Cover The rustic Casa Nakama has plenty of wood accents, complemented by a warm tropical palette

This rustic dwelling by the sea is home away from home for Mikka Genito-Padua, Kitty Bunag and their families

With a coastline spanning over 36,000 kilometres, the Philippines is home to some of the best beaches on earth. It is not surprising either for many to dream of turning this seaside Edens into more than just a vacation spot and make it their home.

Casa Nakama is one such wonderland. Dubbed as a “creative residency by the sea”, this rustic abode is a far cry from the pretentiousness of most luxury beach houses. Instead, the seaside dwelling relies on the natural blessings of the Philippine shoreline to give it depth and personality. The décor is heavily reliant on indigenous materials such as abaca, wood and bamboo.

Located in La Union, Casa Nakama is a private property owned by relatives. “[Casa Nakama] came as a blessing to us as we constantly seek healing places and spaces,” says one of the owners, the photographer and interior stylist Kitty Bunag. With an Instagram following of over a thousand, Casa Nakama seems to have caught the imagination of those seeking respite from the Manila chaos. “We are currently exploring ways on how we can make everyone part of this barefoot dwelling by the sea,” she shares. “Possibly [even turn it into] a lifestyle brand with an e-commerce platform.”

Read more: 5 Things We Miss About La Union: Surfing In Urbiztondo, Cliff Diving, And More

Though La Union is more famously known as a surfing destination (and perhaps even as a party town), the ambience of Casa Nakama is one of peace, tranquillity and nostalgia. Elements around the home are traditionally Filipino—from the grand aparador in one of the bedrooms to the woven hammock that swings lazily to and fro in the living room because of a gentle breeze that enters through the capiz style windows. 

“There’s so much in La Union that connects us to our heritage,” Bunag affirms. “Being here helps you find balance as you slip seamlessly into the local culture and feel comfortable with the community around you.”

The house itself has small outdoor cabanas, three bedrooms and a lounge area by the sea. “They’re our mini sacred spaces,” Bunag reveals. “We intentionally made sanctuaries out of our bedsides. It’s our space for calm and checking in with ourselves. It’s where we wake up happy.”

As with any well-loved home, the interiors are deeply personal. “[Casa Nakama was] inspired by our distant travels, by fashion, by heritage homes with a surf shack vibe,” she adds.

Perhaps one of the most eye-catching aspects of Casa Nakama is the number of artworks to be seen in it. In every room, there is a print or a painting, if not hung on the wall then propped on a table or against the room’s partitions. When asked about these interior design choices, Bunag shares that they were inspired by everything around them. “It’s a space well lived-in with everything we love to see every day: neutral colours and many textures with pops of colour.” 

Other notable features in the house include simple yet sturdy wooden furniture and warm undertones in the overall palette. The breezy living room area features wooden sculptures and plenty of friendly houseplants. The browns and greens are further complemented by a leather chaise lounge in orange. The capiz windows provide the area much ventilation as well as the much talked about salty sea breeze reputedly good for the lungs.

See also: Where To Buy Rattan Furniture In Metro Manila: 12 Online Stores With Tropical Flair

One of the bedrooms features a mighty aparador in dark wood, matching the rococo headboard in the same shade of dark carob. Other bedrooms—perhaps where the children sleep—have twin beds with lush comforters, a shaded chandelier in woven abaca and again, plenty of artwork and healthy green houseplants.

Yet, Casa Nakama’s charm is not just within the house itself but right by the beach. Every day, residents can enjoy a golden sunset tinged with strokes of pink, blue and violet. Imagine your most memorable beach vacation and this is what the folks at Casa Nakama enjoy every day.

Like snowflakes, no two sunsets are exactly the same and to have the privilege of basking under every single one of them during a time of pandemic is a gift indeed. It’s a joy that brings the family and their guests much happiness. 

“The best memories we’ve made are the small everyday ones,” Bunag shares. “The hot malunggay [moringa tree leaves] pandesal in the morning, watching our kids play outdoors freely, eating halo halo from fresh buko, raking sand, borrowing each other’s hats and [of course], the many beautiful sunsets by the beach.”

Those at Casa Nakama also seem to have a knack for setting up the most comfortable vignettes to be enjoyed by the sea. A cursory glance at their social media page immediately draws the eye to the many romantic settings on the family’s private property. There are white wicker chairs on the sand, shaded by a blue and white striped beach umbrella. Next to this is a low dinner table set with wine glasses and cushions on the sand.

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Another shows a makeshift bamboo structure, from which hang conch shell decorations, abaca lamps and white lights. Underneath are a cushioned wooden bench and the ever-present white wicker chairs. Set against a backdrop of purple clouds, the photo gives an enviable glimpse into the lives of those in La Union.

Though real life is far from idyllic, this seaside abode comes close. With as much charm as personality, Casa Nakama reminds us of all the beauty that comes from living in a home so close to nature. “How to style an already beautiful house?” Bunag muses. “[We simply] turned it into a home.”

This story is written in loving memory of Mikka Genito-Padua, to celebrate her and honour this home that gave her life with her family and closest friends.

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This story was originally published in Tatler Homes Philippines Vol. 28. Download it for free on Magzter

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