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Smart homes with Japanese-inspired minimalist designs are on trend in Manila

Mixing elements of Japanese functionality and simplicity, Tokyo Grand Renovation is becoming famous for making homes into office-ready spaces.

The height of the pandemic saw many homebuyers seeking new places to move into now that residences are now serving as places for both work and play. Another side of this are those who opt to go into renovating homes and apartments, either to adapt to safer ways of living or simply just to give a new look to their spaces.

Among the many interior design firms in Manila is Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR), a subsidiary of Japan-led company Hikarinobe. Not only has client briefs shifted from having more space to rest, but specific requests also such as having smart homes or offices is now becoming a top priority for many.

“We noticed some changes when it comes to our clients, mostly about precautionary measures such as less touch and less contamination, so you cannot contract the COVID,” TGR lead interior designer Ken Ferolino told Real Estate Asia in an exclusive interview.

“Our clients usually would request smart home devices, smart home designs, or ask if we can integrate smart technology to the interior spaces. We can, and we did that already. Smart technology is really in demand right now when it comes to interior design and construction,” he added.

One of their luxury projects is designing a penthouse in the Grand Hyatt Residences in Bonifacio Global City in Manila. 

Their client’s request was to integrate European details into the design while still keeping it simple. TGR integrated a neoclassical theme by importing chandeliers and focusing on every corner with every possible detail they could from the ceilings to the cabinets.

“For our first Grand Hyatt project, it is a penthouse apartment located in BGC where the client's brief indicated that he wanted European ambience while maintaining simplicity. So the question for us was how can we maintain simplicity with this European design style?” he said.

“Neoclassical was brought to the table. Then, we imported chandeliers and installed it in every room to provide warm lighting textures, creating depth and ambience to the interior space. Basically, the penthouse interior design project in Grand Hyatt is an example that though TGR embodies the Japanese philosophy of simplicity, we can delve into other design styles as well,” he added.

A more recent project, also in Grand Hyatt Residences, TGR created a Home Studio where they installed soundproof walls and designed a more cozy room to fit their client. 

They turned this 80 sqm unit into a functional studio and bedroom that is maximized to enable their music producer client to be able to work from home in style.

In another project, they were asked to design a minimalist Zen-styled room. Ferolino said that they incorporated different design philosophies for this space in Kroma Tower to keep elements of luxury embedded with the simplicity wanted by the client.

To do this, they focused on picking the materials used in the furnishings and carefully planned their placements in the room.

“We were commissioned to create a space where traditional meets modern and contemporary styles. Another challenge for us in this Kroma tower project is to have a modern Japanese design entangled with Japanese design philosophy and the Zen style,” he said.

“There is luxury in minimalism if you choose the right material and put the right thing in the right place. The highlight of this project is the bedroom. Here, there is an elevated bed area adjacent to the working station. This area is liked by our client the most,” he added.

With a team of young interior designers, TGR is riding through the current trend of having minimalistic but functional spaces. Not only do they use Japanese tools and materials during construction, but their employees are likewise trained in Japan to bring the best of traditional practices to the designs of homes in Manila.

Japanese roots

TGR was primarily opened as a store that offered the tourist-favorite Happy Wash-U: toilets with sensors, a built-in bidet, and other functions. After garnering high sales and upon realizing that there is a gap in home construction in the Philippines, TGR decided to open in 2012 as a full-service interior design company.

“When we came to the Philippines around 2012 or 2013, the first activity we had as TGR was selling Happy Wash-U which is a toilet bidet. We focused on selling, then came 2015 when we returned to start the business for interior design build which our Japanese company counterparts originally did in Japan,” TGR’s Marketing Manager Masahiro Kato said.

“We noticed that there's opportunity and there's a possibility to provide our interior design and build services in the Philippines. We also found that in the Philippines, it's common that interior designers and the constructors are separate. So, we thought, what if we provide an all-in-one operation, starting from interior design to construction managed by us?” he added.

Being a subsidiary of Hikarinobe, TGR also applies the same practices done by their Japanese counterparts. They can arrange temporary housings to clients, provide a one-stop service for all construction needs, and they also use materials sourced from Japan to make their spaces more authentic and true to clients’ briefs.

“Our mother company Hikarinobe operates as a one stop service in Japan. From purchasing, renovating, providing temporary housing while your property is under construction, to setting arrangements for your items to move back and forth from your property, this could be the most convenient housing process you could think of,” Media Representative Celina Guinoo said.

“We also use Japanese products in our projects. When it comes to constructions, we use Japanese power tools which deliver much faster and higher quality finishes for home and design. We also deeply promote the use of Sangetsu wallpapers, a well-known Japanese wallpaper company, even though it is not popular here in the Philippines,” she added.

'New Normal' Dining

Also known for designing restaurants and cafes, TGR was able to adapt to the ‘new normal’ through its experience of having done al fresco or open-spaced area before the pandemic.

One of their more known projects is designing the UCC Clockwork branches, part of the famous coffee chain of the same name from Japan.

Ferolino said that in their most recent UCC Clockwork project located in Nuvali, they focused on catering to the younger generation. With this came open areas which turned out to be for the better as Manila currently requires all restaurants and cafes who want to operate to have open-air dining areas to abide by safety protocols.

“UCC Clockwork is a bit different from ordinary UCCs. It reflects the constantly evolving generation. It was designed to accommodate the younger generation, and it was intended to be more friendly and to have a younger vibe. Located in Nuvali, it is in the mixed-use development that caters to indoor and outdoor activities,” Ferolino said.

“The highlight of this project is the al fresco dining. So, we can say that we are prepared for this pandemic. The protocols require that all indoor establishments shall be closed, and only outdoor dining can accommodate customers,” he added.

TGR said that apart from having upcoming UCC branches in Davao, Bacolod, and Iloilo, expansion plans are also on the plate for Mega Manila. The company is looking forward to continuing all these when restrictions ease. 

Photos courtesy of Tokyo Grand Renovation.

(L-R: Lead interior designer Ken Ferolino, Media Representative Celina Guinoo, and Marketing Manager Masahiro Kato)

(Interviewed by Fidea Encarnacion)

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