“None of the townhouses we visited stirred our souls like this one,” Plet Bolipata says of the three-story structure in Quezon City that she and her husband, fellow artist Elmer Borlongan, purchased for their old age.
Life in Zambales—where the couple has a home—is idyllic indeed, but the province has no reputable medical facilities should they need care, so the couple deemed it necessary to have a place in the city. The renovation and decoration of the couple’s pied-à-terre fell on Plet, who was free to do as she pleased except, says Plet, “touch Elmer’s sacred space—his studio.”
Elmer Borlongan and Plet Bolipata
The boxy chair with wheels is by Bong Salaveria, purchased from his now-defunct Cubao X shop. The painting to the side of the chair, which Plet likes to think of as her brother Coke’s portrait, is by Onib Olmeido. The yellow cabinet was purchased in Bangkal and was passed around among the Bolipata sisters before finding its way to this address.
Plet had initially wanted a more “mature” approach to the design of the interiors, at one point even bravely declaring that she was going for a minimalist style. But those familiar with the artist’s inclinations, especially friends and family who’ve experienced the fanciful ambience of their Zambales home, find the notion unimaginable. The artist would give it her best shot, but the nonbelievers would be proven right. “I exercised a lot of restraint. I mean, a lot. But I think minimalism went out the door as soon as I brought in the big mirror and egg chair. Subsequently, I replaced my vision to one of avant-garde,” the artist admits.
One of the trickier areas to decorate was the entryway. “I was really bothered at the beginning as to where I could incorporate a breathing space at the entrance,” Plet recalls. There was good reason to be troubled. It serves as a resting place for the senses before one submits to a delightful collision of colors, patterns, and objects staged heroically by the lady of the house. A cat by the entrance—a resin sculpture lit from within, its face encrusted with sequins—embodies the genius loci of the beguiling pied-à-terre.
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A resin cat welcomes visitors.
Past the living room is the patio
The vertical gardens on the ground floor are gifts from the couple’s friend, landscape designer Bobby Gopiao. The door features repoussé metal ornaments by Pampanga artisans.
An Ifugao ladder leans on the railings. On the walls are Elmer’s works, “Sitting Pretty” and “Mobile Record Shop.”
Plet’s studio and the master bedroom are situated on the second floor. Hanging on the hallway wall is Plet’s mixed media work titled “Blue Hour: Apassionata.” A discarded gothic grill from a church stands beside Kenneth Cobonpue’s “Chiquita” stool. Above it is an early nude by the lady of the house.
This is Elmer’s favorite part of the house. “On lazy nights, we listen to jazz on my portable turntable while I read and Plet does her knitting. It is a place where we rejuvenate ourselves and find total peace and comfort.”
In Elmer's third floor studio, studies of paintings he has kept, including one he made when he was 11 years old, hang in front of his work desk. Meanwhile, Plet’s studio is filled with her signature quirk: The red mannequin is from the time the artist considered fashion design, the antique medicine cabinet painted red is from antique collector and dealer Allan Tan. Plet’s “Self-portrait with the impressionists” dominates a wall.
Elmer, who loves drawing dogs, hung a framed sample beside an old mirror brought in from the couple’s farm home. Above it is a recent experiment with the airbrush technique. “I think that’s me with a shaved head, typically Borlongan!” Plet says.
The barber’s chair in the downstairs studio is from Plet, while the toys above the shelf, at right, are from a gallerist friend. The painting on the wall is by Plet and was part of the Chianciano Biennale in Italy in 2009.
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This story was originally published in the October-November 2015 issue of Elle Decor Philippines. * Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.