Modern minimalism spiced with personality

MANILA, Philippines -- When friends Joao Pajaro, Jerome Pamintuan, Hermie Villanueva, and Ronald Dannug started their build-and-sell business, they commissioned their friend Architect Joanna Santana to design the houses. As it turned out, Joanna and husband Architect Caesar Santana were thinking of going into the same venture. Thus, these five friends established a company they named Modern Dwellings.

Joanna, who finished Architecture at the University of the Philippines in 1994, says, "Modern Dwellings aims to provide a home with a neutral palette so that the future owner can inject their own personality and character."

Joanna and her partners believe that a resident can live a high quality life even within a limited space. "We want them to be happy in their home," she adds.

Construction for their first project began in 2009: a six-unit townhouse in UP Village. Their latest, a nine-unit townhouse compound with a pool and playground in Don Antonio, Quezon City, is now in the final stages of construction. True to the name of the company, both projects are modern in architecture, but they still evoke a warm ambience. "We prefer to design communities and not just individual residences," Joanna points out.

The compound was designed to showcase functionality and green architecture. Natural lighting and ventilation were achieved by using big windows and an air well. Modular construction was also utilized. For formworks, phenolic boards made of various synthetic thermosetting resins were used. These types of boards are very practical because they can be reused. Standard sizes of materials such as tiles, concrete hollow blocks, and boral boards were considered in doing the plans to minimize wastage. Furthermore, Joanna opted for LED lighting because of its long-life properties. After all, changing the lights encsonced at the eaves can be quite a chore for the homeowner.

In most residential projects, the utility is often taken for granted. Joanna made sure that this wouldn't be the case here. To achieve function without sacrificing aesthetics, she situated the laundry area adjacent to the garage but she discreetly concealed this with a grilled sliding metal door.

Modern houses, because of their straight lines and minimalist design, have a tendency to look or feel "cold." Joanna (a mother of three kids aged 14, 12, and nine) shares the following ideas that can enhance the character of a modern house. These are the same principles she used when she designed their projects.

The lay out should encourage interaction among family members

Says Joanna, "Because of the open plan, the furniture could be laid out to create conversation areas on the intimate level or on a bigger group level. I imagine a small family gathered around the living area watching their favorite TV shows together, or the party host entertaining guests from the island counter in the kitchen."

Lights are used to illuminate and set the mood

The lights in the townhouse units were designed to give an atmosphere of coziness and warmth, and not just to provide lighting. Cove lighting under the kitchen cabinets and drop lights above the island counter were added to illuminate the work areas while general lighting is kept in a warm, low wattage glow.

"We made sure there is no harsh lighting above the lounging areas, but there must be adequate lighting in the dining and kitchen areas," says Joanna.

Fabrics and wood accents must create a textured feel

Full-length curtains, area rugs, wood accents all add to the homey feel of a place.

Natural lighting and ventilation

Although the area of each townhouse unit is not that large, the feeling of spaciousness helps in creating a homey environment. Residents won't feel they are living in a shoebox.

Keep in mind that the modern home is a part of a bigger community

Although the window openings are quite large, they are positioned in such a way so as to minimize direct visual contact with the neighbors. There are also common areas and open spaces that foster community interaction. Utility areas on the ground level, which is also the common area level, were carefully considered so as not to create eyesores that may lead to friction among neighbors. The sampayan, laundry, and storage areas are tucked into the rear portion of the garage, hidden behind wood slats.

"Pocket gardens are also incorporated into the layout of the driveways," says Joanna.

Architect Joanna encourages owners of modern homes to inject their personality and lifestyle in their living spaces. She leaves us with these inspiring words: "Your home is your blank canvas waiting for the artist's masterpiece."

Contact Modern Dwellings at 997-2561.