A Modern Japanese-Themed Home

By reading books and through careful experimentation, this lawyer couple successfully built a modern bungalow reminiscent of the Land of the Rising Sun

Original Article: Tisha Alvarez Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Styling: Issa Villar

Jacqueline Swann, lawyer by profession, designed this beautiful Japanese-inspired modern home on her own. It seems unbelievable for this refined home to not have a professional touch, but Jacqueline read countless books on how to become an interior designer and this enabled her to realize her dream space. She learned it all – from choosing colors to tips on design and theory.

Anthony, her husband and fellow lawyer, has always liked Japanese interiors. Together, they were able to achieve a simple design with clean lines for their home which gives off a feeling of peace. One of the things he asked for was a Zen garden—which they were able to accomplish! Over two months, their traditional 1970s bungalow was streamlined but completing the home with the right furniture pieces took two years. Their take on the Japanese theme was modern, foregoing traditional tatami floors in favor of dark hardwood but still heavily inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, as seen in the elements such as the shoji (panels with translucent paper) and tea window. With the help of Lhot Cosme, a furniture maker based in Pampanga, the couple was able to finish their home, just the way they want it—with unique architectural details, sophisticated furniture, tastefully laid out accessories, complete with feng shui principles. This home is a classic example of how anyone can create a home they envision if they just put the time, commitment, and effort into it.

Original article by Tisha Alvarez. Styling by Issa Villar. Photographed by Miguel Nacianceno.

Read the original article ("Designer’s Instinct") in the November 2008 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details. 

Living Area To fit their space and to follow the Japanese theme, most of the furniture pieces were custom-made by Lhot Cosme. The red lounger, originally of leatherette material, was salvaged from an MC Home Depot warehouse then re-upholstered.
Meditation Area A Japanese scroll hangs over the walls of the meditation area. Neutral-toned meditation mats and pillows are stacked facing a small display of Asian art.
Den Comfortable cushioned seats with wooden frames are the key pieces in the den, with an entertainment system hidden in the classic wooden armoire. Pillow mats anchor the Japanese theme in this room, as well as the stunning view into the Zen garden.
Dining Area The bespoke dining set is by Lhot Cosme. At its center is a candle and a music box from the United States. Following feng shui principles wherein a music box should be placed at the center of a home, the couple searched for a music box high and low to match their décor.
Dining Area Detail A sliding shoji stands next to shelves holding various appliances like Anthony's collection of coffee presses and other coffee accoutrements in the dining area.
Dining Area Detail A painting of a family acts as a décor for the dining area, with a lamp bathing the room in a soft yellow glow.
Dining Area Detail A modern take on a Japanese tea window separates the living area from the dining area.
Master Bedroom The dark furnished bed is a bespoke piece from Cagayan. The shoji panel behind the bed acts as a divider, separating the TV area from the bedroom and hides the exercise machine. It also follows feng shui, which says that the bed should not be propped against a wall.
Kid's Bedroom A shelf of books and a wall full of interesting prints and posters—from Pokémon to a Kozyndan War of the Monsters print—line Xavier’s wall.
Patio Wooden tables and chairs overlook the Zen garden, creating a relaxed atmosphere for the patio.
Garden A Zen garden is a Japanese rock garden meant to be viewed from a single part of the home, usually for meditation purposes. Here is the porch that offers the traditional view of the garden, with slat wooden flooring, circular lighting, and Japanese art inspired curtains.
Garden detail A wooden traditional wind mobile hangs above the walkway in the Zen garden.
Outdoor detail When decorating, don’t forget to think about all the bits and pieces that go into and outside of your home. Here, even the home’s water tank was dressed up to match the theme of the house.

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