The elevator was added only a few years ago. Since he moved into the building in 1996, Efren Ocampo had been climbing five flights of stairs to get to his apartment on the top floor. Although it was good exercise for him, it was hard when he had packages to carry up and down.
But the landings with their blank walls were also perfect for hanging paintings from his private collection; Ocampo wasted no time filling these empty spaces.
The artworks became conversation pieces for friends and clients clambering up the steps and pausing every so often before reaching the designer’s apartment.
Upon reaching the fifth floor and stepping inside the spacious aerie, you feel the climb was worth it. You’ve also entered a private yet relaxed home.
The apartment’s high ceiling complements the open-plan design and gives it an expansive air—so much so that the main room is also the dining and living area. To one side is an open-service kitchen with room for a small bar.
The living room opens up to a rooftop garden; it is Ocampo’s green space. It is also unconsciously a bit of New York rubbing off on him—having lived there for five years. Potted ficus, kamuning, trailing bougainvillea, giant ferns and palms abound in the pebble and gravel garden, which leads to the service area and the back of the apartment.
The bedrooms and private quarters remain tucked away at the other side. His studio, where he meets with his clients, is a small drawing room with French doors that he likes to leave open to the living area, giving the illusion of uninterrupted space.
Though unconventional in its floor plan, the whole apartment, including the rooftop garden, makes you feel like you’re in a house.
For Ocampo, decorating is all about revealing your taste through the objects and colors you choose to surround yourself with. “Some people are colorists and like to play with painted walls and a full spectrum palette, while others are happy with softer hues and neutral colors. I tend to lean more toward the eclectic, mixing things that have a story behind them with things that create a certain mood at different times of the day,” he says.
Large paintings are prominent objects, as are vases with fresh flowers, books, wooden objects and antiques. There’s an unusual mix of furniture, period styles and stuff that somehow all fit together, giving a very relaxed mood to the whole apartment. It’s sophisticated and yet nothing is stuffy, nothing pretentious, nothing too precious not to use.
Ocampo makes good use of all his things, from good cutlery and glasses, to plants and flowers.
For him, life is too short not to live with the finer things one could have.
This apartment is special, I thought to myself, but I couldn’t put a finger on what makes it so.
Then I saw a small vase of day-old yellow roses on top of Ocampo’s desk in his office. There, in that grace-filled moment, I realized how dignified living can be so quiet, so serene, up five floors from a busy street.