A 1950s Apartment Gets a Transformation

Vintage, artistic, and quirky finds make up this three-storey duplex

Original Article: Bubbles Salvador Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Pictorial Direction: Nat M. Clave Styling: Dagny Madamba and Tala Singson

Artist, UP College of Fine Arts faculty member, and industrial designer Ninel Constantino’s home is a recently renovated old apartment located in a quiet street in Quezon City. The three-storey duplex, which she now shares with her brother, Red Constantino, was formerly her lola’s home during the 1950s.

The ground floor serves as Ninel’s studio—it is roomy and stretches all the way to the two-car garage. This is so she has enough space to look at her paintings from a distance and spread out her canvases. It has a small sitting area where she heads to during breaks. On the second floor is her cozy living area with several art pieces from family and friends on display. Just a few steps away is the mostly wood-decorated dining area and across it is the kitchen with yellow and black cabinets.

Ninel’s bedroom is located at the third floor. Just like the rest of the house, it is sprinkled with old, upcycled, and artistic items, like the vintage dimsum cart that now serves as her bed stand. “The way I planned the house is the way I knew myself. Alam ko paano ako mabuhay, ano yung routines ko, ano yung important sa akin. Ganun ko pinlano, kaya sobrang saya ko,” finishes Ninel.

Read the original article ("Industrial Revolution") in the February 2014 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details.


The entrance is filled with repurposed pieces like the mid-century wrought iron panels, old doors, and a stepladder, which she used as a planter.

Entrance Detail

Yung ibang shelves and tables pinalagyan ko ng wheels so flexible ’pag kailangan ko ng space. Wala masyadong permanent dito apart from the bookshelf,” shares Ninel. This part where her bookshelf and hand loom are is the most packed area in the house.

Living Area

The art piece in the living area is by Ninel’s father, RC Constantino. It shares the same color palette as some of the items in the space, like the mismatched throw pillows on the couch as well as the one-seater created by fellow Fine Arts faculty member, Mitch Shivers. The center table designed by Ninel’s Tita Bonnie Balderrama has a ceramic tile design encased in glass in the middle. 

Living Area Detail

The letters that spell the word “abubot” are props from Ninel’s own exhibit, which have found a new place in her living area.

Sitting Area

Wala akong ina-achieve na look. Nagwo-work lang siya kasi pag gusto ko siya, gusto ko siya,” says Ninel of her furniture and accessories. Case in point, this metal toy chest from her childhood which now serves as the center table in her home’s small sitting area. This area is where Ninel heads to take a breather or hang out with her dog Pipo-Ipo.

Dining Area

Ninel shared that she reworked the doors and added plywood and sinamay to the dining area’s piece de resistance, which is the antique apothecary cabinet. Meanwhile, the dining set was a purchase from a decade ago before her home’s renovation.


According to Ninel, she used a software called SketchUp to design her kitchen counters and yellow cabinets. Her color choice for the kitchen work in contrast with the dining area, which is adorned with mostly wood furniture. 

Receiving Area

The old shuttered panels turned into sliding doors give the living area located at the second floor a bright and airy feel. Seen here is Pipo-Ipo taking respite in the concrete floor, which Ninel also used for the stairs because she fell in love with concrete.


The color theme for Ninel’s bedroom came about when she realized that she owned a lot of things that were green. Her green wall is accented by a painting by Erwin Leaño.


“There are no shadows on my paintings,” explains Ninel on why she loves the light especially in her studio. Aside from her own artwork, Ninel also displayed around the house the works of her artist friends like Candice Arellano, Jim Orencio, Mitch Shivers, and her father, RC Constantino.

Studio Detail

The vintage globe that sits on top of a plastic cabinet in Ninel’s home office is a reminder of her many travels around Asia, Europe, and the United States. Beside it are quirky knickknacks such as a Yakult coinbank and a Converse shoe.

Studio Detail

A sketch by artist friend Jim Orencio is displayed on top of an old filing cabinet, which doubles as a magnetic board.

Art Supplies

Organized in various boxes and shelves near Ninel’s worktable are her brushes, paint and other art materials.

Decor Detail

This upcycled electric meter turned clock that sits in Ninel’s studio is another creation of Mitch Shivers.

Decor Detail

This small blackboard, which sits beside a lamp made by artist Juan Alcazaren, is where Ninel writes her to-do list.

Lamps from Antique Shops

Hanging over the dining table are lamps of different designs scored from antique shops. In the background are paintings by Ninel’s friends, which are lined up in a narrow shelf on the wall.

Decor Detail

Ninel admits to having a liking for door pulls, which can be seen all over the house. She uses them—although not necessarily in pairs—as tabletop accessories or as handles for cabinets. 


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