A Relaxing Tropical Home With Asian Touches

An architect updates his parents' 1980s home into a modern, tropical space for his family

Original Article: Amillah Rodil Photography: At Maculangan Styling: Issa Villar Architect: Mark Siapno

Built in 1987 by architect Mark Siapno's parents, the four-bedroom, two-storey house had few windows, and a deep floor plan that didn't let much light into the interiors. After more than 20 years, the design of the house had become dated.

Anna Siapno admits she wasn't thrilled when Mark, her then-fiancé, told her that they would be living in his parents' old home. "When we were engaged, he told me I was gonna live here. I was so shocked, kasi it was dark. He told me he was gonna renovate it, but I didn't think that it was possible...talagang ang dilim-dilim."

The house had a lot of good architectural elements though, such as the stairs, doors, railings, and cornices. Mark wanted to keep these details because they were made of narra, but Anna was a bit skeptical about the wood. "I know his taste: It's modern, Zen-type architecture. I was thinking, how can he incorporate a modern design with the old narra carvings?"

Everything in the house now feels sleek, updated, and polished. "I wanted clean lines, minimalist design," says Mark. Not only did he blend the old with the new, but he also created light-filled, flexible spaces that better fit their lifestyle. He also improved the flow of space. Upon entering, you see the staircase going up to the second floor, and a central hallway with a small receiving area beyond. From the central hallway, you can go into the living area and home office on the right, or the dining room and kitchen on the left. Huge sliding doors allow glimpses into adjacent rooms, making the house feel more open and spacious.

"We're homebodies. The house is perfect for us. It's a functional house," Anna says. Aside from being a great a new home for the couple, a bonus is that the house has also been good for Mark's architectural practice. "It's a good sales pitch," he says. "The moment I bring my clients to my house, it's a done deal." 


Mark Siapno, who is the principal architect of MFS Architectural Design, updated the façade with architectural details and a gate design with horizontal lines, giving the whole house an updated, Zen-modern look. The renovation of the house took seven months, during which Mark lived in the house to supervise the work.

Entry foyer

Upon entering, you see the staircase going up to the second floor, and a central hallway with a small receiving area beyond. The sliding doors that open out to the back used to be a band of small windows.

The furniture of the house was also updated, with the help of Anna's cousin, interior designer Sasa Coronel. Contemporary furniture with subtle oriental forms add to the Asian feel of the home. 

Living area

The living room is the brightest room in the house. Vertical windows let in light, and a hidden skylight (above the windows) plus cove lights further illuminate the room. Old sofas were reupholstered to gain a sleeker shape, while lounge chairs in black woven leather by Lor Calma serve as accent seats. Mark’s family also had a collection of Filipino artwork by Juvenal Sanso, Rafael Cusi, Angel Cacnio, and Malang that they incorporated into the new interiors. 

Home office

Mark created a home office adjacent to the new living room, and it has its own bathroom. If the need arises, the office can also be converted into a guest room. 


The Siapnos call this their “display kitchen” as most of the cooking is done in a “dirty kitchen,” but this is where they usually eat. Built-in appliances and loads of storage space keep the kitchen clutter-free. Even the water dispenser is hidden inside a tall cabinet.  


“Everything that was narra, we tried to retain,” says Mark of the renovation. This includes the narra staircase going up to the second floor, which lends a strong, linear elegance to the contemporary interior. 

Master bedroom

Wood finishes envelop the entire master bedroom and give it a warm, glowing feel. A niche on the wooden headboard serves as a place for keepsakes-such as the relief artwork the couple gave to their ninongs and ninangs on their wedding. 

Zen garden

Lush greenery keeps the modern lines of the home from looking too stark. A water feature adds a tranquil touch to the backyard.

Read the original article ("Fresh Start") in the December 2008 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details. 

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