IF YOU’RE not here, then you’re not in the jar. That’s the social barometer,” declares style maven Leo Espinosa on being on the list of celebrity dermatologist Aivee Aguilar-Teo.
Aside from maintaining the fresh, youthful faces of Manila society, Aguilar-Teo is prominent because of her pedigree. She’s from the political family of the Aguilars in Las Piñas. An old family friend, Espinosa decorated the Skin and Laser Clinic at The Fort and the Teo condo in a style befitting their stature and privileged background.
(Espinosa, incidentally, looks much younger these days—no jowls or droopy eyelids and a 29-inch waistline, thanks to Teo’s non-invasive procedures.)
Espinosa says the takeoff is Parisian, which encompasses many periods in one space—baroque, rococo, neoclassical, Art Deco and contemporary.
Still, the “French style” adopts a lighthearted attitude towards the past. The clinic and the home exude opulence and elegance, with hints of metallic finish, wood veneers, custom furnishing and rich fabrics.
The colors are muted—soothing grayish and brownish tones—and accented with black, gilt touches. The furniture is ornately carved.
Espinosa eschews the matching furniture look, and instead creates a composition of strong shapes. Ultimately, there’s drama and mystique in the interiors, appropriate for Teo’s famous clients, called “Aivee Leaguers,” such as Ben Chan, Henri Calayag, Randy Ortiz.
“Our idea is luxe. The clinic is French luxe, while our home is modern luxe because we are a young couple,” says Aguilar- Teo, 40, who is married to Singaporean aesthetic surgeon Z’ Shen Teo, 36.
The boyish Z’ Shen studied at the University of Glasgow and had planned to work in Scotland. In 2001, while vacationing in Singapore, he met Aivee on her first day of postgraduate studies at the National Skin Center. Smitten with the Filipina, Z’ Shen extended his stay on the grounds of “family emergency.”
When she came home to practice, they carried on a long-distance romance. He would fly from Scotland just to be with her. But the long trips and jetlag wore him down.
He returned to Singapore to train at the National University Hospital. They were married in Singapore in 2005. Today, the Teos shuttle between Singapore and Manila, as Z’ Shen has his own medical facility, Z Medical Aesthetics. They used to live in Alabang, but since traffic was too taxing for Aguilar-Teo’s second pregnancy, they moved to a condominium close to her work.
The clinic has more traditional elements such as fancy cornices, moldings, medallions, flowing drapery with matching valances, gilded mirrors, and delicately printed upholstery in brocade and velvet. The chandeliers and door handles bear Teo’s scripted initials. Clients order meals from nearby restaurants while undergoing a procedure.
On Tuesday, the ladies-who-lunch crowd shares a meal at the dining table while they are getting IV-dripped with their youth elixirs.
“In the Philippines, the clinic makes you feel sick. Clinics in Singapore have that luxe feel so patients feel more comfortable. It’s a whole package. We want to raise the standards in dermatological and surgical care,” says Aguilar-Teo.
The Teo residence has the same feel, except that the furniture shapes are more irregular.
“We wanted a stress-free place. Leo took care of everything,” she says. The condo is near the school of her son, Ken-Z,4, and accessible to the airport for their frequent trips.
“The home has to be hassle-free for us. We just come in and out and lock up,” rejoins Dr. Z’ Shen.
Sense of movement
The living room is adorned with chenille upholstered furniture, tufted chairs, and tasseled and fringed pillows. A patterned carpet breaks the monotony of solid neutral colors and adds a sense of movement. The curved glass coffee table, a cubistic side table, and Bobby Nuestro’s painting give the place a youthful look.
Z’ Shen’s personal space is the den. “I wanted it to be a bit darker and manly. I want to watch war and gore movies here. All the rest is Aivee,” he says. In keeping with the French aesthetic, the leather ottoman is used as coffee table.
Leo Espinosa’s design formula
Espinosa shares his design tactics in creating the gracious look of the Teo residence and clinics.
Grand scale. It takes courage to exaggerate the scale of furniture pieces. In the clinic and condo, large mirrors with ornate gilt frames visually enlarge the room and create additional windows.
Luster. Surfaces that reflect light create the look of glamor. Espinosa adds shine to unpredictable areas, such as sealing the hardwood condo flooring and designing mirrored cabinetry. In the clinic, crystal chandeliers add shine and emphasize the loftiness of the ceiling.
Fuse the old with the new. The clinic is largely French-inspired, replete with scrolls, turned legs, curvaceous woodwork, and historical prints on the upholstery. However, elements such as a glass countertop or modern tufted ottoman add sass. In the condo, the French side table with curved legs, an heirloom from Aguilar-Teo’s mother, injects a sense of history in the living room, as does a black bombé with gilt trimmings amid the leather furniture in the den.
Metallic tones create a congenial atmosphere. When light strikes gold or silver-leafed surfaces, warmth is exuded. Espinosa uses a lot of gilt frames and metallic trims on the furniture.
Dramatize with drapery. In the clinic, flowing drapery in fine prints emphasize the high ceiling. In the residence, silvery cotton silk drapes stir romance. Velvet drapes serve as partition in the den of aesthetic surgeon, Z’ Shen Teo. The dark colors add an air of mystery.
Infuse global touches. Elements acquired abroad suggest something out of the ordinary. These could be a Persian rug, whose fine patterns and muted colors are in harmony with the patterns of furniture in Aguilar-Teo’s office.
Make it tactile. Down cushions of silk, velvet and brocade with fringed edges and tufted furniture in chenille spell pleasure.
To the Teos, the decor isn’t about ostentation, but about the art of making life very comfortable. Ultimately, Aguilar-Teo maintains that what drives her to work is sharing her time and resources with the indigent patients of Las Piñas Hospital. Her schedule with them is never compromised. That unconditional service comes back in blessings.