Located in South East Asia, the tropical archipelago of the Philippines is home to over 7,000 islands rich in lush green forests, surrounded by crystal blue seas. With this comes an abundance of natural resources like abaca, bamboo, straw, palms and corals.
Given how plentiful they are, it comes as no surprise that houses were traditionally made out of bamboo and mangrove palms, also known as nipa. After the Spanish settlement in the country, European architectural influences became widespread and were adapted to suit the tropical climate. This led to the development of Bahay na bato – the colonial Filipino house which combines a typical nipa hut’s open ventilation, with contemporary materials.
Although the days of traditional nipa huts and colonial Filipino houses are gone, these tropical design elements continue to influence Philippine home decor to this day. From the high-pitched ceilings to woven storage baskets, we take a look at traditional Philippine home decor perfect for the summer.
Because of the eternal sunshine in the tropics, houses were generally built with high-pitched ceilings to allow air to flow around the home as much as possible.
This was complemented with beautiful chandeliers and ceiling fans that served as home decor accents, yet remained fully functional.
Alluding to the palm roofs of traditional huts, wooden slats or bamboo are often used as materials for the ceiling, providing the home a natural atmosphere. It’s common to match these elements with wooden furniture and fittings for an overall cohesive look.
With all the water surrounding the country, there’s no shortage of capiz shells – or windowpane oysters – fashioned into sliding doors, windows, decorative lighting, and even kitchenware.
The subtle shiny white surface of the shells is a wonderful accent tone that stand out against the rich shades of wooden doors. These iconic capiz sliding doors and windows can be found in the majority of traditional Filipino homes, and work well with contemporary modern design.
Speaking of iconic Filipino design elements, the butaka chair is one not to be missed. Also known as the planter’s chair, the butaka chair features a reclining perforated back and extending flat arm rests.
It is said to draw influences from the Campeche chair, popular in the Latin American region during the 19th century. Unlike loungers with fabric back rests, the butaka chair’s perforated backrest is better suited for taking naps in the warmer regions.
Another, traditional furniture staple is the gallinera bench. Made out of molave wood, the gallinera bench features a storage area underneath originally meant to store roosters. Nowadays, the gallinera bench is often placed in the sitting room to make room for receiving guests, or even by the entryway.
Woven Home Accessories
The bilao, or rattan tray, was originally used as a rice winnower, or a tray to carry food across rural villagers.
Made out of sturdy bamboo strips, it can carry a decent weight of food and can easily be dried off during the rain. It’s a versatile piece for a modern home, working both as decorative and functional.
Native to the Philippines, abaca or Manila hemp is made out of Musa textilis fibers often woven into mats, table runners, slippers, hand-held fans and even bags. It is known to be one of the strongest natural fibers which makes it perfect for creating home decor items. For instance, this fish net table runner evokes a laid back coastal vibe.
Finally, located in the southern part of the Philippines is an island well-known for its beautiful weaving traditions. Home to over 18 different indigenous tribes, the Mindanao region produces colorful textiles with plenty of playful patterns. Usually, these textiles are used as blankets, table runners, wall decor, and even bunting. The natural materials from the Philippines give way to some really splendid home decor.
What do you think? Would you add Philippine decor to your space? Let us know in the comments below. Interested in more articles like this? You might want to take a tour around Philippine blogger Marilen Style’s Hong Kong apartment, in a video interview where she describes the changes between styling her home differently.
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