For several decades, Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng was a leading lawmaker, advocate of women’s issues, media personality and art gallery proprietor.
After spending several years in the House of Representatives and the Senate, she is now president and CEO of Diliman Preparatory School, founded by her mother, the late Alice Marquez Lim. Now, aside from espousing a healthy lifestyle for students, she maintains her collection of Philippine fabrics, ethnic jewelry, furniture and accessories.
From Wack Wack in Mandaluyong, where she lived for years, she moved back to the ancestral home in Quezon City which was designed by the late National Artist Leandro Locsin in 1964. The 1,500-square meter U-shaped house stands on a 4,000-sq m lot.
The house seems to float above the property’s pond and bamboo trees. The seven bedrooms were originally built for her parents, the five Coseteng siblings, and the grandparents. Today, the bedroom wing resembles a gallery with Coseteng’s extensive art collection; the rooms are occupied by her children and grandchildren.
Over a hearty breakfast in the lanai, which used to be the garage, Coseteng talks about her furniture collection, heirloom pieces, and objets d’art culled from her travels and shopping trips. During the interview she wears a necklace and earrings of beads and semiprecious stones from the Cordilleras, which are part of her collection.
She has been collaborating with designer Marcelo Alonzo in updating the interiors of her ancestral home in Iloilo and her QC residence, using furniture from her vast collection.
Coseteng describes the interiors as “eclectic.” There are antiques from China and Europe that blend with Philippine-made reproductions and modern classics.
The house also displays ethnic baskets and religious icons inherited from her mother, wooden block prints from India, crystals and plates.
“I actually like seeing all the pieces even if they are just piled up. Marcelo removed half of them,” she says.
The interior designer explains that Coseteng’s collections have been built up from four houses and from her defunct art gallery. Many were shipped to her ancestral home in Iloilo.
Any first-time visitor would be overwhelmed by Coseteng’s collection. For the Inquirer shoot, we focused on her love of wood and textures. Natural wood is not only a major trend, it also flows well with the eco-friendly movement. The look ranges from rustic to retro.
Coseteng says wood requires little maintenance since polishing can diminish the natural shine. The natural grain of wood lends a soft-tone background for her Oriental rugs and other furniture. The aged patina of the wood gives it character. The warmth of wood is a foil to the concrete and adobe walls of the house.
Alonzo combined the nuances of warm neutrals, browns and blacks to emphasize the subtle textural qualities of the various grains. For a cohesive look, he kept the major furniture pieces in the same wood tone.
In the main entertaining areas, furniture with deep, rich tones lend understated elegance. Woods with lighter tones bring lightness to darker and private spaces.
The designer says the furniture has some history. The collection reveals Coseteng’s friendship with Budji Layug. When Coseteng’s mother was ambassador to Mexico, she organized an exhibit of Philippine craftsmanship. Layug gifted his pieces to the ambassador. Some came from Coseteng’s personal collection.
At the time, Layug created over-scaled furniture to complement the humongous houses that were popular then.
Alonzo laid them out to reveal their sculptural qualities. In the living room, the midtones of the bamboo furniture complement the deep, lustrous tones of the narra flooring.
Instead of a traditional coffee table in front of the sofa, slabs of kamagong, or Philippine ebony, are topped with glass.
“Budji’s pieces are organic. Because they are so comfortable, they are suitable to a house that espouses tropical living,” says Alonzo.
The black indented square chairs, designed by architect and sculptor Lor Calma, were used in Coseteng’s now-defunct TV show “Womanwatch.”
Friends have been telling Coseteng to discard her furniture since they seem dated. However, the collector prefers to hang on to them because of their history and high-quality craftsmanship.
“I would never sell these pieces in a second-hand garage sale. If I do, they would come with a price. When I purchase something, the more it is used, the more it has value,” she says.
For another photo shoot, she could ask Alonzo to transform her place by bringing out her heirloom collection.
Says Alonzo: “It is a quintessential collector’s house and a museum. I haven’t even seen many of her pieces. Some are rare pieces. All told, they are of the best quality. Materiales fuertes.”