Elle Decoration Philippines
story and production by Devi de Vera
photography by At Maculangan

An architect and her artist client knock down walls and claddings to create free-flowing spaces where light and air, sounds and scents, can flow through without hesitation.

Living and dining areas

Bamboo anchors the aesthetics of the townhouse’s interiors: Mature pieces – all of which came from Lani Maestro’s and Poklong Anading’s art installation titled “Digital Tagalog” – line the ceilings, while smaller ones were used as wall claddings and various accents found around the house. The dining chairs covered with orange T’nalak fabrics are from E. Murio; most of the other furnishings are original pieces from SouMak such as the black – and – white side tables, the large nito basket woven by Ifugaos, and the crocheted cushion covers.


TV room

The sofa is covered in ticog banig woven by Maranao craftsmen. Natural dyes from ethically harvested mahogany trees give the abaca carpet its rich brown hue. The coffee tables are by Reggie Yuson. The painting behind the sofa is by Gerry Tan, while the watercolor portrait is by the architect of the house, Popi Laudico, herself.

A quote from a close friend, the late artist Roberto Chabet, came to mind as the homeowner surveyed a recently acquired townhouse: “My cup is so full of emptiness, it is spilling all over the room.” The structure before her was, in her own words, “so full, it was a task to fill it with emptiness.” As an artist herself, she viewed the renovation as an installation – an abstraction of a house where rooms did not exist and in its place lay a progression of spaces where occupants and guests, light and air, sounds and scents can navigate their way through without hesitation.

Architect Popi Laudico was called in to free the structure’s locked voids from stifling walls, brick claddings, and a colony of bats that had settled in the townhouse’s musty darkness. “Bringing in good – quality light and air was the initial challenge,” Popi says. As client and architect tore down barriers, light began creeping in through the crevices between wood beams, air finally breezed through newly opened channels, and the house’s refreshed form slowly became manifest. “When the aspects of passive lighting and cooling are addressed properly, they give the most sustainable benefit,” the architect says.

With this inner chambers cleansed and cleared, the townhouse was ready to receive the decorative and functional elements meticulously chosen by its mistress. Bamboo – a riveting presence in the adobe – takes over the ceiling and practically envelops an entire room. Furnishings and accents crafted by skilled artisans give the space an organic vibe, while art – mostly gifts from friends and relatives – would find their own permanent place, settling on blank walls and ledges and vacant spots waiting to be claimed. Going up a short flight of stairs, an ethereal artwork in black and white sets the tone for the bedroom, where the client displays her mastery for creating environments. One is overcome with calmness at the sight of diaphanous fabrics draped from ceiling and over the bed set against a vista of the greens and mountains.

Above the bed, a hypnotizing photograph of a cloud summons a restful asleep. Irony exists in this Utopian setting: a Fatima vessel filled with holy water stands serenely on a ledge by the window, while on the other side, a voluptuous plaster sculpture of a nude woman with an outsized organ wards off disasters.


Beyond its sublime beauty, the structure exudes what Popi considers a positive energy. There is radiance about it, perhaps brought about natural light pouring from all its sides and creating shadow patterns that change as the sun floated around the house or the mesmerizing panorama of bamboo and other tropical foliage engaged in some primitive dance, gentle breeze coaxing them to sway. Much like a powerful piece of art, the house calls out to be examined, and in the case, felt and experienced, demanding a response. For the lady of the house, it is an adventure of discovery not just for herself but also for everyone who in some way touched her very personal project. It also marks another phase in her artistic journey: “To go into the abyss, as the photographer Diane Arbus would do, is very brave. I’m still mustering the courage to do that. This house is more an impetus to a long journey and I think I have already crossed the bridge of hesitation.”



A reproduction of an Ingo Murer droplight and a painting by Gerry Tan provide touches of modernity to the place. The watercolor portrait is by Popi Laudico. An old Gadur from Mindanao keeps an antique chair company. The wicker chair is another original piece from SouMak. An antique Maranao metal chest is used as a coffee table; abaca fabrics shield the space from the harsh summer sun. The homeowner loves to collect random objects, from seashells and antlers to seeds found around the property and on her travels.

“As an artist herself, the homeowner viewed the renovation as an installation – an abstraction of a house where rooms did not exist.”

TV room and hallway

A large Kamagong post ebonized with wax is used to dramatic effect. The lamp atop a small cabinet is part of a limited collection from SouMak called the DADA series and is made from antique glass parts from Europe. The circular bathroom walls are made from bamboo and abaca fabrics. The capiz door is a design of the homeowner and executed by Joel Tiyad.

“Much like a powerful piece of art, the house calls out to be examined, and in this case, experienced.”


Sitting nook

SouMak foreman Fernando Magcanta designed and made the bamboo drop light. Chairs manufactured by E. Murio flank a quaint table made from Narra burl wood. The artwork “Salome” is a plaster cast by Agnes Arellano.


Ground floor bathroom

A natural light source was created by cutting through the second level flooring.

“Furnishings and accents crafted by skilled artisans give the space an organic vibe.”



The homeowner shows her facility for creating moods for different spaces. An ethereal black –and – white artwork by Lubin Nepomuceno sets the tone for the bedroom.



White – used on walls and most of the fabrics – give the bedroom an overwhelmingly calm vibe. The diaphanous drapes are from Vigan, while the old French linen was given by a friend. The bed is one of the homeowner’s most treasured possessions, made by a friend, Spanish designer Jordi Viscena. Fine, hand – woven drapes frame a bamboo artwork by Lebanese artist Jacqueline Badur.

“An ethereal artwork in black and white sets the tone for the bedroom, where the owner displays her mastery for creating environments.”


Master suits

When asked why she opted for an open bathroom, the lady of the house replied cheekily: “At this age, I do not care!” The tub was chosen for its paper – boat – like shape. Vintage ceramics sit stop a ledge, complementing the marble walls and flooring.

“There is radiance about it, brought by natural light pouring from all its sides.”


Bamboo room

A small room adjunct to the master bedroom is the owner’s homage to her choice material of the moment, bamboo. The bed is her daughter’s, a sentimental piece where as a young girl, “she made her first drawings.”


Dressing area

The lounge chair is covered in ticog banig while master carver Joel Tiyad carved the mirror frame. The door leads to the bamboo room. Artisans known to the homeowners crafted practically all the furnishings and accents for the home.



Curves enhance the relaxed mood – from the swirls of a droplight to the sensuous line of the counter to the rounded vessel sink. Agnes Arellano’s “Sheela – na – ag,” a plaster sculpture that references an ancient figurine used to ward off evils and disasters, sits atop the marble ledge.



A lotus – filled pond cools the place during the height of summer, the low table from Vigan was once used as a worktable by tobacco rollers. The chandelier was inspired by a 13th – century piece from Portugal.

“The house still has a long way to go, as I do. It’s a process.”