My friends Joanna and Ramon Duarte have a beautiful home on a high floor of a Makati condominium building. With designers nowadays putting their distinct mark on their projects, I really appreciate it when I walk into a home that reflects the personalities of the people who live in it instead of that of the designer. Ramon and Joanna's home reflects their personalities: stylish but relaxed, elegant but warm, cozy, practical and inviting. I love the hardwood floors, the muted red and yellow walls, the furniture, the tabletop accessories...
Joanna is the hardworking entrepreneur behind the successful chain(s) of children's clothing stores that include the brands Big and Small Co., Spin, Orange Juice, and HAB Maternity. Ramon is a computer-savvy finance and bank guy whose interests include photography, audio and other highly technical stuff I don't quite understand. Both have excellent taste and I know they could have designed their home by themselves. But with their busy schedules, they hired the services of talented interior designer Ana Olondriz.
Joanna said Ana was decisive and practical, using most of the furniture they already had, and adding pieces only where needed.
I think it was wise of them to hire an interior designer. A couple of years ago, a group of us were either building or renovating homes all at the same time and Ramon and Joanna surprised us all by being the last to start, but the first to move in! Ana was knowledgeable and focused, and gave them valuable advise. Meanwhile, in my own home, I'm still undoing some did-it-myself design mistakes! Maybe I should call Ana and get it over with.
Below is the main living room, which also doubles as the family room. Look at those wall shelves that keep all the objets d'art together for mass impact. But that's not all...
Taaa daaaa!!! The Chinese paintings are mounted on panels that slide open revealing a flat screen TV! The family gathers here for movies together. The living room is really lived in, and not just saved for the occasional guest.
The cabinets on the side cleverly hide unsightly things like stereo equipment and subwoofers
When I asked who was the genius who thought of this design, Joanna said it was a collaboration of Ana and Ana's son, Sandro. Of course! Who else could it be? Sandro Olondriz is popularly known as the go-to artist for faux finishes on walls and furniture. His wife, Monica, is my favorite chandelier artisan. When I couldn't find a chandelier I liked, they custom-made one for me. They've been doing wall finishes, chandeliers and furniture for many years now. Their list of past clients is kilometric and includes a lot of Manila's tastemakers.
The powder room made cozy with an antique mesa altar
The hallways and walls are personalized with the couple's art collection including paintings by the kids.
Jaime's paintings done last year, when he was ten or eleven
A gallery wall of family pictures.
An ante-room before the master bedroom serves as an office, keeping work separate from the rest area.
Eight-year-old Rocio's bedroom is girlishly sophisticated. Btw, this wasn't a planned shoot. I just happened to drop by one afternoon for a quick chat with Jo, and decided to take pictures while I was there. The condo was very neat and orderly.
A late-blooming homemaker, Joanna recently discovered that she enjoys cooking and baking. On days that she manages to get home early, she'll be in her kitchen creating something delicious. She even invites friends over to give her cooking lessons. I think that's what happens when a kitchen is nicely designed and comfortably planned--it becomes very inviting even to a non-kitchen person. I overheard that she is now supplying a restaurant in Makati with her baked goods. She just might start another career as a baker!
It is obvious that the designer and the homeowners collaborated harmoniously on this project. Function was not sacrificed for style, nor was style sacrificed for function. Every corner of the house is maximized and enjoyed by the members of the family and nothing here is only "for show."
When words used to describe a home can be also be used to describe the people who live in it, that's when I can say the interior designer has been successful--and this home is a perfect example of successful design.