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This Designer's Sophisticated 32sqm Condo Has A Story To Tell

A young designer takes a woodland fantasy and translates it into a magical home filled with organic touches

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Original Article: Andrea Portugal Photography: Michael Angelo Chua Styling: Dagny Madamba

The ambiance of the 32sqm condo unit is moody but not dreary, solemn but still homey; just what you’d expect a man-cave to feel like. Almost immediately, you recognize the home as a space with a story to tell, and that’s exactly what draws you in.

“The first time I saw the space when it was still bare, I thought that it was really small, so I immediately had that cave theme in mind,” the designer recalls. Gino took to the drawing board and allowed the cave concept to weave itself into a design narrative. “I’ve always seen myself as kind of a hermit, so it was just a matter of finding a way to translate that cave theme and come up with a story.”

Picking a “story”

For his home, the narrative revolves around the experience of exploring the woods. He adds, “That’s my thing, I don’t go with design styles straightaway like, ‘Oh, I want it to be Georgian.’ Usually, I start with a story and the design kind of follows.” The result is a home that clearly represents Gino’s vivid imagination, refined aesthetic, and the distinct means by which he is able to marry the two.

When asked if the living area is the “forest” that one traverses before going into the “cave,” Gino heartily replies, “Yes, that’s exactly it! I took inspiration from a trip to Tokyo last year, I wanted it to feel like how I felt when I was in the backstreets of Tokyo—super unpredictable in the sense that you have these temple structures right next to these modern structures.” Dark wood panels line opposite walls of the space and wrap existing beams, leaving the impression of being under a canopy of large trees. A tall bamboo plant sits in one corner of the room, adding an organic touch to the area.

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Defining spaces transparently

The unit does not feel cramped, because instead of putting up a solid wall, Gino separated the sleeping and living areas with simple, black-framed, clear glass dividers. A peek into the bedroom reveals the full concept of his “cave” design. “I think you need time conceptualizing because it dictates everything,” Gino explains. “You need to establish a strong foundation, a strong point of view. For this, it was just cave—so when you hear that, you already know it’s going to be dark, it’s going to be moody, and it’s going to be textured.”

Gino points to the polymer clay “fungi” and the dramatic streaks on his bedroom wall. “I created these brown streaks with acrylic paint and a palette knife. I wanted it to feel the way you’d feel inside a cave, with lichen growing around you. That’s the story.” And what a grand story this tiny space is. 

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