“We wanted to see the sky all the time,” the young mother told us. This is how she and her husband envisioned the experience of their home when they bought a 406-square-meter lot on a hilly estate between Metro Manila and Tagaytay. A few years after, they met BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design, the design team who welcomed not only the sky but also the terrain into their living spaces.

The stacked blocks that make up house sit on a grassy hill made even lusher by the dense landscaping along its perimeter wall. To visually expand the home interiors, principal architect Royal Pineda employed “a borrowing of spaces.” Central to the house and the first space you encounter upon entering is the 4.8-meter-tall void and lofty staircase connecting the social areas on different levels: living, dining, and family rooms.

Various plants line the stairway from the gate leading up to the main door of the house. “With generous planting, parts of the perimeter wall disappear,” says architect Royal Pineda. The first flight leads to the front door and a second flight leads up to the balcony of the family area. The landscaping along the street-facing wall functions as a visual transition from the living room, here seen with the window open on the right, to the terrain outside. The rock pool, which can also be filled with water, sits atop the garage canopy.

“I made sure to minimize demarcations because we have a small footprint,” says Pineda. “Also, elevation differences are part of the experience of a rolling lot. What we did is create multiple vantage points.” Because the void opens up to other spaces, they feel much bigger than they should. The dining area and kitchen occupy the mezzanine overlooking the living room from the back while the family area a half-floor above overlooks the same room from the side. In effect, portals for exhaust and natural light are communal for the spaces sharing the void. An expansive view of the outdoors also amplifies the sense of scale.

Interior designer Budji Layug used gray tones to bring out the warm wood elements. Furniture in the living room includes an abaca area mat, Budji Layug Accent Chair, and Twine Nesting Coffee Table. Spaceship pendant lamps by Schema hang above. By the gray limestone wall is a block-like table made of a whole mango tree trunk.
On the mezzanine, the dining area benefits from the large living room windows. The sliding doors on the left are usually left open when the family dines or hosts gatherings. During our visit, the homeowner pointed out how they could still see their children playing on the street outside all the way from up here.

Another request by the client was a pocket of green on every level of the house, which aligned with Pineda’s ethos of naturalism. Although every floor would have a balcony or patio, the designers made sure residents need not step out to say: I’m in the garden. Screen doors allow the residents to keep the glass doors open.  “The idea is you have a real-time, all-the-time garden in here,” says Pineda. “If there is so much to view in a location, we would like to celebrate that as many times as we can.”

BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design utilized the 18-degree slope of the lot to give the homeowners a wraparound view of the lush, hilly terrain outside. By “borrowing space” from outside, the living area looks more expansive than it is. Morning sun creates a display of light and shadows in this east-facing portion of the house coupled with large sliding windows for more than sufficient ventilation.

The lower portion of the house is barely touched by opacity—sliding doors and windows the size of doors flush the void with natural light. Air channels on all sides of the house at varying levels, a key to keeping the house fresh in the heat of summer. Fenestrations all around the structure catch the amihan (northeastern monsoon winds) and habagat (southwestern monsoon winds) that breeze through the estate. The wind rushes through the alleys between the second storey of the house and its perimeter wall, creating a gust coming through the kitchen screen door at the rear of the mezzanine.

The glazing also maximizes the vistas. Morning sun filtered by the bamboo outside and a Yucca tree inside cast lacy shadows—some swaying, some steady—on the east-facing living room through the tall windows. On days she stays home, the homeowner often stays in the living room. She sits on the sofa by windows with her youngest who loves to watch birds fly across the trees or the rain wash the hills. The designers enveloped the space with an ever-changing landscape.

The central void of the house seen from the family room a half-floor above the dining area. “In some houses, you go to the second floor, and your kids disappear. In this house, we let architecture solve that issue. The visual connectivity makes you feel your family is always close by, which is very Filipino,” says Pineda. Notice also Layug shifted the finishing of the stairs from tile to wood, from cool to warm, as they move up to the more private areas of the home.

Edges of the lot blur as the perimeter and retainer walls burst with tobacco (wild banana plants) and bamboo. From inside, it’s as if the natural terrain outside is part of the home’s landscaping. Principal designer Budji Layug made sure the outdoors never left the residents’ view by opting for sheer curtains throughout the living spaces. The client’s request for a palette of blues and greens were addressed by the constant view of the outdoors. Layug supplemented that with large paintings of the same hues throughout the house.

Layug selected tile and stone finishes for most of the ground floor and wood in the more intimate spaces. One sees the transition at the foot of the staircase, where the tiles stop and the wood steps begin.

Outside the 20-square-meter family area on the third floor is a small balcony, which can also be accessed from the entrance stairway. Similar to the living area below, the bamboo by the perimeter walls coupled with generous windows makes the space feel it is surrounded by a garden.

The private quarters upstairs have their share of the outdoors too—tree canopies seen through sliding glass windows. “At 2.1 meters high, they’re practically doors, not windows. That’s what the supplier said,” says the man of the house. Above the bedrooms, another celebration of nature awaits the residents. While sunrise is the highlight of the day in the lower levels of the house, sunset is best viewed on the roof deck. With a building height limitation of 9 meters in the estate, the residents are assured that no roofs will ever block their sprawling vista. Sharing a love for nature with BUDJI+ROYAL, the homeowners got what they wanted—a portrait of the sky—and so much more. B ender

READ MORE: Studio Workshop’s Brise Soleil House is enrobed in an undulating timber

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