An Airy, Modern-Pinoy Family Home In Quezon City

We love the open living spaces, the double-height ceiling, the tropical resort vibe, and the tree house for kids!

Photography: Jilson Tiu Styling: Kamila Garcia Architect: Oscar Bonifacio Interior Designer: Cara Marcelo

This sprawling family home is filled with a flurry of activities on a weekday morning. Children come and go, pets jump up to greet guests, and lunch is cooked, yet the house remains calm, relaxing, and cool—much like a tropical resort, only located in the middle of a bustling city.

Such is the nature of the Marcelo home, which has an atmosphere that is as laidback as its owners, interior designer Cara Marcelo, and her restaurateur-husband, Edwin. The two-storey house is more than a decade old, but it doesn’t show—the living areas are furnished with timeless pieces, and the kitchen is sleek and spotless. “I wanted a pretty simple house,” Cara shares. “A simple layout, everything in its place.”

Cara and Edwin moved here 12 years ago after living as newlyweds in a condo unit. “When I gave birth to my eldest, parang the condo was too small, and so we decided to move to a house. We built it even when we were just starting out, and we were on a really tight budget,” says Cara. The construction took only six months, with Cara at the helm of the interior design, and her friend Oscar Bonifacio working on the architecture.

The end result is this all-white modern house washed in light, with a second-level bridgeway that joins two bedroom areas, allowing both living and dining to have a double-volume ceiling. The spaces were decorated slowly, over time, as “I have a slow process of accumulating things over the years,” Cara admits. And her years of working at Focus Global—handling major international home brands such as Siematic, Ethan Allen, Miele, and Oster—coupled with frequent travels have allowed her to furnish her home with a tasteful mix of contemporary furniture and Asian-Filipino décor.

As their children grow, the house continues to evolve; their most recent addition is the huge bed in the master bedroom, but there are more upcoming improvements. “That’s my husband’s and my motto in life: Make it happen. Anything we dream of, we will create it. It’s a life project we do together, so it’s always fun,” Cara says with a smile.  


The 364sqm house sits on a lot area of 400sqm; the modern, white structure is partially screened off from the street with simple landscaping. 

Entry foyer

Napa, one of the Marcelos’ four dogs, sits quietly by the entry foyer. Cara loves to use indigenous—and usually affordable—wooden furniture and accessories around the house, such as this wooden Ifugao chair and tribal décor from Baguio. The framed print is by Paolo Lim. 

Living area

The living area opens to the yard at the side, and the lanai at the back of the house. The double-volume ceiling and generously-sized glass doors and windows allow the space to be washed in natural light, that they don’t have to turn on artificial light in the daytime. “We were the one of the first to use I-beams for building our house, that’s why you hardly see any posts here,” Cara shares. “Before, they’d only use I-beams for buildings, but now they use them in homes all the time.”

“Obviously, I like white. I wanted everything to be white, I wanted it to be modern,” says Cara. “And I wanted the interiors to be modern-Filipino, but not cliché.” The sofa is from Ethan Allen, and the Filipino touches can be seen in the small decorative accessories and the tribal-fabric pillows, which Cara had stitched up from the excess inabel cloth she had lying around. 


The Marcelos love to entertain family and friends, and this extends to the outdoor lanai, which the living area opens directly to. 

“In the morning, we all sit here,” says Cara of their lanai. “My husband sits here and looks at the tree house. Ever since we had the tree house built, lots of birds come over to nest here.”

Tree house

The piece de resistance of the Marcelos’ backyard is the tree house, which Cara had built two years ago. This fanciful tree house, which stands behind a large balete tree, has a sandbox underneath it, a loft, a sliding pole at the side, and a bayong on a pulley to bring the toys up. Cara made sure it was safe for the kids by surrounding all sides with wooden slats so that no one would fall out. 

Bar cabinet

An enormous kamagong cabinet from Baguio—a gift from one of Cara’s friend—stands in between the living and dining areas, serving as a bar cabinet for Cara’s husband, Edwin, who owns Betty's Sans Rival in Quezon City, and is a partner of The Brewery At The Palace at BGC. 

Dining area

The dining area also has a double-volume ceiling, which is emphasized by the enormous capiz pendant lamp hanging in the middle. “I had this made at one of those capiz stores in New Manila,” says Cara. “I just told them: ‘Make the biggest one!’” You can have a similar capiz lamp like this customized at Robles Heritage. 

Cara’s dining table is a wooden heirloom from her family. The large woven mirror was bought at Tiendesitas, while the large, sculptural metal vase beside it is a budget find from Dapitan. The wooden “artifacts” in the wall niches are travel souvenirs from here and abroad. “Whenever I travel, I will always get one small thing and bring it back home,” says Cara. 


One of the standout features of the Marcelo home is the sleek Siematic kitchen, which is no surprise, since Edwin is in the food business, and Cara worked at Focus Global as their senior principal designer for 12 years. “They offered me a car plan, but I didn’t want a car. I wanted a furniture and kitchen plan!” 

Cara claims that the Siematic kitchen that she chose wasn’t in this configuration, so that when they built this house, she had to re-plan it. The appliances are from Miele, and the ref is from Fisher and Paykel. 

Family room

Cara’s son relaxes in the family room, where the kids play and where everyone watches TV. You can get a similar lounger-sofa like this at Blims. The wooden tripod lamp on the side table is from Mandaue Foam. The family room also has a "control center" where each family member jots down his or her activities for the day on a whiteboard. 


A weathered wooden plough is used as another sculptural accent in the stairwell. Another flight of stairs to the right leads to the sub-basement powder room. The framed prints are by Pepper Roxas.


A bridgeway connects the children’s rooms and the master bedroom, and you can glimpse the top view of either living or dining area from up here. The mini billiards table is a budget find from Ever Gotesco. “I told my kids I’d rather buy them this billiards table than take them out for a movie and dinner—this table costs less!” Cara says in jest.

Home office

One of the upstairs bedrooms serves as Cara’s home office. “Eventually, mawawalan ako ng office because this will become my third child’s bedroom.” The green chair is a prototype that Cara made as a student of interior design at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Cara’s son made these lively and colorful paintings above the round couch. A simple fruit basket holds Cara’s tracing paper and plans.

Master bedroom

In the master bedroom, we were surprised to see the biggest bed, which could accommodate all five members of the family! Cara says that she pushed together a king-sized bed and a single bed to create this one giant bed. She had an upholstered headboard customized to make it look neat. The paintings above the bed are by Ramon Doplon.

Cara made this little hotel-like amenities nook, complete with coffee maker, water pitcher and glasses, radio, and a drawer filled with coffee, tea, and cups. “We love staying in hotels, and I made this little nook so that we could always feel we are still in a hotel.”

Email Cara at carasmarcelo[at]

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