Inside This Eclectic Yet Laid-Back Apartment Filled With Unique Trinkets

With renewed purpose, Monchet Olives, the man known as the maker of whimsical fans for Manila's stylish set, revels in a relaxed lifestyle.

Jose Ramon Diokno Olives, or Monchet to be quick about it, calls the aesthetic of this apartment “earthquake baroque.”

It’s really a joke, he tells us in between puffs of his Cuban cigar, lounging with a bunch of pillows around him on a beautiful Union Jack sofa. But he has somehow made sense of the peculiar phrase in connection with the design, or lack thereof, of his flat—an overblown cabinet of curiosities, a peacock’s lair crammed with books and tchotchkes arranged with no particular design theme in mind. “It’s like those snow globes that you shake and it just falls into place,” says the chief designer and lifestyle curator of Casa Mercedes, the family-founded and owned company that makes those beautiful fans found in Manila’s chic bazaars. “I don’t have a problem with spatial perception. I can see a piece and in my mind know if it will be just right for the area… I have made mistakes though, but nothing that we couldn’t remedy.”

Monchet is the type to get attached to places he used to live in, from the family home in San Juan to his “heady days” in San Francisco. “I am sentimental about spaces,” he says. So he brings parts of his previous homes with him whenever he moves into new ones, “just to give me that little smile when things seem to fall apart,” he continues. “This space is more of a repository of memories, like a library of fond memories and wonderful experiences. I display a mishmash of things that I have collected. Nothing curated, nothing too fixed. [But somehow things] just fall into place.”


Monchet with his beloved pet, Bambina.

Yes, things have generally turned out for the better for the guy who likes to call himself The Fan Man these days. (Monchet’s efforts to revive his family’s six-decade-old fan business have become so successful that these days, when titas of the city open up a fan in public they are immediately asked, “Is that a Monchet?”) He can now sit back and enjoy the new life he’s created for himself and whisk the past away. “It’s like when I did this flat,” Monchet says. “It can be a bit magulo for most, but I said I need to get my steam back. To hell with Zen, let’s go for the jugular.”



“I am fascinated with heads, maybe because I’ve had mine chopped quite a few times,” Monchet quips. The silver mask, Buddha head, and skull were collected from travels.


Ronald Jeresano’s artwork is the focal point in this room, which looms over a sofa from British brand Timothy Oulton. “The painting somehow helps me escape the harsh realities of daily life,” the homeowner discloses. Beside the sofa, the homeowner displays a few items from his collection. “The print by Ambie Abano reflects my state of mind— veiled and silent.” The smaller piece titled “Angels” was painted for the owner by a dear friend, the artist Fernando Modesto.



The dining table was acquired when Grassi’s restaurant closed. The portrait of Monchet’s aunt, Mercedes Diokno Rovira, is by Fernando Amorsolo. The Charlie Co piece hanging on the shelf is a gift from Kim Atienza.

“This new space is more like a library of fond memories and wonderful experiences. Nothing curated, nothing too fixed.”



A vintage Eames lounge chair is beside a Prizmic & Brill office desk. The wood sculpture is by Arturo Luz.


The homeowner, a consummate dresser, converted one of the bedrooms into an impeccably organized dressing room.

What is the best thing about your place?

I am surrounded by a cornucopia of items I have collected, that I treasure. Many of the pieces I use have been with me since my halcyon years at The Filipino Channel in San Francisco and my office at ABS-CBN. They are fond memories of times when things were simpler. I am surrounded by my cookbooks and travel guides too.

How do you relax?

I sit on my Chesterfield sofa with a book while scratching Bambi, my Frenchie.

Among the pieces in your home, which is your favorite?

I love just gazing at my bookshelf while sitting on my vintage Eames lounger. It relaxes me. If I were better (I recently suffered a mild stroke), I would be sipping a dram of single malt. I have to make do with just a book for now.


The one non-negotiable rule in your house is?

Keeping things absolutely spotless, and making sure my bed linens are crisp.

What is that one thing that you dream of adding to your home?

Well, I do want to live in a small home with a garden, so I can have more dogs. I just want things simple. Contrary to popular perception, I am very much a quiet and private person.

This story was originally published in the October-November 2015 issue of Elle Decor Philippines.
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Jerome Gomez
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