Art/Style/Travel Diaries

How an abandoned house reclaims its life

Rodney DiRamos turned it into a modern Filipino-style home with period furniture and lush greenery—a rural idyll right in the city

Second-floor balcony, its black-and-white tile flooring reminiscent of pre-war style, connects the master bedroom and the family room.

Spanish tiles and vintage lamps give the dining space, with its period furniture, an old world ambiance made contemporary.

First Christmas this year in the property with abandoned house

This is not just a style or interior design story. It is a story of how an abandoned house in the neighborhood got a new lease on life, in a most tasteful way. If it were a human face, one could say it is now wearing a smile.

It used to be a scary spot of gloom and darkness on an intersection lot—a decrepit bungalow amid untended fruit trees, apparently deserted by its old owner. Today it is a cheery spread of greenery, the lush trees forming a canopy over a gazebo where the garage used to be, and where the house’s new residents now entertain guests. Beside it, where the bungalow was, now stands a two-story house which, with its capiz windows on the second floor, is an understated work of modern Filipiniana. With a touch of green on the façade, not only does the house look cool and stylish, it also looks naturally elegant, tasteful and inviting. The house is period Filipiniana made to look contemporary, a seamless visual blend of the old and the new.

The gazebo, which used to be the garage, now has lush plants and a transparent roof, perfect place for entertaining. (Photo by

Cozy corner in living room with streamlined wood Filipiniana furniture

It’s the work of interior designer Rodney DiRamos.

The current owners bought the property in 2020 after they realized how cooped up they felt in their Makati condominium during the pandemic.

After viewing over a dozen properties, the owner chose the location because of its fruit trees and the quiet location in the south.

The property was an old bungalow built in the ‘70s, but the house had been abandoned for years so it was in a bad state.

Initially, the owners wanted to just renovate the house, but they found it too small for their needs, so they had the old house demolished. But the owners decided to use as much of the old materials as possible, including the old doors, grills, about a dozen piedra china, the vanity sinks, various lighting fixtures. Two chandeliers were painstakingly taken down, cleaned, reassembled, and new lights installed.  Even the old capiz parol of the house was salvaged and repaired.

Gazebo at night

A considerable number of antique wooden furniture was left in the house—handcarved beds, kapiyas (old sofas), butaca (friar’s chairs), almario, altar tables, a dining set. The new owner asked the designer DiRamos to use as much of the old furniture as possible. Given the beauty of the collectible period furniture, most of it from the lowland North, the owners decided to build a Filipino-style home.

While the house was being built, the furniture was being restored by foremost antique restorer Pio Hernandez. This took several months.

DiRamos, who was educated and trained in the US, researched old Filipino homes, and drew inspiration from them. For flooring, he played up the use of Spanish tiles. Initially, the builders, Kookie Biluan and architect Ed Narciso, weren’t sold on the idea of putting so much pattern on the floors, but eventually they were impressed with the result.

To preserve the Filipino theme of the house, capiz windows were installed on the second floor. But in lieu of barandillas below the windows, which would have made it difficult to seal the air-conditioned rooms, full-sized aluminum windows were installed. But to keep the period look, cremone locks were placed on the windows. The interior designer also found a supplier from Manila who made old-style calado, which was then installed in place of modern transoms.

Glass blocks on the balcony flooring allow the sunshine to naturally light up the ground floor

Since the owners didn’t want to cut down trees which occupied almost half of the 408sqm lot, they were left with only half the area to build on. So, to give the illusion of space, the rooms were built with high ceilings. Again, this is thematic of the old Filipino-style homes.

A balcony was built on the second floor, between the family room and the master’s bedroom, which gave a scenic view of the trees outside. The view from those rooms gives the illusion that one is in an idyllic rural setting, not in suburban Manila. On the second floor, one feels like one is cocooned in a tree house.

Master’s bedroom

View of master’s bedroom from the balcony

Again, design details were incorporated, including the lay-out of black-and-white tiles on the balcony flooring done in a pre-war continental style. The designer even used a Talavera lavamanos  (sink for handwashing) as décor and water source for watering the ornamentals and potted trees.

Glass blocks were also put on the balcony flooring, beneath it the dining room and kitchen. This environment-friendly design allows the sunshine to naturally light up the ground floor. At night, the electrical lighting from the ground floor illuminates the balcony floor, giving it a cheerful glow.

The kitchen

The owner’s friend, the famous fashion designer Danny de la Cuesta, donated about a dozen old wood-frame glass doors. (He passed away a few years ago.) These were put to good use after they were converted to barnyard doors for easy operation.

Sitting area at the top of the stairs

The owners now call their home Casa Felipe.

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