This Couple's Refreshingly Cozy Home Has Its Own Artificial Sunset

Charisma and Aren went for an "Asian contemporary-fusion" look for their dream home.

Photography: Courtesy of Charisma Lico

Building your humble city dream home usually doesn’t come without a few snags in the way, especially when you have to make do with a generally tight space. But for Aren Santos and Charisma Lico, design-wise, things tend to come easy when you're one-half an architect, and one-half a fashion photographer with an eye for detail. "Aren, as an architect, has always had a vision for his dream house so he had something in mind already for his future home even before we started dating," Charisma tells Preview. “He has always envisioned something natural, raw, and with an open concept. So when he presented to me the design of our home, I instantly liked it! I was mostly involved in the detailing and nitpicking."

The result of their meticulously planned, five-month long renovation? A 200-square meter picture-perfect polished abode, rendered in wood for a natural "Asian contemporary-fusion" design, as the couple aptly describes.


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Of course, what’s working hard to fulfill your every mind’s whim without getting to gush over your favorite part? For Charisma, it’s the gradient artificial sunset in their master bedroom, especially built by her husband to satisfy her obsession with the warm orange view—one the location of their home unfortunately didn’t permit for.


See the rest of their new home below, as Charisma takes Preview through the process of bringing dream home to life.  

What was your original vision for the house? Would you say you were able to achieve this after renovating?

"Aren, as an architect, has always had a vision for his dream house so he had something in mind already for his future home even before we started dating. He has always envisioned something natural, raw, and with an open concept. So when he presented to me the design of our home, I instantly liked it! I was mostly involved in the detailing and nitpicking.

"Fortunately, we were able to do most of the proposed design. I guess the most challenging part was how to make his design come to life. It was uncanny how some of it came out almost exactly the same from his proposed design to real life, like the sofa, the type of plants, and the lights. Although some details were really custom-made to match the proposal."


Could you take us through the initial process of coming up with the house's design? Did you create any mood boards?

"We would talk about the design or look of our future home eight months prior to our wedding because we started looking for a house after we got engaged. Aren would show me some photos, and most of his ideas were really on point. I’m happy that we almost have the same aesthetic. It wasn’t hard agreeing to what he proposed. Also, I trust him and respect his eye for design and architecture."


"I guess it’s also because he considered me in most aspects especially in the functionalities of his designs, that’s why I didn’t have to argue about his concepts because the intentions were right. I was also familiar with his proposals before and I would say that I was influenced by his taste since Aren is also very vocal about his ideas. There were no mood boards. I guess it was a combination of all the things we liked. It’s an Asian contemporary-fusion design if we were to describe it."


Did you and Aren have to compromise on anything?

"When it comes to our decision-making, I would say we kind of always agree with each other since we know our roles. He’s in charge of the structures and overall design, but he would let me choose the details. Like tile design, artworks, shade of wood, plants, pots, vase, flowers, home ware. And we would always consult each other so we make sure we both agree first before buying anything.


"With wanting something else, in some way, yes, there were compromises, especially with the detailing. Most of the time, the better it looks, the more expensive it is and this is applicable to almost everything: bed sheets, office chair, soap dispenser, stove, etc! But since we had budget constraints, we would settle with the stuff that are not expensive but are acceptable design-wise."

Did you face any difficulties along the way? How did you solve them?

"Yes! There were times when we became a little impatient with the timeline as to our expectation of when we want the renovation to be done, but God’s timing is always perfect. We just learned to surrender everything. The stress was lessened and we started to appreciate every little victory and progress."


Describe the feel you'd like your home to exude if guests were to first step into it.

"I guess what we wanted is to channel our taste/design and art to our guests. Beauty is subjective; therefore, we really wanted to be unique and put up the things that we're comfortable with."


What's your favorite space in your new home and why?

"My favorite spot is in our master’s bedroom where I can view the artificial sunset that my husband built for me since he knows how obsessed I am with sunsets. It’s really just a lighting effect and design placement. What made it special is that our artificial sunset can only be seen when there's an actual sunset. Next is the living/office area probably because I can have a nice view of our plants, and it’s where my artworks, that my husband pushed me to create (such a biased decision I know), are placed."


How did you maximize the space in the house?

"Since space is so valuable and we only have a few to work with; cabinets, shelves, and more cabinets are placed almost everywhere. Utilization of the said shelves and cabinets are also done to achieve more moving and working space. We also carefully picked the furniture that we used before buying them. Some of the furniture were also custom made just to fit our tiny home."


What advice would you give to those looking to design their small space to look or feel bigger?

"Familiarize yourself with the actual measurements and dimensions. This will help you determine what you can accommodate and what is required. It would be better if you can seek advice from a professional architect/interior designer. It’s really convenient to have someone like Aren to translate and turn everything into reality."


This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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