Designing with definitive moments and empathy in mind, Architect Sarah Canlas gives us a peek inside her homes designed for dual living—a lifestyle that connotes a seamless shuttling between city homes and weekend retreats

Shuttling seamlessly between her compact Manila condominium and the airy dream home she built amidst lush greenery in Antipolo, Architect Sarah Canlas of Greener & Partners is an avid advocate of Dual Living. “This dual-home lifestyle is a response to an overwhelming feeling of connectivity brought on by our hyper-digitised world,” she shares. “While having a lot of benefits for people, I have also become more hungry for personal space where one can enjoy more analogue activities and be closer to nature.”

The architect trained in the University of the Philippines designs with usage of space and time in mind, which is reflected in the uninterrupted flow of her open floor plans of both her urban and country abodes. “I program space as if it is a series of moments, with the right balance of visual harmony and comfort. In every location, there is a unique genius loci, or spirit of the place, that we aim to enhance through design interventions that are in harmony with the natural environment.”

Sarah believes that both her homes are an extension of herself and the other people living in them. “That includes my sister, Anna, our helper and our pets,” she shares. It’s hard to ignore the brood of French bulldogs that parade proudly around the home. The patriarch, Boss, lives up fully to his name by greeting newcomers with a hearty growl and a few contentious barks before warming up and happily hamming it up for cuddles and photos.

“I read somewhere that living with other people regulates us. It makes us develop ourselves in a more well-rounded way,” explains Anna. “I think that’s the perfect description of the effect on me of living in and throttling between two kinds of spaces—one more compact and central, and the other more open and fringe.” The writer and editor collaborated closely with her sister in helping transform the properties into a cohesive home. The two are both passionate about purposeful design. Creating spaces is an intellectual process.


“Art, travel, and books are my biggest sources of inspiration. Art is a domain more free from constraints which allows me to reflect on alternative realities. Travel allows me to taste, smell, and hear in new ways, awakening dormant parts of myself,” declares Sarah. “Having a multi-disciplinary approach is critical to our practice so I tend to pull from sources not directly related to structure and space. Understanding other vantage points expands our range of empathy, a necessary skill in creating sensitive environments.”

These sentiments are very palpable in her design as each room has a distinct energy which is not solely drawn from décor but from the layout and structure as well. The generous and airy dining and kitchen area of their weekend-home opens up to the patio and pool for continuous family entertaining fuelled by rosé and an all-day gin bar. The tastefully curated living room in the apartment is filled with mid-century collectors, pieces and feels like the perfect setting for cocktails straight out of Mad Men. “We each go out to meet friends, but the ‘best bar in town’ is still the dining table in our apartment, which, come nighttime, transforms into a glowing marble hearth that reminds us of a bar we love in Vienna,” exclaims Anna. It is clear that the sisters love to entertain; however, they also deeply need their quiet and individual time. The bedrooms in both homes have a distinctly calm and pure atmosphere with minimalist tendencies and neutral palettes, designed specifically for rest.


From a more macro perspective, each home is conceptualised using the same principles of sensitive environments, with one key element that ties everything together – free-flowing energy. The apartment is built on the bridgeway at the top of two towers with very limited space. The 180-square-metre unit was maximised by demolishing one kitchen wall, which then allowed the space to open up “into a 360-degree program around a structural column pivot point,” explains the architect. “The living, dining, kitchen, and study were interconnected and transformed into a stage set for the different life scenes that play out in our lives. It’s almost like a reality show without the live cameras.”

The Antipolo house is intentionally built to be closer to nature. From every point in the home, you can hear the rushing waters of the creek just beside the garden, where the occasional crane stands proudly before taking flight across the pool and the trees. “The house is raw as it is intended to be low maintenance. All the interior spaces are oriented to maximise views of the treescape and allow the sounds of the birds and river to come in,” she expounds. “The garden is an extension of the house and was designed with my close collaborator Vicente Lim. The pockets offer varied ways of experiencing nature. There’s a space for the hammocks, vegetables and herbs, and sitting on the boulders around a bonfire. The whole experience is a grounding one that re-energises us for the coming workweek ahead.”

This rigour is in direct contrast to how I like to furnish spaces, with with and a sense of humour
Architect Sarah Canlas


“Architecturally speaking, I like to keep spaces honest. Materials are raw and used in ways that reveal their true nature. I’m obsessed with quality—this is visible in the minute details that add up to the totality of structure and the in-betweens,” shares Sarah. This is best embodied by the polished cement floors and textured white walls of the weekend home. Wood and metals are used to offset the starkness while strategically placed floor to ceiling glass windows allow daylight to flood in, creating geometric patterns of light and shadow that become an integral part of the design.


“This rigour is in direct contrast to how I like to furnish spaces, with wit and a sense of humour,” explains Sarah. Her walls are filled with portraits of her beloved bulldogs, as well as unique contemporary art pieces with a bit of cheek. Sculptural lighting is also a common feature. With a clear penchant for the mid-century greats such Eames and Le Corbusier, her homes are filled with pieces she’s slowly collected over the years, preferring original vintage items over replicas. “I admire intelligence in all forms, and design furniture pieces are especially meaningful for me in that sense. Those close to me make fun of the fact that I have an endless “wish list” of things for the house. But more than serving a superficial desire, I value being surrounded by functional works of art done by the design greats I look up to. It is my way of conversing with them and questioning my contemporary approach to my practice.”


While it seems evident that the greenery and wide-open spaces of their weekend home would be the most conducive to serenity and stillness and their compact urban abode is more for the frenetic every day, Anna feels that it is not always the case. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the latter is better for connecting or the former for disconnecting. I’m often surprised by how much introspection I can get from the little nooks in our city apartment, and socialising with the people who suddenly decide they want to come visit us all the way in Antipolo.” What is clear, however, is that the two properties are built to accommodate different paces, phases, and emotions. “I love that I can be dynamic,” shares Sarah. “Moods and personalities change and the two distinct houses ensure that no matter the moment, there is a place to call home.”

This article was originally published on Tatler Homes Philippines Vol. 25. Download it on your device via Zinio, Magzter, or Pressreader.

  • PhotographySCOTT A. WOODWARD