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Manila Bulletin - 2021-05-05

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Gathering spaces

Lifestyle

Afamily home, whether it is old or new, is a tricky project to do when it comes to renovation. You renovate it too much then it feels like a “stranger,” but if you do it right, good memories linger on and allows the house to cater to the needs of the next generation. The home ‘journey’ This is what happened to the 800square-meter family home of the Cruz clan of Bulacan. The renovation fell on the shoulders of siblings Jesy and Jaemi Cruz, founders and principal designers of Alero Design Studio. According to them, the project was “close to home.” “We embarked on an all-encompassing renovation of our family dwelling, making sure that we future-proof it for years to come. We want to make sure the renovation showcases Filipino talent and artistry,” Jesy says. Alero Design Studio, launched a few years ago, is now a sought-after firm with prestigious residential and commercial projects under its belt. Its young team is a vibrant mix of architects, interior designers, project planners, and marketing experts. In a book produced by the firm, the founders wrote that their large family prides itself in keeping a close-knit bond—“We always have gatherings, out-of-town trips, and reunions.” The Cruzes, Jesy says, “are staunchly patriotic and have been closely linked with the growth of their hometown San Rafael and Baliwag, where their construction business has flourished and where they contributed to the landscape’s improvement.” “While working on one’s family home might appear to be easy at first glance, it is not an easy feat even though we are an architect-interior designer tandem heading a design studio,” Jesy says. “We had to consider the shareholders of the project, as well as balance the patina of a 40-year-old home with new additions. It was quite a challenge.” Aside from the big house, another challenge was the unique terrain of the 2,000-square-meter lot, which slopes downward at the rear. “We allowed the terrain to dictate the design, just as how the ‘old’ helped inform how much of the ‘new’ can be applied within the spaces,” says Jesy. ‘Living rooms’ The renovation work took months to do and design challenges came to test the Cruz sibling. But with fortitude and determination, they succeeded well as they “allowed the space for both past and present to grow, with anticipation on what the future may hold.” Fronting a rotunda of grass, the house’s front façade is classical in look, balanced with a red brick wall. A double wooden door serves as main entrance. The house now features a cream-colored roof. From above, the house forms a rough U-shape. The left wing is dedicated to utilities like the kitchen and helpers’ quarters while the right wing houses the private quarters featuring seven bedrooms. The median of the house hosts the communal areas such as the living room, dining area, and a roofed lanai. “Our family’s penchant for gatherings prompted the additional of multiple ‘living room’ setups to cater to family members and guests whenever events happen,” says Jesy. The sprawling house is wide rather than tall, so the Alero team made sure to allow for ample cooling and access of natural light on all sides of the property. Sliding windows and ventanillas were used for passive cooling. As a result, the house became “breathable.” The house’s interior is a successful marriage between old and new. The team followed the traditional layout of heritage houses but with contemporary enhancements. Materials that have withstood the test of time were retained or restored to their old glory such as the exquisite Bulacan marble on the living room floor, original hardwood floor of the lanai, and the bedrooms’ oversized parquet. Open to change As for the furniture, it was an interplay of both old and new pieces. “We made sure to carefully curate the furniture to ensure not only balance but also comfort. These pieces are meant to be used and enjoyed, not looked at.” While it is hard to play favorites, Jesy says the house’s piece-de-resistance is the enclosed lanai. “It was formerly an open-air roofed space. The team decided to absorb the area into the home. Located in the house’s median, the new lanai unites the two wings, as well as provides a panoramic view of the lush garden outside,” he explains. The lanai was decorated with a quartet of ornate wenge wood-stained seating with classical profiles, finished in neutral upholstery, and topped with floral cushions. An Oriental coffee table took center stage amid the seats and was topped with plants and trinkets. The lighting revealed honey-shaped hues across the space. Picture windows can be opened to let the breeze in. “The house is largely traditional in style as a nod to our forebears but the bedrooms are modern, fit for the younger members of the family,” Jesy says, revealing that his room encapsulated his personality as it was decked with art toys and favorite artworks. Other bedrooms reflected Alero’s creativity, as the designs were filled with an occasional abstract carpet, modern artwork, or avant-garde furniture pieces. “There is a saying that architects and designers should not design their own home as they would never finish,” says the Cruz sibling. “This may be true as our family home is always open to change, but we are proud of what we’ve done as our renovation did not only retain past memories, but also allowed us to create new memories of our own.” Photos courtesy of Alero Design Studio.

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