An Extraordinary Bahay Kubo in a Modern Setting

Elements of tropical design merges with contemporary architecture in this classic home

Original Article: Chinggay Labrador Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Styling: Gwyn GS Guanzon Architect: Jorge Yulo

“Don’t build me an ordinary house, because if you do, I’ll fire you!” Barbara “Tweetums” Gonzalez said in jest to architect Jorge Yulo. It seemed to work its magic, as this modern bahay kubo is far from the ordinary.

Eccentric angles, wide open spaces, floor to ceiling windows—the tiny glass panels even slide open, like ventanillas—and a roof made of thatch and cogon characterize this cozy home owned by the Philippine Star columnist. It’s a home that is unbelievably alive, like it breathes and changes—from plants growing wildly from the roof, foliage by the pond, and the carp that swims around the koi pond. Instead of the usual wood or tile, araal stone flooring runs through the entire place. The dining and living areas are linked together, while the kitchen and dining areas are separated from the main house. Personal touches reflect the homeowner’s personality, from family photos, a patchwork terno full of history lit up by lighting designer Shoko Matsumoto, to artworks by Onib Olmedo and Aguilar Alcuaz.

Truly pleased with her home, Tweetums has this to say, “When you look at it from the outside, it seems very foreboding and intimidating, but the minute you enter the door, you realize how friendly and relaxed it is. Once you come inside, you see how beautiful it is.”

Original article by Chinggay Labrador. Styling by Gwyn GS Guanzon. Photographed by Miguel Nacianceno.

Read the original article ("A Life Less Ordinary") in the September 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details. 


A request of the homeowner, this roof is made of curiously shaped thatched cogon. It gives the home a natural, outdoorsy, fairy-tale feel, complete with the birds that nest on the roof and the plants that grow.


The sturdy double-door entrance is highlighted by a wooden façade with a cherub hanging on a corner. The araal stone flooring begins from the outside and continues into the home.

Living Area

The living area is a pavilion that leads to the koi pond, then the dining pavilion outside the home. Huge windows let the light in, so the traditional furniture upholstered in dark colors keep the home from looking excessively bright.


An open-air pathway with running foliage and flowering blooms lead the way from the main house to the kitchen and dining areas.

Outdoor Detail

Metal chairs were added near the koi pond where guests can sit and relax.

Koi Pond

A relaxing and magical addition to any home, the koi pond is reminiscent of a calming tropical getaway.

Dining Area

Separate from the home, the dining pavillion is a bright and cheerful place. The colorful clay flooring, wooden chairs and tables reminiscent of colonial era furniture, floor to ceiling windows, and the pop of color from the blue shelves, all tied together give this room an offbeat, eccentric vibe.

Design Detail

Floor-to-ceiling windows, whose smaller glass panels slide open, make up most of the house’s walls, letting natural light pour through. This also keeps the home breezy, as the windows lets the air circulate freely.


Even the staircase has its own unique charm—a broken banister guarded over by a cherub. On the second floor landing hang art by Onib Olmedo and Aguilar Alcuaz.

Design Detail

The hanging terno is a patchwork of the fabric from the homeowner’s grandmothers’ collections. Of the ternos, the columnist shares that one can see the personalities from the fabric—her kikay lola owned the ternos that had all the sequins and her more conservative lola owned the ternos with the simpler designs. Shoko Matsumoto, a Manila-based Japanese lighting designer, created the house’s lighting scheme and designed the lights for this terno.


The wooden four-poster bed is a classic, draped in stunning white fabric. The floor to ceiling windows give the room ample light and air, while one wall is dedicated to a shelf of books, holding everything from poetry to marketing to writing.


Araal flooring runs through the floor and holds the bathtub. Various odds and ends decorate the space, from a backlit shelf with blue accent items, to candelabras littering the side of the tub and on the wall. Lattice lace work sits on a low table.


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