A Collection of Happy Things in a Writer's Apartment

Purchased, gifted, and inherited pieces make up this home

Original Article: Tisha Alvarez-Angluben Photography: Dairy Darilag Pictorial Direction: Nat M. Clave Styling: Issa Villar Architect: Lara Fernandez-Barrios

Some people build their home’s look by going on several shopping trips or doing DIY projects. Others incorporate the trinkets and accessories they’ve accumulated from all their travels. A few work with what they have or what they’re provided with. In children’s book author Yvette Fernandez’s case, it’s a little bit of everything.

The coffee table and accent chairs, for example, she inherited from her grandparents. The table and stools in the kitchen were hand-me-downs from her sister, while her antique narra dining table is from her mom. Some of the art pieces on display were gifts from her friends, while the other accessories are from her travels. Her only purchases for her space were the sofa and the dining chairs.

Even her unit, which is part of a row of apartments her grandparents built in the 1960s, used to be home to some family members. “My mom’s older sister was the first one to live in the unit,” shares Yvette and goes on about the other relatives who took solace in the unit prior to her move. When Yvette finally came back to Manila after working in New York for more than a decade, she decided to make changes and incorporate some ideas from her childhood. She sought for her sister Architect Lara Fernandez Barrios’s help in making her new old home a happy place to live in.

Read the original article ("Happy Place") in the March 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.

Living Area

“It’s a hodgepodge of things that make me happy. I didn’t have anything in mind as a whole, but I always wanted a red couch,” explains Yvette about her home’s look. Accompanying her red couch are pieces she inherited from her grandparents: a wood-topped coffee table with wrought iron legs from her lolo and accent chairs from her lola, which she had reupholstered. Hanging above her couch are paintings by Jiggy Cruz, Pow Martinez, Pardo de Leon, and Rodel Tapaya.

Living Area Detail

Referring to artist Daniel dela Cruz who gifted her with the sculpture on top of her coffee table, Yvette shares, "His wife Monica is a friend of mine, whom I got to know on a shuttle to the Hong Kong airport. They're a wonderful couple." 

Living Area Detail

Atop a table beside the red couch in the living area is this nude sculpture. It’s a replica of Yvette’s favorite sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Dining Area

Purple custom-made chairs surround the antique narra dining table, a piece from the house of Yvette’s parents, which she and her siblings grew up in. She admits that she wasn’t sure about the color her sister Lara chose for the chairs, but trusted her judgment anyway.

Dining Area Detail

“When Mom moved out, she gave my sister the solihiya chairs, and gave me the table,” says Yvette referring to the antique narra dining table. 

Dining Area Detail

"Lara and I saw the light fixtures at Manila F.A.M.E. and thought they looked whimsical and fun, so Lara managed to persuade the manufacturer to make some for us," says Yvette of the light fixtures above her dining table.


Yvette’s sister, Architect Lara Fernandez Barrios, helped her make a few changes around the house. “She knocked down the kitchen wall and extended the kitchen through what was once an outdoor garden,” says Yvette. To add to that, she installed a skylight, updated the cabinets, and repainted the walls red. Meanwhile, Yvette’s kitchen accessories are either hand-me-downs (stools from her other sister, Jackie), acquired (All-Clad pot set), or from her travels (teapot from Paris, matryoshka dolls from Moscow, candleholders from Prague, and a reindeer napkin holder from Stockholm). 

Kitchen Detail

The kitchen counter/breakfast nook was also an addition to the kitchen. Yvette says that it’s something she wanted since she was a kid.


Yvette’s chosen accessories make the simple stairway a lot more interesting. Seen here are a vintage typewriter and a telephone from antique stores in New York, a camera from Portobello Road in London, and a Dali-esque clock “melting” on one of the steps.

Staircase Detail

This piece, which was given to Yvette by a friend, is suggestive of Salvador Dali’s “melting watches” in his painting, The Persistence of Memory.

Second Floor

Yvette’s interiors are painted mostly in white, which makes her red furniture and accessories pop out.


A jeepney collage by Noel Rosales hangs over the bed Yvette inherited from her sister Jackie. 


Positioned in one corner of Yvette’s bedroom is her writing desk, which is on loan from her best friend. Mounted on the wall is an 18th century map of the Philippines, a purchase from an antique shop in London.

Library/Massage/Exercise Room

“I’ve always loved children’s books. I love happy endings. Life is difficult enough as it is. Why stress ourselves further with the books we read or the movies we watch?” shares Yvette. No wonder her orange room’s shelves are filled with mostly children’s, middle-grade, and young adult novels. The space also serves as her exercise and massage room.

Decor Detail

On top of Yvette’s writing desk is a lamp she bought from a pop-up store. She says that she particularly loves the industrial look of it.


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