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A Designer's Abode Filled With Filipino Furniture And Accents

This home of a noted interior designer is constantly evolving, but one thing remains the same: Filipino style takes center stage

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Original Article: Chinggay Labrador Photography: Rene Mejia Pictorial Direction: Gwyn Guanzon

Interior designer Leo Almeria welcomes us into his home with a delicious vegetarian meal. His breezy dining room, which opens out into his courtyard, is the perfect venue for some light conversation. “I have a very casual lifestyle,” he says. “I entertain occasionally—it’s usually just intimate dinners and very small gatherings.” The soft-spoken designer from Tacloban lives in a quiet, “work in progress” home in Quezon City that is a celebration of Asian and Filipino cultures.

All-Filipino collection

Leo’s house is a three-story structure that is an homage to tropical architecture, with wide, plantation-style windows and doors that are thrown open to let in air and light. Though contemporary in style, you can find fine examples of Filipino indigenous textiles and artifacts throughout the home.

Collecting primitive Filipino furniture, fabrics and artwork has been a pastime for Leo for more than 30 years. He began acquiring pieces in 1978, when he began his studies at the Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID). He then worked under founder of PSID and pioneering interior designer Edith Oliveros, and under Russell Emmert, ASID, before forming his own design studio in the 1980s.

When asked what inspires his spaces, the soft-spoken designer shares: “Nature, culture, our Filipino heritage. I’m also inspired by festival, fiestas and events. And of course, I’m inspired by people—their way of life, their expressions, and personalities.” “Our culture is very unique—it’s one of a kind; Filipino style is a mixture of western and eastern, mostly Malay influences. I love the mix—and the way we interpret it.”

A stylist’s touch

As seen in the living room and the other areas of the house, there are colorful vignettes of Filipino furniture that are subtly marked with Leo’s calm and elegant persona: a hat thrown over a painting, a few books positioned carefully over a foot stool, and even a simple anahaw fan gracefully placed atop a daybed.

The home is filled with artfully styled vignettes, which is no surprise, as Leo has been working as a stylist in design magazines, sets, and other venues, for years. “It’s fixed up now, but I know that everything is still going to revolve, as well as evolve. Magri-rigodon pa rin ang furniture ko, just because I love to arrange and rearrange my home,” he says. “My house is my laboratory—a laboratory of my artistic expression.”

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Entry Foyer

In the entrance area, Leo mixes and matches different accessories and styles. Useful objects (books, clothing, baskets) all become part of the décor. Here, he combines antique tribal costumes from Mindanao with a Rod Veneracion painting and a cast resin wheel of his own design. 

Living room

A walk up Leo’s foyer leads to his living room—a bright space framed by bright green panels, paintings by Ivan Acuña, and an ottoman draped in another tribal fabric. Domineering the living area is a huge daybed instead of a sofa. Plantation-style shutters on the windows add a bold, rustic touch to the space. 

Dining area

The placid shades of green shift to a vibrant red in the dining room. For a similar red hue, try “Mystical Jar” from Boysen Paints. The awe-inspiring antique doors remain, however—and so do the pieces of Filipino furniture. “I love ‘primitive’ Pinoy furniture, just like my dining table,” Leo says, laughing at how the indigenous he loves have been classified as “primitive.” The antique dining chairs were purchased at a shockingly low price (P500 each!) from an office that closed down. 

READ: Top 13 Dining Rooms

An avant-garde chandelier made out of farming yokes hangs over his dining table—a piece he designed with his father. “My father has always been a hobbyist in design and construction. I was at our farm one day and saw some carabao yokes just lying around; that’s what gave me the idea to turn it into a chandelier,” Leo recounts. The dining area opens to a Zen courtyard, complete with a serene Buddha. 

Powder room

Leo’s ground floor powder room is a heady mix of dramatic lighting, faux-alabaster, capiz shells, and red and black color. The painting, partially seen at right, is Leo’s portrait from the PSID graduating class of 2002’s exhibit entitled “Tribute,” which was a tribute to the style of all the pioneering interior designers and the design school's teachers. 

Stairs

A sculptural spiral staircase leads up to the more private quarters—Leo’s sensitivity in design is evident in the elegant twist of the stairs. Filipino art can be found throughout the home, like these Pablo Mahinay sculptures in narra wood. 

Master bedroom

Leo’s bedroom is a play on different geometric lines, shapes and volumes. He designed his own four-poster wrought iron bed, with a canopy of white Abel Iloco (a traditional Ilocano woven fabric) overhead. The square edges of the bed play up the dramatic, pyramidal-shaped ceiling. The two table lamps were designed by Leo. 

READ: Go On A Weaving Tour of Ilocos

Master Toilet and Bath

The bathroom is a picture of refinement with a clawfoot tub framed by two wrought iron pedestals topped with classic urns. Another Filipino tribal fabric is draped over the edge of the tub, and adds a classic yellow rubber ducky, saying that bathtime should be "lots of fun." The designer and teacher advises against using "...anything too 'period.' I don?t want my home to look like a museum!"

Read the original article ("Mix Master") in the March 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details. 

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