By GRACE C. DIEZ PHOTOS: JAR CONCENGCO
Now more than ever, the importance of home design surfaces as we collectively isolate and shelter in place to deal with a global pandemic. For Jar and Kay Concengco, it was a blessing that when they painstakingly worked on and built their dream home, it turned out to be a perfect sanctuary for the interesting times we now live in.
As we spend more time at home, people have become increasingly mindful and aware of one’s interior spaces, design and even the furniture and accent pieces surrounding us. It also dawned on many that what’s inside the home influences our mood and ability to focus on our respective tasks whether as a student, as an employee or as a homeschool parent.
Imagine spending quarantine at a sanctuary that beautifully serves as a comforting breathing space, with rays of sunshine streaming through as natural accent.
Building the Dream
The young family of Jar, a photographer, and Kay, an HR practitioner, started their life together with their son Diego in a condominium. Not fully settling in, the couple dreamt of having a home where they can enjoy a bigger space and have Diego do what he loves: running around freely whether at home or outdoors.
“He loves running around and in his Lola’s garden but we didn’t have that space in a condo. We thought about it and looked around for a property,” Jar explains.
After prudently choosing a lot and an ideal location, the preparations for the construction of the house commenced. The planning and the designing phase began in 2013 and was decided on in a year while construction took two years.
“We planned with our architect for about a year. In our first meeting, we introduced ourselves and what we do and then told her what we wanted and showed her some pegs,” Jar shares.
Situated at a quiet village in Quezon City, the dream home of Jar and Kay was finally realized. By mid-2016, the family moved in. Their architect fondly refers to their home as a “museum of light.”
“The prevailing theme, when the house was being designed, is for it to be sustainable. It has passive sustainable features, which means the structure is built to save energy. For instance, in the daytime, we don’t need to turn on any lights because it would be bright enough. The architect placed windows for natural light to come in,” Jar beams.
Providentially, the couple was blessed with three more children — Aurora, Luna and baby Pilar. Their house, currently with four bedrooms, would have to be readjusted for the growing family.
“You’ve always thought you’ve planned out the house and that each family member would have a comfortable space pero suddenly when you have four kids…ay kulang and maliit pala!” Kay shares, laughing. She isn’t kidding about the meticulous planning, though.
Though the house’s exterior is reminiscent of Brutalist architecture – a movement favoring neutral and geometric yet tasteful concrete edifices—stepping inside the 375-square meter, three-storey home delightfully astounds with a relaxing and comforting combination of earth tones and bright white walls. The house is artfully dominated by floor-to-ceiling windows and wood-and-glass slats that openly welcome light and air.
“When our architect’s team (DEQA Design Collaborative) was building the house, they studied the natural wind path in the area and they even showed us a diagram. They also built a 3D model of the house and made a presentation to show us the movement of the sun with a flashlight. They showed us the sun’s position at a particular time of day and showed the [play of light and shadows] on [the house’s] walls,” Jar explains.
“The team really called for a meeting just to discuss lighting and wind flow at home,” Kay says.
With daylighting and natural ventilation as main features, the ground floor of the house inspires serenity as one basks in the welcoming and uplifting sight of the bright, airy and spacious receiving area. It doubles as a living room connected seamlessly to the dining and kitchen areas.
Apart from the floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-and-glass slats, and white walls, a pocket garden was created on the ground floor as a focal point. Skylight installations were incorporated in the design to provide generous amount of natural lighting in the house.
The pocket garden, which also houses a pet turtle, serves as the “lungs” of the house
“Our architect designed it in a way for natural ventilation and natural light to come in. The structure was built for those two things to enter our house. The pocket garden is supposed to act like the ‘lungs’ of the house to bring in air all throughout,” Jar explains.
The pocket garden was surrounded by towering 10-meter wood-and-glass slats that spanned the three storeys of the house devoid of covering, making it an open-air one.
“The top of the pocket garden used to be [covered] by a concrete. Our architect told us that we will only get 20% of sunlight but if we make it glass [or uncover it], we will get an additional 10%. So we demolished the concrete on top,” Kay narrates, adding that the opening contributed to the wind flow.
This decision would prove to be wise and practical for the couple especially this year when the global pandemic hit and everyone was advised to stay at home.
“Sometimes, what we would do was just open the doors, windows and the screen and it would just work for us. The wind will just come in, there’s no need to turn on the aircon and we will just use the electric fan,” Jar notes.
“The way that the natural light would come in to our house was helpful because you don’t feel cooped up. You see nature once you look out the window na ‘Ay, ang dami kong plants dyan’ and ‘may view ako ng sky’. I always love looking up from the living room because there’s a skylight and on a really clear night, you can see stars from there. During daytime, you can just see the blue and white sky,” the wife dreamily shares, with Jar adding that seeing the sky really affects one’s mood.
The “openness” may have helped the kids enjoy the seemingly long-term stay inside the house.
“We try to find different areas of the house to keep the kids interested or not bored. Like in the studio on the ground floor, we put a projector on the wall. We also put up a tent on the roof-deck and an inflatable swimming pool in the garage para hindi lang sila nasa room nila,” Jar says.
