Personal Best: An Eclectic Home in Manila

In his native Philippines, landscape designer Bobby Gopiao creates cutting-edge gardens that are as lushly tropical as they are whimsical and adventurous. The horticulturist, who is also the president of the Philippine Bonsai Society, applied the same fanciful approach to the renovation of his own colorfully eclectic home in Quezon City, a booming area that’s located within the region known as Metropolitan Manila.

In the living room of landscape designer Bobby Gopiao’s Quezon City home, the Antonio Citterio cocktail table and sofa and the cabinet are all by B&B Italia; a portrait by BenCab hangs above an 18th-century altar table made of balayong wood, the chair sculpture is by Pam Yan Santos, and the painting at right is by Ronald Ventura.

Gopiao was drawn to the house not for its size (at 1,300 square feet, it has a relatively modest footprint) but rather for its ample outdoor space, which includes a large balcony off the master bedroom and a roomy garden and courtyard.

The stairway is lined with works by Elmer Borlongan.

The interior was another story. Built in the 1980s, the home’s architecture had “superfluous details like heavy moldings and partitions,” says Gopiao, who removed those ponderous elements and installed floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding-glass doors. “I wanted to open it up to receive better light and ventilation,” he says, “and I wanted the landscape to be brought visually indoors.”

In the master bedroom, the table lamp is by Antonio Citterio, the paintings above the bed are by Ronald Ventura, and the 19th-century bench is Philippine.

Today, post-renovation, the house is filled with light. Gopiao says his goal was to create “an homage to Philippine antiquities and contemporary art.” To that end, crisp white walls serve as a gallery-like backdrop. In the sunny living room, they display a truck painting and tire sculpture by Pam Yan Santos and a surreal portrait of a headless man by Ronald Ventura.

A 1950s table and paintings by Pam Yan Santos (center) and Jon Jaylo (top right) in the bedroom.

Yan Santos also painted the striking picture of a boy in the master bedroom (which doubles as a home office); it was based on the only surviving photograph of Gopiao as a child. Meanwhile, there are rare Asian artifacts throughout the home—from a 19th-century rice granary to an 18th-century altar table—which create interesting contrasts to the gutsy art and the minimalist Italian furniture by such designers as Antonio Citterio and Paolo Piva.

Paintings by BenCab flank a portrait by Ventura in the bedroom.

As befits a landscape designer, Gopiao has crafted a home in which the boundary between indoors and outdoors is nearly invisible. There is an outdoor gazebo, painted red so it pops against the green tangle of plants, and a modernist outdoor bathroom in black granite and steel.

Steel grillwork encloses an outdoor bath; the flooring is California slate.

There are also natural touches throughout the interior, from a handmade wood hall shelf that holds ceremonial artifacts and figurines to the wide-plank narra-wood flooring that Gopiao reclaimed from his grandmother’s home.

A Balinese stone planter is surrounded by plantings including giant bromeliad and a rose grape tree.

And of course, the house is always abloom with flowers and all manner of exotic plants, most notably Gopiao’s collection of bonsai—each one, in its artfulness and attention to detail, a miniature reflection of the harmonious spirit of its surroundings.


A steel gazebo and antique millstone in the garden.

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