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Homes Home Tour: An Intimate Peek Into Filipino Chef Aaron Isip's Wabi-Sabi Haven

Home Tour: An Intimate Peek Into Filipino Chef Aaron Isip's Wabi-Sabi Haven

By Stephanie Zubiri
By Stephanie Zubiri
June 08, 2021
Chef Aaron Isip turns his Poblacion flat in Makati, Philippines, into a handcrafted haven inspired by the natural world

"For me, wabi-sabi means respecting nature and decay, seeing the beauty in decay,” says Aaron Isip. “It’s about celebrating the beauty of imperfection.” The Gault-Millau-awarded chef draws inspiration from the natural world in all aspects of his life, whether that’s prioritising seasonal, local produce in his dishes or in how he decorates his own personal space. “It’s all about lending integrity to the raw materials and letting them be as they are.”

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Rooted in Japanese culture, the principles of wabi-sabi are based on the acceptance of transience, the impermanent and imperfect beauty of nature. Falling leaves during autumn, gnarled wizened trees, cracked dried earth. “Although the philosophy began in Japan, it can be applied to any aesthetic, even French design,” explains Isip. “Think of un-restored antique French furniture, wrought iron or oxidised copper, things with age and patina.”

The apartment echoes a bohemian vibe with pieces from the owner’s trips abroad such as hammocks from Tulum, Mexico, as well as from local stores like the rattan accent chair from Silya Tropika and rattan bar cart and shelves from Acasa Manila
The apartment echoes a bohemian vibe with pieces from the owner’s trips abroad such as hammocks from Tulum, Mexico, as well as from local stores like the rattan accent chair from Silya Tropika and rattan bar cart and shelves from Acasa Manila

Filipinos are such good craftsmen, and it makes sense to me to highlight this

The 70 sqm two-bedroom flat is thoughtfully styled like a bohemian dream. Layered with texture—macramé, natural wood finishes, rattan, linens, jute, clay—rather than seeming cluttered, the small space feels harmonious and cosy as it is all anchored in neutral colours. The main living area is an open-plan design with a seamless flow between dining and living, and the kitchen just off to the side.

“I absolutely needed a hammock,” the chef says. “It’s one of the first items I purchased and installed. It’s the most relaxing spot in my home. I love to lie there and read a book especially when it rains. I don’t have a balcony, so I tried to recreate this ‘outdoor’ vibe indoors.”

Isip was gearing to move to El Nido before the pandemic, but his plans were postponed. “I still wanted to have that beachy, nature-inspired atmosphere, even in the city. To bring a little of the El Nido state of mind to my home.”

Read Also: Sustainable Sunday: Award-Winning Architect Dr Tan Loke Mun Plants His Own Fruit Trees

 

A wood slab dining table and rattan chairs with abaca seats are backdropped by a textile wall art by Olivia d’Aboville in the dining area
A wood slab dining table and rattan chairs with abaca seats are backdropped by a textile wall art by Olivia d’Aboville in the dining area

The principles of wabi-sabi are based on the acceptance of transience, the impermanent and imperfect beauty of nature

Isip personally sourced and put together all the pieces. “I would describe my style as rustic, primitive and Filipino. While I do have some items from Tulum, like my beloved hammock, and other items from past travels, almost everything I own is locally made,” declares Isip.

“I love collecting primitive Filipino art, such as my bululs, antique pottery and wood carvings, which I mixed with this modern piece by Olivia d’Aboville. It’s minimalist but it’s all about the texture of the textile. It’s the same thing that drew me to these lamps by Hacienda Crafts. I think the way the light creates shadows and lines on the ceilings and walls is just beautiful.”

The dining table is a large natural slab of wood, unusual for such a small space but it was important for the chef to be able to accommodate friends comfortably for his regular dinners. “This table can fit 10 people if necessary. I love to cook for my friends and perhaps, in the future, host tasting dinners. These chairs are made by Silya Tropika but I designed them myself.”

The same company also made the rattan dividers that cleverly camouflage the fully equipped industrial kitchen that spills over to the living space. “I needed to have a full working kitchen. It’s where I experiment and make all my artisanal sauces for my Gastronomade line.”

Read Also: Sarawakian Artist Anniketyni Madian Sculpts Wood Into Stunning Works Of Art

East meets west with this cutlery from Ukraine and stoneware from The Stoneware Pottery in Cagayan de Oro and bowls by EJ Espiritu; Japanese-style knives from Nacionale Bladeworks
East meets west with this cutlery from Ukraine and stoneware from The Stoneware Pottery in Cagayan de Oro and bowls by EJ Espiritu; Japanese-style knives from Nacionale Bladeworks

One of the two bedrooms has been converted into a lounge area that he calls The Tea Room. “I wanted the main living space to be void of a television so that it could focus on the good, immersive conversation. I made this room into a sort of den, inspired by caravans and the Berber culture with low seating. It’s where I keep my tea, wine chiller and bar. I like that sort of nomadic style."

His favourite piece is the centre table which is a repurposed plough from Ilocos sourced by the vintage and antique purveyor, Tanya Franck. “My bedroom is the only place that has some colour. It’s where I’ve put some of the pieces that I’ve brought home from my Paris days. All the things that have travelled with me from apartment to apartment. They’re all very personal pieces.”

Local accents such as native baskets from Kalye Artisano in El Nido and a ceiling lamp from Negros take the spotlight in the bar area
Local accents such as native baskets from Kalye Artisano in El Nido and a ceiling lamp from Negros take the spotlight in the bar area
Tea pottery by Siegrid Bangyay from Sagada
Tea pottery by Siegrid Bangyay from Sagada
A ceiling lamp from Acasa Manila makes for an eye-catching statement piece over a vintage bed by Bo Concept in the bedroom
A ceiling lamp from Acasa Manila makes for an eye-catching statement piece over a vintage bed by Bo Concept in the bedroom
A rattan wall mirror by SilyaTropika adds a tropical touch to the powder room
A rattan wall mirror by SilyaTropika adds a tropical touch to the powder room

I made this room into a sort of den, inspired by caravans and the Berber culture... I like that sort of nomadic style

The wabi-sabi lifestyle permeates all aspects of his aesthetic, down to the smallest detail such as his tableware and knife collection: a mix of handmade stoneware from Japan and the Philippines, cutlery from a master forger in Ukraine and knives by a local blacksmith, Nacionale Bladeworks. “It wasn’t easy to source everything. There isn’t one store that carries that aesthetic. Maybe I’ll do it myself one day and focus on mostly local goods,” says Isip. “While I appreciate pieces from abroad, Filipinos are such good craftsmen, and it makes sense to me to highlight this. Filipinos have a great eye for detail and I’m proud that it’s part of my heritage.”

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