Layered in details and dark woods, the traditional décor of this temporary residence evokes warmth, familiarity and sophistication, emphasizing period-inspired furniture, colors and textures.
Interior designer Michael Pizarro’s rented townhouse expresses that lived-in look even if he and his son had just moved in in mid-2022. Curvaceous furniture carved with neoclassical motifs are complemented with bright or patterned fabrics, crystals and lacquered pieces.
Pizarro explains that it’s an example of designing with an intention—committing to a concept using curated pieces and aesthetic elements to create a personalized and atmospheric space.
The Old World feel was born out of living for 20 years in an American-style mid-century compound in Quezon City which was once the home of LVN stars. Comedian Dolphy and actress Lotis Key were the previous tenants in the ’70s of Pizarro’s house.
Built in 1947, that house was cozily decorated with European furniture arranged for spaces for family gatherings. The traditional décor reminded Pizarro of his family’s house in Bataan. When the compound was about to be sold, the tenants were given a month’s notice to move out. He quickly found a townhouse in San Juan which was near his son’s school.
Nostalgia and familiarity
“I was coming from separation anxiety. I didn’t want to feel as if I was forced to stay in a new place,” he says. Hence, he had to generate an ambiance of nostalgia and familiarity. The new house had to feel as if he had been living there for decades even if he plans to stay there for only two years. He points out that unlike young designers whose default mode is to make a space look new or trendy, he is taking a different perspective.
“Go beyond what is visual and focus on how the space should feel. This is creating emotional pegs,” he says. “I went back to memories not of materials but of emotions. I wanted to create very familiar experiences through vision, touch and smell.”
In producing a nostalgic look, he turned to his inventory of furniture and accessories that he had collected for 30 years and purchased other pieces with details that matched the existing pieces. “Focus on scale, proportion and details,” says Pizarro.
He adds that the décor is a narrative of his life through the convergence of pieces from different sources. “The pieces have come home to where they should belong.”
In the living room, Pizarro’s key piece was a Chippendale sofa, known for its camel back. It is juxtaposed with a flea market find, an oval metal table, which he topped with black marquina marble. The focal point is a still-life painting of plants and a fruit plate, done by Federico Alcuaz. At a corner, a burlwood bureau, adorned with a bronze sculpture of the Sagrada de Familia and an oval mirror, is flanked by onyx pillars. Printed curtains cover the French doors for privacy.
Given that Pizarro had a month to furnish the house, he dusted off other pieces from his inventory such as a Ralph Lauren round side table, a striped velour wing chair and two Hepplewhite sideboards with the signature inlays and straight legs.
Everything old presented in new ways
The quatrefoil, stylized symmetrical lobes, on the backs of the dining chair, matched the patterns of his round, dining table. A brass chandelier, refinished in silver leaf, gives a warm presence. A classic décor trick, the mirrored wall in the dining room adds depth and brightness.
Since traditional décor can look fusty, Pizarro contrasted textures such as silver leaf (metal sheets for a modern finish) on the cocktail table and the European chair to play against the dark woods.
“The wall has a patina to complement the furniture,” he adds. Likewise, he decked the place with conversation pieces such as white carved candleholders, a vintage green glass lamp, bowls and jars.
Instead of investing on interior architectural details and redesigning the lighting in the living room and dining room, he used decorative lighting. “Light from the ceiling and windows are not the only sources of light. Lamps can add character and you can move them around,” he says.
A tester bed, a canopied bed with detachable posts, dominates his bedroom. It is flanked by side tables topped with the same black marquina marble on the coffee table in the living room. He curls up and reads a book on a chair and a half (a style of an oversized chair) with an ottoman. “It’s a hodgepodge of everything old presented in a new way,” he says.
A former commercial model, Pizarro studied at the Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID) and topped the board exams in 1995. He became a faculty member of PSID, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and Angelo King Center and has since been mentoring young interior designers. His projects have included restaurants and bars where he learned to balance aesthetics with function and practicality.
Pizarro attributes part of his success to nurturing relationships and connections through the years. “This reflects in the space that I do—creating emotional pegs.” —CONTRIBUTED