned down house, they soon found themselves back on their feet. “After months of quarantine and thinking, we finally thought of rebuilding the house. We decided to convert it into a greenhouse.” the designer shares.


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Plant showcase at Villa Emerita. “On the right is a small shop where varieties of houseplants are on display. These are indoor plants, which are for sale. We also display them around the greenhouse just to give our guests an idea of how to style it with furniture and the space," says Lopez. | Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez
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His mom’s love for planting vegetables as well as tropical and herbal plants inspired the foundation of the project. Not to mention that all of them caught this shared passion, so bringing the outdoors in is inevitable.


After brainstorming for ideas and doing thorough research, he leaned on to adaptive reuse to begin his work. He used the structure as the framework to keep the old structure as he created a new system for the greenhouse. “In here, we considered a different approach where humans and plants can co-exist,” the Space Encounters founder points out.


Wilmer took advantage of what was left in the property, which served as basis for his next steps. “We wanted to keep as much as possible the old structure to remember what it was before while giving it a new purpose,” he offers. So they kept all the good and still-stable walls, retained all the windows and door openings, and reused the jalousie windows and Vigan tiles and the kitchen and bathroom tiles as their base.



Of course, as a greenhouse, the designer worked on several considerations to maximize its purpose. He checked on the direction of the sun and airflow, as well as analyzed which plants will thrive and how water supply will work. He also used UV nets for roofing to protect the plants from the high heat of the sun and intensity. “It filters the harsh rays yet enough light to brighten the space,” Wilmer adds.


Meanwhile, UV Film plastic was used for the cafe area. It serves to protect the area from the rain while providing enough sun for natural lighting during the day. The open window contributes to airflow and creates cross-ventilation, which is vital to plant growth. The tropical abode is also high-ceilinged so that even trees can grow freely! Case in point: Wilmer’s favorite centerpiece, the 15-year-old Ficus Balete tree that will greet you upon entrance.


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“Then, a Balete ficus tree at the center of the main greenhouse will greet you. This serves as the heart of the greenhouse. This used to be outside and we thought of bringing it inside. It reminds us of that time when we bought this tree 15 years ago with our parents. Around are some collections of ferns, Ficus tree, Alocasia, Philodendrons, and more,” reveals Lopez. | Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez


But no matter the size of the plant, it will always be welcome inside the designer’s convivial greenhouse. Some of his other favorite ones which can be found inside include the Jose Buono philodendron, Red Banana, wild ferns, pothos varieties, and different kinds of Monstera Deliciosa.


“We brought furniture pieces from our Bahay Kubo, like the dining set mixed with salvaged furniture that survived the fire, and collected vintage chairs from Space Encounters,” Wilmer answers when asked about the key pieces inside the house. “Vintage lighting fixtures like high bays, wall lamps, and old switches add extra visual excitement to the space.”


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“At the back of the greenhouse is the main dining and kitchen, same location in the old house. We kept everything, like the Vigan flooring, jalousie windows, and doors. Only the ceiling was changed because it is now connected to the attic where the café is right now,” Lopez shares. | Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez


While everything inside the greenhouse is a lavish plateful served to its residents and visitors, the designer favors the main house as the best part of the property. “It’s the heart of the space where it reminds everyone that nature and humans can live together under one roof. And, that we should always make room for growth,” he muses.


If there’s any takeaway from building Villa Emerita that fellow homeowners can heed, Wilmer writes down a few things. “Follow your heart and do it now. When things seem dark and uncertain, focus on what’s possible,” he opens up. “Preserving a legacy is important. Don’t completely tear down old houses. See what you can salvage so the story of your home continues.”


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“The Attic café above the dining/kitchen gets the full view of the greenhouse. Since we raised the roof to double the height of what the house was before, we thought of using this area as a space where the family can relax, drink coffee, and enjoy each other’s company. The set up is a Japanese-inspired café with elements of a cabin. We used pinewood slabs for the flooring, stairways, and bar table. The ceiling shows exposed white metal trusses with UV Plastic film roofing. This part illuminates the entire greenhouse and gives bright indirect lighting for plants. This space will soon be open to the public. The greenhouse soft opened last February for visitors to experience the place and buy plants. We are still working on the menu and everything,” Wilmer muses. | Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez


Photographs Courtesy of Wilmer Lopez