Tradition + the Unexpected = A Vibrant Weekend Home in Laguna

With a little help, a well-traveled homeowner indulges his love for mixing tradition with the unexpected to create a home with an exuberant personality.

Visiting this weekend family house in San Pablo, Laguna—a coconut plantation in its previous life—is akin to opening a present wrapped in layers.

Excitement builds as each sheet is peeled away. In this case, the unwrapping begins at the circular driveway that employed 18th-century technique—and the modern day garden hose—to get its curves perfectly set. You then go through a pergola shaded with climbing vines and surrounded by a lush garden filled with very productive papaya trees. It branches to several pathways and, for a second, there comes a slight temptation to take the one that leads to the hardly used pool. But then a pink vision on the slope up ahead beckons, the final unwrapping.

The house is a visual story that is vibrant, romantic, and bold, especially with respect to the color palette.

The homeowner had simple requirements for this two-hectare property in the town of his birth. He wanted a sprawling house where his children could unwind whenever they found themselves in the province. He also wished to take advantage of the lush landscape that includes a lovely view of Lake Palakpakin. The rest of the details he pretty much left to his friend since high school, businessman and author Martin “Sonny” Tinio. Sonny, who immediately clarifies that he is not an architect by profession, was called upon when his friend couldn’t put a finger on what was nagging him about the estate’s building plans.

Well acquainted with the family and their lifestyle, Sonny set out with a visual story that is vibrant, romantic, and bold, especially with respect to the color palette. Pink in a shade reminiscent of the bougainvillea is the color of choice for the exterior of the Spanish-inspired architecture. Another variation of the hue, this time in raspberry, swathes the girls’ bedroom walls. For the rest of the house, Sonny draws from vivid Mediterranean colors such as turquoise, emerald green, and yellow-gold.


Visiting this weekend family house in Laguna is akin to opening a present wrapped in layers.

Against this backdrop of rich hues, Sonny and the homeowner deftly mixed period styles. The outside feels like a Mediterranean oasis. The girls’ bedroom evokes a royal fantasy. The living room conjures the old world. It is in the dining room, however, where client and decorator pulled out all the stops. From the mural to the bespoke period furniture, it’s a tapestry of seemingly Greek and English influences that certainly transports, but who knows to where and when. The entire room catches guests off-guard and delights Sonny and the homeowner to no end.


From the circular driveway, a covered walkway—still painted in its original color—provides a path to the main house.


All of the bedrooms have verandas that look out to lush verdure and the placid Lake Palakpakin.


The foyer that leads to a capacious library is decorated with art and antiques that the couple has gathered through years of traveling all over the world; a portrait of the homeowners hangs above an old Chinese bench.


A vignette outside a powder room on the ground floor.


A small sitting area is filled with heirloom pieces, commissioned furnishings, and precious antiques acquired by the owner during his frequent travels. Malachite served as the inspiration for the green color on the crown molding and the door casing.


The master of the house is always amused by how people react to the dining room. Other than to surprise, says the homeowner, the dream-like murals and the painted ceiling actually serve to distract from the fact that the room is narrow and the ceiling is low. Toward the end of the room, a large picture window brings in light and affords views of the surrounding greens. The door leads to the main kitchen.


The dining room is a tapestry of seemingly Greek and English influences that certainly transports, but who knows to where and when.


The bedroom opens to a sitting room first where a wall is partitioned into personal study spaces for each of the girls.

Narrow double doors lead to girls’ bedroom. The headboards and footboards bear an Arabesque-like pattern.


Fashioned like a dormitory room of an English boarding school (the boys were educated in one), the space opens to a wall-hung zebra-hide rug purchased by the boys’ father on a trip to South Africa. A corkboard spans the length of one wall. Placed above the beds, it also, by its contents, serves to identify who sleeps on which bed.

This story was originally published in the May 2011 issue of Elle Decor Philippines.
* Edits have been made by the editors.

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Leah Nemil-San Jose
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