Tropical retreat

When it comes to design your dream home, there’s simply no room for compromise

TROPICAL DESIGN is a style that seamlessly incorporates the elements of nature into interiors and exteriors by means or passive cooling, cross ventilation, protection from harsh sun and rain typical to a tropical climate, and by using natural materials and colors. Plants also play an integral part in tropical design. Furniture pieces in rattan, wicker, wood, and bamboo are commonly used, as well as natural fabrics for soft furnishings like linen, cotton, ramie, and silk, all of which are airy, light, and appropriate for hot and humid climates.

D esigner tip: «When you hang and display art pieces, classifying them by subject and medium is important Every art piece has its rightful place in the home,» says interior designer and professor Nicky Jardenil. «You have to remember that the subject should contribute to the totality of the design,’’ he adds.

Every piece here has a story,» says Monette Flores of her new home. «Parang everything came together for this house—even the house itself. Even the wood, super labor of love talaga ito.»

This «labor of love» is a three-story Balinese-inspired retreat sitting on a 377-sqm trapezoidal lot in an exclusive subdivision in Quezon City.

It represents everything that Monette had dreamed of for her husband Darwin and daughters Ina and Mariel: energy-efficient, spacious, and filled with recycled pieces that remind her of her passions in life.

But like all labors of love, Monette had to face challenges first before she could turn her dream into reality.

The first stumbling block that she met after acquiring the lot in Tierra Bella in 2009 was the budget. Monette admits that it took her a long time to start anything because she and her husband didn’t have enough money back then.

«We have big dreams, but we’re still regular folk. We really can’t afford something like this,» says Monette, who previously worked for the Coastal Resource Management Project, an organization that deals with the conservation and effective management of Philippine coastal communities and resources.

«We had to save a lot to buy the lot. We had to make a bank loan. Dream ко talaga siya. I wanted a beautiful house in a nice place,» adds Monette.

It didn’t help that her design plan for her dream home was, as her builders put it, «not right for her budget.»

«When I told the builders about my plan, they told me right away that it was not possible. So we had several revisions, until we came up with a design that would fit my budget.»

The new design, however, was totally different from Monette’s original idea. Yes, it fitted her budget perfectly, but Monette felt that the design was just not the right one.

«The initial plans were not really me,» she says with a mock frown.

It was a chance encounter with architect Felix Zabala that would get the ball rolling for Monette. Although Monette was apprehensive at first, due in part to her growing frustrations, her sister Martha Mendoza Sazon suggested that she meet up with Felix just to see if he was the right person for the job.

«I learned from my sister that Felix was this architect working for a construction firm. My sister told me that he’s an artist at heart. Hindi lang siya fulfilled sa mga box-type, industrial buildings na ginagawa n’ya noon» she recalls.

«When I met him, I told him everything, what I really wanted for this place. He got so excited with my ideas that he told me, ‘Wala pa ako nagagawa naganyan. Sige, gawin natin. We’ll work with your budget.'»

It was also during this time that a close friend told Monette what she needed to hear all along. «She told me that there’s no shame in building your dream home little by little. She said, ‘Why don’t you build it phase by phase?'»

When Monette finally accepted the fact that she shouldn’t be rushing things and that construction would take longer than expected, things started to fall into place.

«I would tell people what I’ve been doing, tapos ayon, may magsasabi na lang sa akin where to get the things that I am looking for. And these are things that I really need talaga, a!» she recalls.

It took a year and a half for the builders to finish her dream home. Monette didn’t mind the waiting time. In fact, she delighted in seeing her house come to life from the ground up.

«Nahawakan ко ito hanggangsa bubong. Every day I would be here. Para siyanganak na you would carry for nine months. Para siyang third child ко » she says with pride. «When you’re working on a budget, it teaches you a lot of things pala. Me, I learned a lot about spatial division.»

The construction itself was time-consuming and labor-intensive, mainly because Monette wanted to install recycled wood for her flooring. Each plank of recycled wood was done «de mano.»

«The architect hired workers who are from Camarines Sur. They could really do the manual labor. De mano lahat ngposte at old wood na nandito sa bahay. It wasn’t easy. We used around two hundred wood planks just for flooring in the first floor,» she recalls.

«Dahil sa dami ng wood planks, hindi kinaya ng cutter, nasira. So sabi ng workers /со, meron daw cutter sa Taytay. The cost went up, pero ang kagandahan noon, e sa Taytay, ang darning old wood!»

Monette learned that these old planks of wood were from an old school demolished years ago when the local government of Taytay decided to build a bigger school for kids living in nearby communities.

«‘Pinamigay na lang nila ‘yong wood sa communities there. So imbis na itapon na lang, the communities there sold the wood. ‘Binibigay nila sa mga nagtitistis ng kahoy. Etong mga nagtitistis ang naghahanap ng buyer for them,» Monette narrates.

«Parang it was really meant to be. Kasi just when we were out of wood, more came. And these are better ones! Nakatulongpa kami sa local community dahil eventually we would buy directly from them.

«I later learned that more than five families were able to set up their own sari-sari store using the money that they earned from selling the recycled wood to us. So happy kami, happy sila, happy lahat»

That’s when Monette finally understood the reason why the construction of her dream house had to take so long. All the frustrations, delays, and obstacles along the way suddenly made sense.

«For many years, my husband and I have been doing work for others. It’s been a lifetime of service for communities, for the country, for the environment,» Monette says softly. «It took that long kasi siguro inantay pa na dumatingsa amin the things that would lighten our hearts and soul and remind us of the places that we’ve been in. This house is really a gift of grace.»

Even the name of the subdivision now bears a deeper meaning for Monette.

«Before, we dreamed of a beautiful home in a nice place. After I built the house, it struck me, the subdivision is called Tierra Bella, which in Spanish means beautiful land.»

With an audible sigh, Monette sums up her home-building experience in these words: «Everything in this house was meant to be here. This is exactly how I wanted it.»

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