Cover High ceilings and Romblon marble floors offset the heavy heritage pieces and Isabel Diaz artwork. Jet Acuzar engaged architect Mikko Yap for renovations

Design enthusiast, Jet Acuzar, embraces minimalist aesthetics while celebrating traditional Philippine artistry and craftsmanship

“I have always loved natural materials because they contain within themselves something so priceless, an acknowledgement of the passing of time,” expresses design enthusiast, Jet Acuzar. “Time is probably the one thing we cannot artificially manufacture, so for me, it is truly the most valuable element. Natural materials like wood which were taken from the earth, can be returned to it, there’s a loveliness to this cycle.” Her family home is a beautiful airy structure, with lots of natural light, tall ceilings and angular lines contrasting with soft ample archways. The ground floor and staircase have been laid with marble from Romblon, adding to the temple-like quality of the space. Large and intentional antique wood pieces are displayed regally, almost as if they were the true occupants of the house.

“Over time, as my tastes evolved, I have learnt to fully appreciate wood and stone of all raw materials,” explains Acuzar. “There’s a primal quality to them as these have been used by men since the dawn of civilisation. One could argue they are part of the cosmic dust that built civilisations, and in these complex times many of us revert back to that simplicity. We are essentially going to have to rebuild civilisation as this pandemic has taught us that collectively, as a species, our way of living was unsustainable.” Sustainability is at the core of Acuzar’s philosophy. In a perfect world, for her, nothing would go to waste. “My mother calls me a scavenger because I really began by picking up some of the things that were left over from the transferring of the antique houses. Initially, I found broken antique stained glass that had been piled in a corner and repurposed them into trays,” she says about her new furniture and home décor line that she is starting with her mother, Tess Ochoa Acuzar. This quality is perhaps in her DNA as she fondly shares her father Jose’s story. “My father actually began working at seven years old as a junk collector in his hometown in Bataan. I think this trained him to have a built-in calculator in his mind that constantly assesses whether a thing is undervalued or not.”

Her parents are both patrons of history, culture and the arts and are the founders behind the incredible testament to Philippine heritage—Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. Her sister, Jam, is well known in the art scene and is the founder of Bellas Artes Projects, a non-profit supporting creative endeavours and the exchange of knowledge through artist collaborations and educational programmes. In fact, Jet credits her sister for helping her navigate the world of contemporary Philippine art and selecting pieces for her home. However, it is their parents who have passed on their love for things with a story. “Our parents are antique collectors,” she explains. “And we grew up around a lot of old things. My earliest memories include my father haggling with antique dealers. Both my parents have an incredible eye for beautiful objects.”

The Acuzars have a vast personal collection, many of which are on display at their Las Casas sites in Bataan and Quezon City. The workshops in Bataan were created to help restore and maintain the fragile items and the antique structures of the homes. “The workshops were not set up with a commercial view in mind, they were set up to create pieces that form my parents’ private collection and for Las Casas,” shares Jet. It is these same artisans that fabricate the furniture and décor of her upcoming business. “We have a fantastic team with us, with a customised value chain because we are a vertically integrated company. We have a cement tile and terrazzo team, a foundry, a terracotta brick factory, wood carpentry and even mosaic teams.” The brand’s current working name is “Balor” or the Filipino word for “value” because of how special each design is. “Instead of trying to fit my idea of what kind of company we should be, I am learning to build around what already exists and embrace it. The artisans really take their time creating pieces. Where maybe another company can produce ten tables in a day, we might be spending ten days crafting a single table.” 

Acuzar has only high praise for Philippine craftsmanship which she considers “one of the finest globally”. She then continues: “For decades the Philippines has been exporting furniture and other homeware products to all corners of the globe. Locally, we now celebrate Philippine craftsmanship thanks to fairs that connect manufacturers with consumers such as ArteFino, Manila Fame, Maarte and the regional fairs from places like Bacolod, Davao and Cebu.”

While Jet has access to all kinds of luxury products from across the globe, she recognises that “nearly every piece of furniture in my home is Philippine-made. This is something I did subconsciously, as I gravitated towards Philippine made pieces. If it’s not Philippine made, it would have been sourced in England, which really is a second home to me as I lived there for about a decade.” She is also notably influenced by the minimalist Flemish designs of Vincent van Duysen and Axel Vervoordt, which adds a touch of legerity to otherwise very heavy, primitive pieces. “I also really love the work of Alyssa Kapito, who exemplifies a style best described by Ben Weaver as a part of a movement he calls a kind of ‘New Cocooning’.”

What Acuzar is drawn to by these designers’ work, which she would like to impart on the spaces she designs “is a kind of timelessness; a coming together of objects chosen not for their trendiness but how they can stand up to the test of time. Most times, simplicity is the best way to highlight this”. She then further expounds on what is so alluring about artisanal work. “In this digital, mechanical world, pieces with the evidence of the human hand are preferable because they become a good reminder of our shared humanity. Deprived of touch, these handmade products remind us that while we cannot hold each other right now, we can have things that evoke this missing sense of togetherness. With artisanal pieces, you experience a direct connection to the artisan who created the work. There is a distinct intrinsic quality to the movement of the human hand which no machine can replicate.”


This story was originally published on the 27th volume of Tatler Homes Philippines. Download a copy on your digital device via Zinio, Magzter, and Pressreader.

  • PhotographyPaco Guerrero