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MARGARITA Fores, in a Dries Van Noten shirt, sits on a Betis chair in front of a painting of her by Aleth Ocampo. She doesnt smoke, though. Photo by Nelson Matawaran

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SIGNATURE pepper mill collection. Photo by Nelson Matawaran

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WALNUTS and a nutcracker symbolize Christmas. Another great idea is to make balls out of cinnamon stick, coffee beans and cloves. Photo by Nelson Matawaran

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MEMORIES from MamaScandinavian chair, footstool and National Artist Napoleon Abuevas sculpture came from the sanctuary of Margaritas mother, Baby. The scarf is a memento from New York. Photo by Nelson Matawaran



House of beautiful Christmas memories

By Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:53:00 12/20/2008

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Leisure, Festive Events (including Carnivals), Paskong Pinoy

RESTAURATEUR Margarita Fors? home decor sensibility is like her fashion sense. It?s modern and retro with a dash of drama, and it doesn?t take itself too seriously. More important, it?s a repository of memories and friendships cherished.

Her bungalow in Makati is owned by a good friend, Gino Yabut, who had leased it to National Artist Arturo Luz for nearly three decades.


Fores had lived in Bahay na Puti in Cubao for most of her life. From 1971-1985 during the Marcos years, the family migrated to New York. She returned to the Philippines in 1985 after the death of her grandfather, Don Amado Araneta, the man who built Cubao.

Built in 1956, Bahay na Puti was the nesting place for the Aranetas. Don Amado wanted his children and grandchildren close to him.

Growing up in the Bahay na Puti in the ?60s left a powerful impression on her.

?I remember being put to sleep by my yaya at siesta time, listening to old songs in the radio,? she says.

Her mother, Maria was an iconoclast who also wanted her space. So she furnished the resthouse in the compound as a compromise. It was Don Amado?s place where he would meet his associates. He would call his grandchildren to feed his goldfish and Japanese koi in the pond.

When the family moved to Park Avenue, New York, Margarita enjoyed the vibrant culture scene. She would keep her mother company when they went clubbing at Studio 54. Margarita rented a studio for a year then came home when her grandfather died.

In 1987, Margarita debuted at a Hyatt food festival and slowly built up her business from a mom-and-pop operation into a corporation. At the beginning, a spare area at the Bahay na Puti served as Cibo?s commissary of sorts and storage.

Since most of Margarita?s business is done in Makati, she needed a halfway house and storage space for her personal collection of period furniture.

The thing about vintage pieces is that once you have one, you became enamored with the period and want more.

?My lolo Amading told me to always remember where you came from, it gives you the focus things correctly and guide your direction in the future,? Margarita says.

?A lot of concepts I create were drawn from these eras. I?ve always wanted to be very classic in style in the way the wait staff attends to you, yet without being dated and irrelevant.?

For instance, truffles are shaved with the waiters, wearing white gloves, so evocative of a lifestyle of the manor born.

Key pieces

However, she just had a room at Bahay na Puti. When she visited the ?60s style bungalow, Fores felt it was perfect for her idiosyncracies.

Initially, it was just a place to keep her collection and to freshen up after the gym.

?I couldn?t tell my mom that I was moving out. It was difficult for her,? she recalls. When she transferred, things just got better.

The former tenant?s stay is evident. The lawn features his sculpture and a black-pebbled path of a series of dots that looked so ?60s. Some modern artworks are displayed on the lanai.

Fores? possessions are a combination of pieces by unknown designers that blend with designs by her friend, Jappy Gonzalez, such as a metal and leather chair, a gilt panels on the dining room.

Her retro pieces encompass designs from the ?50s to the ?70s that are look so fresh and easy to combine. The chairs, tables and cabinets from this period are slim and clean-cut, elevated off the floor on spindly, splayed legs.

The colors are white, black, accentuated with warm colors and her accessories are fun, out of the ordinary and eye-catching. She mixes her collection of pepper mills and vintage glasswares, with typically fancy silhouettes offer a dash of flair.

The key pieces are a sleek sofa that resembles a ?60s model and the dining table and chair by the then popular Baluyot furniture, culled from Fores? paternal grandparents home in Grace Park, Caloocan.

The dining set harks back to memories of family gatherings in her days of innocence. The furniture shapes of the dining chairs are visual peg for Lusso, the new nightlife place.

There are rare elements of sentimental value combined with treasures sourced from thrift shops. To show off these pieces at their best Fores eschews the clutter. Her vignettes are restrained yet elegant to reveal the pure and pared down lines of the furniture mixed with the rococo ones.

The walls are painted white with some accent colors and the windows and floors are kept bare, except for some area rugs, to provide a distinct backdrop.

Luz?s workspace was transformed into a library. The shelves are lined with books on her passions?food, travel, fashion.

Instead of keeping her collection of red and purple glasses in a cabinet, she displays them on top of the old conference table from her father?s office.


In keeping with the simplicity of the mid-century home, the Christmas touch is also very spare.

Fores loves to recycle. She uses found vines twists them into wreathes and makes Christmas logs from felled trees.

Old leaves bought in Campo di Fiori flower market in Rome are transformed into mistletoes and garlands. Another key element, the batik table at the foyer houses the Baby Belen purchased from the Baile Foundation. For fragrance, she puts out a bowl of star anise.

?I?m anti-shine, anti-tinsel. I like white,? she says. The white Christmas tree is decked with ribbons, made from frayed linen placemats from Pepato; the little pillows are recycled from her bedsheets and for the Christmas balls, it?s the good old-fashioned cotton balls glued to styrofoam. Below the tree are beribboned gifts in white carton.

The coffee table reflects the ?70s disco era. It was recycled from a Studio 54 artwork and placed with a glass top and brass legs. On top are walnuts and a nutcracker, a custom she picked up from her mom during Christmas. It?s adorned with a gold pig, candles and dried cinnamon sticks, coffee beans and spices shaped into balls.

Indeed, the home is full of character.

Her son Amadito, 17, who has always lived with his cousins and Fores? mother, welcomed the change.

?I was very focused in making my business grow and at the same time,? says Fores.

?You never think that children would need a sense of belonging than just grandparents and cousins. It dawned on me when Amadito moved out. He felt so much more whole. He had his own space, a place he call his own home. Since most of my work is in Makati, I could be home for dinner.?

On her own space, she declares, ?I?m surrounded by things I love. I hope it brings out a lot of good energy and it brings out a lot of thinking space. It?s a source of inspiration and a place where my creative energies are honed.?

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