Leading to the second floor of their home is a wooden staircase made of imported Finnwood, also used for the slats of the pocket garden, which gives off a pleasant “pine” smell that the house guests notice.
The wood-and-glass slats on the second floor allow light and wind flow
The second floor houses the four bedrooms which also boasts of floor-to-ceiling windows. The highlight of the area is the family hall which features a slanting wall that was not only designed for aesthetic purposes, but also to accommodate more natural light. The back of the slanted wall has a hidden small horizontal glass window that illuminates the family hall.
Upstairs are the laundry and storage areas that share space with the roof-deck.
“It’s my favorite part of the house. We sometimes have coffee there,” Kay says.
Apart from acting as a veranda, the roof-deck has a practical function. It’s where the skylight shafts were built and where the solar panels and the rainwater harvest system were installed. Hence, the need to make the roof flat and spacious.
“We wanted it to be a smart home so we wouldn’t need a lot of electricity. So the idea was to bring in a lot of light and have areas that are open. We were particular about having solar panels. It stores energy and we use it also as water heater,” she notes, adding that the rainwater harvest system, in turn, connects to a downspout, which enables the family to use the rainwater for gardening.
During the quarantine period, Jar also improved the features of their “smart home” by connecting the house to Alexa (Amazon Echo AI device).
“We have lights that turn on at sunset and ones that automatically turn off at sunrise. You can also teach your house to turn red if there’s motion at midnight (in case, there are intruders),” he says, sharing that unlike other households during the lockdown, they did not experience electricity bill shock. The features of the house certainly worked to their advantage.
A year ago, the Concengco couple launched Lamana (https://www.lamanaph.com/), a furniture business venture highlighting Filipino craftsmanship that includes a partnership with Japanese designer furniture brand Ishinomaki Lab. This year, the business thrives amid quarantine.
“During the pandemic, we were really surprised that people were ordering and buying. Even during the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine) when production and delivery was uncertain. It was still a shock to find out people are willing to order something without knowing when it’s going to be delivered to them,” Jar says, clearly fascinated.
“Before, you would buy furniture and know you would spend little time at your house because you’re always outside either working or you’re in school. But this pandemic forced people to appreciate the space they have and find improvements,” he adds.
Kay echoes her husband’s surprise. “Sobrang nag–iba behavior ng customers. Everybody was thinking of home improvement. Maraming nagpa-customize ng work tables because people work from home,” she says.
Their beautiful space is adorned with several pieces from Lamana such as stools, benches, tables, trays and book stand that complement the understated elegance of the couple’s home.
Lamana pieces adorn the Concengco home
The no-nonsense minimalist exterior of the structure also matches the simple, sleek lines and the earth tones of the house’s interior. Jar and Kay favor the simplicity of it all.
“Because it was earth-toned, it provided a good canvas for pops of color. We have several items in the house that turned out okay,” he says.
The curtains, bedsheets, carpets, rugs and the furniture are mostly plain and in neutral tones.
“Basta ayaw ni Jar ng floral! It has to be plain or white,” Kay says in jest, adding that the green color of the plants in the pocket garden also complemented the overall color scheme of the house.
With Jar being in the industry of design and photography, he would be asked to do photo shoots on interiors of houses, which gave him ideas of what he likes and what he doesn’t like. The experience naturally inspired him when they were building their dream home.
“As a photographer, I go to many houses to shoot. The houses are big, very lavish, and expensive, I’m sure. But, I guess there [should be] more to a house than that. Is it wasteful? Is it excessive? Does it overuse energy? We wanted to build a house that has a little more meaning — [a house] that’s considerate to the environment,” he pensively remarks.
Kay also has sensible thoughts about their family home.
“When you think about it, you live in the Philippines so you use what it has. Half of the year, it rains. Half of the year, it’s so bright and sunny. If you can maximize those, why not? You get the most out of your country,” she concludes on a positive note.
The Concengco home, referred to as “museum of light” by the architect, was built to accommodate natural light
Undoubtedly, Jar and Kay’s vision for an eco-conscious home has been wonderfully translated into a reality. In as much as their dream home is clearly built in a strikingly beautiful form, it is also a dwelling of eco-sustainable functionality.
Sentimentally, the home’s sustainability not only pertains to its eco-modern features but also to the durability and adaptability of their abode. It was as if this home was built for the demands of the changing times that the family’s current and next generation of dreamers will surely benefit from.
About the Writer
Grace C. Diez
Grace Diez started as an AM/FM radio traffic reporter and broadcast supervisor of Trapik.com before pursuing a 5-year career in advertising and a 9-year (and counting!) career in public relations. With 17 years of experience as a writer, her works have been published on People Asia, Metro.Style, ABS-CBN Lifestyle, Star Studio, Metro Magazine, Manila Bulletin, The Philippine Star, Working Mom, Chalk.PH, League Magazine, Sense & Style, Woman Today and Manila Standard with editors entrusting her with cover stories and CEO/celebrity profiling assignments. She loves IU, Taylor Swift, coffee, milk tea, Dr. Pepper and cookies.