Carla Villanueva, stylist, production designer, and creative director
Photographer Hannah Reyes Morales and her husband Jon Morales used to live in this same two-bedroom apartment. Carla tells us that some of Morales’ photographs are still in one of the rooms.
She lives by herself so the other room is a de facto office, where an acrylic ghost baul filled with the bead bags she designs, which takes after a real one from Mindanao she’s inherited from her lola, is in. In one corner is a crystal display case. “I have a collection of glasses because I’m obsessed with drinking.”
Cooking she also likes, to say the least. All around the kitchen are evidence of an impending dinner: She whips a chestnut filling for a mont blanc in one bowl after accomplishing paperwork. It’s T-minus four hours before the dinner yet she doesn’t look frazzled.
“She has a way of maneuvering through chaos,” photographer Geric Cruz, who gleefully art directs as we shoot around the space, says of Carla. “She has a way of just enjoying every moment regardless of the situation.”
How did you come upon this space?
Our friends Hannah and Jon used to live here. We’d come visit after a night in Poblacion and hang out with them. Then randomly, I was with Geric doing pre-prod for a shoot when we ran into Hannah while we were having drinks. She joined us and mentioned that she was moving out. My grandma had just passed away and I always said that if my grandma passed away I’d move out of my mom’s house. So when she asked, “Do you know anybody who’s looking for a condo?” I was like, “me!” I love their space. Basically, I took over their lease until the end of 2021 and then moved in January. I spent like a month, fixing things up.
How different is your space now compared to before? How much did you change?
Hannah and Jon actually had a really great layout already, just a different style. So their sofa was also where I put mine, and their bed was also there as well as the kitchen. It was actually perfect, where the light hits and everything. I built this whole kitchen because I cook a lot. And then just fixed random stuff that needed to be fixed. I repainted everything, but the bones are still pretty much the same.
How important was it for you to have your own space in relation to your lifestyle and your work?
I do a lot of production design work so I have all of these things in my room in my mom’s house. It was really, really full na. I think I was actually ready to move already and everything just kind of came together.
I think having your own space is important. I could’ve had a roommate, but I kept it as an office instead even if it’s not the smartest thing to do in terms of money and rent. I wanted to have a lot of space to do a lot of creative things. So when Mano [Gonzales] and I would do shoots together—we always collaborate—all the clothes are here and it’d change into a styling area. It’s a multipurpose kind of space for me. It’s so nice to have that because I used to work out of my room, which was super cramped.
What’s the best thing about living in Poblacion?
I don’t really participate in the Poblacion nightlife, I think most of us are just kind of in this building hanging out with each other. I think accessibility to most of the work we do like shoots are always in Makati, so that makes it kind of easier than when I used to live in Pasig. Being closer to my work and my friends. Parang when you live with your family, it’s like family life. Here, it’s more of your own life.
What was the vibe you were going for when putting together this space?
Most of everything here I didn’t buy or they’re vintage. This chair is my grandfather’s, this is my other grandfather’s record player. Everything’s like found objects that I got from different important people in my life that I collected. I think that kind of makes it home. I don’t think it’s “stuff,” I think it’s “me.” Collecting all these over the years kind of like made the style, which I didn’t realize I had until it all came together. I didn’t really go out of my way to buy anything, it just came to me when I needed it. Like, “Oh, I need a light.” Somebody will go, “I have a light!”
What are your favorite parts of this space?
The kitchen. And my lolo’s chair. Super sentimental value. I repaired this little by little over the pandemic. A long project.