It was this time last year when French pop artist Delphine de Lorme bid adieu to Cebu, her home for seven years, to follow her TV producer husband Henri to their new home, Yangon.
She, however, left a keepsake of her work in Cebu—the shabby chic Gilt artisan lounge and the pink house, La Maison Rose, which houses the Alliance Française in Cebu as well as a contemporary French restaurant.
The pink house, once the residence of José Velez and Juanita Velhagen, was a combined gift to the couple from their families.
José’s mother, Esperanza Paulin-Velez, gifted the couple the property while Juanita’s German relatives chipped in for the construction of the house, which was completed in 1939.
Their heirs occupied the house until 2006; and in 2012, honorary consul of France Michel Lhuillier converted it to become the French hub of Cebu with French Prime Minister
Jean-Marc Ayrault himself inaugurating the structure.
Renovations took five months; under Delphine’s design direction, the space has become an eclectic blend and showcase of colonial heritage, the opulence of Shanghai in the 1930s and her personal touch of colorful pop art.
“Before it was renovated, the architecture of the house reminded me of a blend of French and Asian styles, so I wanted to add something new while keeping the integrity of the original design,” Delphine said.
“I also wanted to keep the original fixtures as much as possible since the [Velez] family was very attached to the house.
“I worked closely with them for the renovation and we kept as much as we could of the old house, including the windows and the floor. The ceiling was getting old so we were going to replace it; but when we stripped it off, we found beautiful wooden beams so we decided to just keep them exposed.”
The innovative artist also has a penchant for reusing old furniture by customizing them and giving them a second lease on life.
“It’s cheaper, it becomes one of a kind and, most importantly, it’s better for the environment,” she said. “I got a lot of old furniture from Michel which I repainted and reupholstered for the restaurant.”
Delphine’s love of color and her exuberance are palpable in the interiors. The restaurant, which takes up the ground floor, has a cosmopolitan mix of design elements, ranging from red Chinese lanterns and portraits of Shanghai ladies to Delphine’s pop art pieces and black chairs with bright floral upholstery.
An intricate wood-carved sliding door, bought in downtown Cebu and refinished, leads to a private dining room for 10, with Delphine’s backlit Brigitte Bardot collage set against pink walls painted with cherry blossoms.
Alliance Française director Louis Thevenin and his wife Honey manage the dining space replete with servers in French maid uniforms, while French chefs Adrien Guerrey and Antoine Rollin head the kitchen.
Highlights of the menu, which revolve around traditional French cuisine with a modern touch and Filipino influences, include tanguigue carpaccio salad, French-style lechon, and luscious French tarts.
As much as Cebu misses Delphine and Cebuanos wish she had left more of her fun, eclectic mark in the city, Yangon is enthralled by her work and is keeping her hands full with design projects.
We caught up with the artist on Skype. She told us that her career in Yangon took off with her renovation of Mojo bar and lounge, a nondescript space which she had brilliantly transformed into a New York-style loft in only five days.
That got people curious about her work, and since then, she has added her inimitable touch to two private, colonial houses and a large loft.
She is working on revamping Myanmar’s most distinguished restaurant, the gastronomic European-Indochinese Le Planteur, owned and run by Michelin-star chef Felix Eppiser and his wife Lucia.
Delphine is also designing a hotel to be built in the ancient city of Bagan.
“In Yangon, people really take care of protecting their heritage and culture, which inspires me to integrate their rich history in all my projects here,” she said. “I’m always scouring the
antique shops to find pieces that celebrate their past, and I juxtapose them with my own avant-garde pieces.”
She continues to paint and exhibit her works in Singapore and Hong Kong, and is starting to display her artwork in Yangon. She fondly mused over her time spent painting and making furniture in Cebu.
“I miss Cebu very much. I miss banca rides and island-hopping there, and I miss my team of Filipino workers. They were like family to me. I felt very bad that we weren’t there to help during the calamities. But, I guess I have this uncanny ability to move on and start from the beginning.”
She and her husband are embarking on their next new adventure—that’s only a matter of when, not if.
La Maison Rose is at 371 Gorordo Ave., Lahug, Cebu City; tel. (032) 2685411.