Inside This Marvelous Mansion in Makati Designed by Renowned Decorator Mario Buatta
“I commissioned him in January 1984. In October, I flew to New York. I walk into the apartment straight from the airport and Mario Buatta is waiting for me. There are scented candles everywhere, sliced lemon in the bar just in case you want a vodka tonic; soaps in the bathtub, classical music is playing.”
Anton Roxas describes his home best: “You have no inkling of what’s inside from the outside.” The sweeping house has a French exterior but the interior is of a rich English countryside, reflecting strong influences cultivated by his travels.
Anton could pass for a European patrician. He speaks the Queen’s English. He sounds like Prince Phillip and British Airways. Add a dash of the British sense of humor—“With my luck, when my ship comes in, I’ll be at the airport”—and the character is complete.
The master of the house Anton Roxas.
He would love to live in London though he has an apartment in Madrid and New York where lately, he spends more time. When he is away, his staff takes care of his Makati home.
“I knew what I wanted,” Anton says, recalling how the house first took form in his mind. “Most people build a house not knowing exactly what they want. I drew what I had in mind.” Armed with a magazine to show photos of the French provincial style he was thinking of, Anton went to see National Artist, Architect Leandro “Lindy” Locsin.
The house has a French exterior but the interior is rich English countryside, reflecting strong influences cultivated by his travels.
“I said, Lindy, I want this type of house.” Locsin’s style is typically along the lines of the very modern and linear Cultural Center of the Philippines, now a landmark in Philippine architecture. “But I know you know proportion. I’d like you to put proportion in the home I want. Will you do it?”
It took two years to complete the house—one year to finish the blueprint alone and another year to construct it. Even Locsin liked the end-results so much he had it published in a book about his works.
The hall leading from the foyer to the library.
Two decades later, when Anton felt it was time to add a new wing to the house, architect Ruben Protacio and his assistant, June Catalasan, also with the Locsin firm, created new blueprints based on Anton’s own drawings.
Anton’s original version reflected the look of the ‘70s in Europe and the United States. “Browns, whites, and bits of black, with coffee tables in chrome and glass” for the living room; but even then, an eye was looking several years into the future. Even the cornices were designed so that it would be easy to “go back to old English country” when Anton tired of the ‘70s look.
A few years later, the living room looks like a great old English drawing room minus the stuffiness. Chintz sofas, chairs, and drapery are a garden of bright colored flowers; goose down fills the couches. For this, Anton tapped the internationally renowned, New York-based interior designer Mario Buatta.
Famous for his elegant and timeless English country style, Buatta’s talents can be admired in homes and museums, including the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum Galleries in Delaware and the redecorated Blair House in Washington, D.C., the official White House guest house.
Anton says he needed Buatta for two reasons: first, to shop around for items, and second, to make fabric selections. To look for items in New York, one has to walk down several blocks lined with art shops—and climb stairs, as well. Anton’s physical impediment has made that impossible. Choosing fabric? “You can go nuts,” says Anton. “Buatta knows fabrics. He knows how to narrow them down for you.”
Porcelain animal figurines are a recurring touch throughout the house.
Anton had first seen the designer’s work at a friend’s place in New York and subsequently asked Buatta to do his own Fifth Avenue pied-a-terre overlooking Central Park. The experience is still vivid in his mind. “I commissioned him in January 1984. In October, I flew to New York. I walk into the apartment straight from the airport and Mario Buatta is waiting for me. There are scented candles everywhere, sliced lemon in the bar just in case you want a vodka tonic; soaps in the bathtub, classical music is playing.”
He continued, “I had said that the day I walk in, I want to have soap in the bathroom. Well, he even had the band-aids! And the bed was made. I knew he was going to do it down to the ice cubes, but I didn’t know he would do it that perfectly. It was magnificent!”
A trellised terrace opens up to the garden.
So Buatta it was for Anton’s remake of his Manila home. He helped Anton pick the fabrics and furnishings, and bring out the best in the walls and flooring. The custom-made couches and sofas all offer unparalleled comfort.
The main living room best reflects the quiet elegance of the old English country style.
A 1952 Fernando Amorsolo portrait of Anton’s mother is the focal point of the drawing room. The room is decorated with numerous paintings, including centuries-old works by European artists, porcelain pieces, and period furniture. A pair of 18th-century chairs from Russia casually positioned provides a natural border, thus dividing the rather large living room, giving it added warmth.
“Mario pulled a chair off the center of the room, sat on it and studied that wall,” recalls Anton. Working a screwdriver, he split up an eight-panel screen into two and placed each on both ends of the wall. Instantly, the blue-and-white screens “framed” the Amorsolo portrait, enhancing the wall’s yellow color.
Old family photos in the library; Mario Buatta’s signature little chair.
Also in the room, a small Louis XVI chair is set beside a 17th century English lacquered secretaire. It is signature Buatta to put little chairs in his rooms. In this home, however, one could say that the little chairs are for Anton’s “most precious possession,” a miniature dachshund named Baby who sleeps with Anton in the
Despite the Buatta touch, Anton explains that nothing here is placed without his explicit approval. In fact, a lot of things were suggested by Anton in the first place.
A view of the octagonal dining room with Anton’s fabulous table setting.
The intimate octagonal dining room has a round table for 10. Anton enjoys entertaining and dressing the table up himself with, for instance, 18th century Limoges china and hand-painted Herend soup bowls with delicate butterfly handles for a touch of whimsy.
Creamware pieces in various shapes hang on the dining room walls, which Anton purchased in New York with Buatta. Anton recalls how the interior designer, with nails between his lips and in discomfort because of a painful back, pitched a ladder on a wall of the dining room, climbed it and hammered away until he got things done.
The cozy library’s wood paneling was painted to match the antique Scottish pine bookshelf.
“We replicated his composition for the other walls,” says Anton. Anton had surface designer Tats Rejante Manahan paint the delicate trompe l’oeil tassels and ropes between the creamware to look as if these were holding the pieces. Manahan also painted the
In a separate part of the house, another local artist Edison Navarro worked his magic. The walls of the study adjoining the bedroom are painted floor to ceiling, simulating tortoiseshell. The result, he says, impressed even Buatta who exclaimed, “They look better than anything anyone in New York can do!”
The master bedroom with Anton’s
molave four-poster bed from his childhood.
The wooden winding staircase leading to shelves of books on the second level of the study was inspired by the original found in Château de Groussay outside of Paris, designed by Charlie de Beistegui.
A Claudio Bravo portrait of the master of the house with pet Olivia, an Italian greyhound, hangs in the ante-room leading to the study and master’s bedroom. Olivia passed away years ago, but as with Anton’s other pets Fabio, Gabriella, Paolo and Pio, she lies buried by a stream in his garden.
After hearing the house’s engaging design history, one can’t help but wonder what is next. “Lord knows, we’ve toiled enough,” says Anton. “At this point, I don’t want to change anything about it. I love it as it is.”
The study has walls in faux tortoiseshell and a spiral staircase influenced by the original at the Château de Groussay in the outskirts of Paris.
His beloved dachshund, Baby, the inspiration for the handpainted linen towels in the powder room.
The sprawling grounds meticulously landscaped to suit the owner’s discriminating taste.
This story was originally published in the September 2007 issue of Town & Country Philippines.