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How to design an oasis

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Neal P. Corpus

Posted on November 29, 2020

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Photographer Koji Arboleda’s Serendra home shows us how to furnish with restraint and evolving taste.

Photos courtesy of KOJI ARBOLEDA

This year has undeniably become the year of the home. Now that we’ve spent most of our time indoors for who knows how long, making our houses feel more like homes is all the more important for our sanity.

So to provide you with some home design inspiration, we’re going beyond Pinterest boards and looking at the home of photographer Koji Arboleda.

Koji’s work can be described as serene, but not without interest — there’s always an element that immediately catches your eye. There is a feeling of effortlessness in the way Koji lights and composes his images.

One of Koji's requirements in designing the space was that he wanted the furniture to be close to the floor.

The same can be said about his home design sense. Koji resides in a one-bedroom unit at Serendra, which he furnished mostly out of instinct. His main guideline was that he wanted clean, wooden furniture that was close to the floor.

It’s a constant work in progress, Koji says, and he plans on updating the space as his taste evolves. We spoke to Koji over email about how he curated the space, how lockdown has been for him, and, of course, asked him for his list of favorite spots in the area.

PASYAL: How has the lockdown been for you?

KOJI ARBOLEDA: It’s had its good days and bad days. Overall, however, it hasn’t been too bad and it’s made me more mindful of my privilege, seeing that many of us have had it so tough.

I’m a freelance photographer and it’s been super challenging for us work-wise, since it’s difficult to work in big groups during the pandemic. Work is slowly picking up though.

Fortunately, I can go back and forth to BGC and QC (where my family is) when the ECQ was lifted. I enjoy being with my family but It’s good to have some days alone in my own space. I’ve learned the value of managing things at your own pace.

When did you move into your home at Serendra?

Around mid-2017. Typing that out has made me realize that it’s been more than three years already. It’s my first time living alone and it taught me a lot of things — budgeting being a huge and ongoing one.

Although the inspiration for the space wasn't directly Japanese, there are hints of it throughout the space.

Tell us about the design inspiration for the space. How did you begin?

I didn’t have a particular piece of inspiration that I went by per se, but I had a vision that I wanted clean wooden furniture and everything to be low and close to the floor.

So with that, probably Japanese? But I’m also not sure. I wanted the space to be simple and functional.

Clean, wooden furniture anchors the space, like this desk that serves as Koji's work station.

What was your process for designing the space? Were there any specific functions you needed to address?

I started by mapping the space in my head and thought about how I could divide the areas without it being crowded.

I decided to focus on key pieces and embrace the negative space, since living in a condo can feel claustrophobic if you don’t select and organize your furnishings wisely.

I used a full-length mirror to separate my living room and dining area. This gave the space enough separation to breathe but also being functional (for outfit checks, haha).

Did you design the space all in one go, or is it a constant work in process?

I’m pretty patient when it comes to canvassing stuff. I enjoy going around and checking out furniture and different pieces for the space so it took me around two months of daily errands to different shops.

I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve, but was also open-minded enough to tweak the space if I get inspired by a piece that could work for a certain area.

I would say it’s still a work in progress. As time goes by my taste also develops so I would want to update some pieces.

Postcards and small posters adorn the walls of Koji's bedroom, keeping things clean while being flexible to evolving tastes.

Do you have a favorite piece in the home?

I don’t really have one; I enjoy the whole space. Being in love with your home and little pieces you have, like a coaster or a salt keeper, makes it easy to stay in — especially during the pandemic.

I’m very thankful for being privileged enough to be able to stay home safe during all that is happening.

Various pieces of different textures create visual interest even in small corners.

Which space in the condo is your favorite? (Kitchen, dining area, bedroom, etc)

Probably the living room — It’s where I mostly stay to watch films and shows. It’s also the area where I can view and feel the entirety of my home.

Koji continues his minimalist approach in the bathroom, this time by keeping things monochromatic.

What's the best thing about living in Serendra?

The security and the greenery.

What are your favorite shops and restaurants in the area?

Mamou, Hanamaruken, and Gino’s [in Serendra]; Medley, Marugame Udon, Fowl Bread, Va Bene, La Picara, M Bakery, and Jamba Juice [in Bonifacio High Street]; and Pancake House [in Market! Market!].

Looking for more home design tips? Check out our tour of Alveo Land's Orean Place showroom here.

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