A Small Space Turned Into An Artistic, Two-Storey Family Home

Artist Jeng Cabrera and her husband brought together amazing furniture finds, works of art, and tons of unique pieces to achieve a rustic-meets-Filipino aesthetic

Photography: Dairy Darilag Styling: Dagny Madamba

It’s always inspiring to see functional tiny spaces, more so if they evolve into charming family homes filled with personal finds and exquisite details. In May 2016, artist Jeng Cabrera and her husband decided to make use of a small space by turning it into a family home. “The former space was constructed [to serve] as my Mom’s office. She passed away and didn’t get to use it. My family had to make use of that small, one bedroom space. We have three kids and they’re growing up fast so we had a need to expand,” Jeng shares. Opting to add a second floor entailed a lot of changes. Walls were torn down, they extended each side of the house by a meter, and pillars were built to support the new floor. “We basically wanted more space. When we were designing the house, I wanted a big kitchen. My husband and I love to cook and we love having people over. We decided to [turn] the old bedroom into a kitchen, with a bar of course,” she adds.

Teamwork helped the family finish the home. Since Jeng and her husband also love to decorate, they had free rein on the furniture and décor that completed the space. “If he likes something, he shows it to me and if I don’t like it, we won’t go with it and vice versa,” Jeng says. The two asked an architect friend to work on the layout and they took it from there. Taking into consideration the project’s budget, the couple joined furniture groups on Facebook and even purchased quality secondhand finds. In building your home, Jeng shares this advice, “Your home is a reflection of who you are. Make sure you like what you see and you like what you feel when you’re in it.”

Front Door

According to Jeng, the look and feel of the home came to them naturally. "We tend to lean towards the Filipino look. We like old things, but not entirely. Maybe because we grew up in a house that has the same feel. We also like things rustic and industrial," she shares. The main door will remind you of ancestral homes, while the potted plants soften the overall look and effect of the brick column. The owners wanted a tall double door as main door and fortunately, they found one in an antique shop in Bulacan called Pamana Antiques. To add color to the entrance, cement tiles with cheerful patterns were used.

According to Jeng, the look of the entrance changes from time to time since this is where she displays her new plants.

Living Area

Fortunately for the owners, the construction period coincided with the setting up of the Manila Furniture Buy and Sell group on Facebook. The couple patiently waited for items and bought what they needed for the home. "Even if the house wasn't finished yet, when we saw something we liked, we get it because we might not see something like it again," Jeng explains. 

The living area is bright and inviting, with natural light streaming in from the glass door and glass blocks added below the ceiling. Various pieces complete the space, including an old sewing machine turned into a console table and the striking red cabinet that used to be Jeng's Mom's TV cabinet.

Living Area

Jeng's paintings add life and color to the whole house. In the living area, they chose to have while walls to be able to showcase works of art and their chosen furniture. "I know I might go crazy with the furniture and accessories so we went for plain white walls and cement-looking tiles," Jeng says. In this corner, a lovely painting spruces up the wall and adds an Asian flavor to the space.

Find a similar lamp at SM Home.

Living Area

Since the family uses the living area for lounging and watching movies, comfort is important. A couch sits in front of the bar area, with pillows making it extra inviting. Different plants freshen up the space and make it more relaxing.

From this angle, guests can see the rustic and industrial details incorporated into the final look. Bricks, wood, and interesting accessories make it extra special. "We like things old and rustic, and a little Filipino. I also love the Boho style, especially when it comes to the accessories," shares Jeng.

Living Area

Some of the pieces in the house are family heirlooms, like Jeng's grandmother's dresser seen in one corner. The lady of the house counts the old pieces as the most important ones in the house. "I used to watch my grandmother comb her hair, while seated in front of it. The original glass broke, though, so I had to replace it. It doesn't have the floral etching anymore. The knobs are from Vintage Hardware."

Find similar pieces at Crate & Barrel.

Dining Area

Thanks to the jalousie windows, the dining area is bathed in natural light. The six-seater dining table (another prized piece from Jeng's grandmother) is paired with matching wooden chairs and another seating piece in green. A painting made by Jeng and the kids spruces up the wall.

To define the dining area, they chose to elevate it. "The elevated floor is made of old wood. I saw someone selling it online by the bunch," she shares.

Powder Room

The door that leads to the powder room features stained sampaguita glass as accents, beside it is a chalkboard where messages and reminders can be written.

Powder Room

Compact yet still well-decorated, the powder room is dominated by touches of white—with the ornate mirror and a pretty framed painting sprucing up the wall. Since Jeng also loves plants, a potted green wonder is placed on top of a ceramic stool.

Find a similar pieces at Our Home.


The cooking area highlights the beauty of rustic and industrial details. "I wanted Machuca tiles for the kitchen so we chose a tile that will suit the space. The counters feature a cement-finish because somehow we want to incorporate an industrial feel into it," says Jeng. White tiles from Vintage Hardware serve as backsplash, while the cabinets in a dark color add a modern twist to the space. The wood used in the bar area are pieces saved from their ancestral house.

An interesting lighting piece also adds industrial flair to the kitchen. Most of the lighting pieces in the house were bought from HMR Trading Haus, Pioneer corner Reliance Street, Mandaluyong City.

For similar tiles, check out Machuca Tile at Ground Floor, JyJ Condominium, 867 Gen. Solano Street, San Miguel, Manila.

Design Detail

A console table holds woven planters, various knickknacks, framed pieces. One of the things guests will notice in the space is the abundance of plants that make it homey. "Go crazy with plants! One can never have too much plants, but arrange them in a way that's pleasing to the eye. Pick nice planters and baskets where you can put them," suggests Jeng.


Since the staircase is quite open and completed with slim stair balusters, the house looks more open and airy. Stained glass windows add a whimsical feel, while letting in colorful rays of light.

Design Detail

Since Jeng loves art and displaying mementos, wooden ledges were installed near the staircase. Here, decor pieces, plants, and more framed works of art add character to the space.

Master Bedroom

The master bedroom is simple and cozy. Jeng and her husband got the bed frame from the Manila Furniture Buy and Sell Group. Inspired by one of the spaces designed for Real Living Space, Jeng opted to have dark-colored walls and paired it with cement-looking tiles. "I thought that it will help me sleep more if the room is darker," says Jeng. Though dark colors seem to dominate, there's enough natural light coming in, thanks to the sliding door that leads to the patio.

A sleek floor lamp functions as reading light at night. To go with the feel of the space, neutral-colored sheets and pillow covers were chosen, complementing the color of the walls.

Kids' Room

A playful shade of blue defines the kids' room—with matching beds and a charming study area completing the look. In between the beds is a ladder shelf coated in dark varnish. The owners also got the beds from the Manila Furniture Buy and Sell group.

Master Bathroom

The master bathroom has strong industrial design influences. "My husband and I want a big bathroom. It turned out to be a great idea because sometimes, we find all five of us in there and we all fit comfortably. Plus, our kids love it. They use it more than the bathroom designated for them," Jeng relates. Aside from the metal enclosure, it also highlights white subway tiles on the walls, black honeycomb tiles used on the shower area floor, cabinets in black, and a concrete countertop. Shelves in metal and wood provide enough storage to keep clutter at bay.

Find similar tiles at Vintage Hardware Manila.

Outdoor Area

Since Jeng loves plants and art, the outdoor area can also be considerd as her workspace. There's a spot where she can paint, while there's also a wooden table where he can repot her potted wonders. Look closely and check out the striking yellow shelf where plants are on display and an old toilet turned into a planter, too.

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