Here are some of Real Living readers’ most asked questions answered by our pool of home and design experts! Get a copy of Real Living’s 10th anniversary issue this July and find out the solutions to more home and décor queries.

Designers and Designers’ Fees

1. To Go Pro or Not?


Q. For our dream house, should we hire an architect and buy our own materials, or hire a contractor? Money-wise, which is better? – Joan Alcaraz-Santiago

A. It is more cost-effective to hire professionals and ask for a discount or a cost-plus arrangement. A cost-plus arrangement permits the owner, architect, or designer to share in the savings, and this will provide possible contingency for off-budget concerns or additional works. – Dr. Raquel B. Florendo, Interior Designer

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2. Small but Colorful

Q. What color of upholstery is best for a small living room? – Ferman dela Cruz

A. You can never go wrong with neutrals. Light grays, browns, and off-whites make space look bigger. – Hannah Acab-Faustino, Interior Designer

3.Wanting Wallpaper

Q. I want to put printed wallpaper on an accent wall. However, my husband doesn’t really like the idea, saying it’s gastos lang. What are the positive points of getting wallpaper so I can convince him?


A. On the contrary, some wallpaper will cost even less per roll than having an entire wall painted. Wallpaper can add more impact than paint, especially if the pattern and colors are dramatic. For beautiful but affordable wallpaper, check out Seasons (LRI Design Plaza, N. Garcia St., Makati City) and Wallcrown (call [02] 659-4576). – RL Staff

Small Space Solutions


4. Bagging It

Q. How can I have storage space for our bags in my small bedroom? The upper space of my cabinet used to be the storage space, but mice kept going in there. – Cristy Alipio

A. You can still use that storage space—it’s ideal for bags. Just install new cabinet doors that close tightly to prevent vermin from getting in. You can also buy organizers that you hang on closet rods; find these at Howards Storage World at Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City. – RL Staff

5. Show the Love

Q. How much love should we give a rented space? My husband and I are renting a small apartment. While the place is pleasant enough, I want to repaint the walls, remodel the kitchen, change the bathroom fixtures. I am just not sure how much I should be investing in a place that isn’t ours to begin with.


A. Regardless of it being rented or not, a home is where you build memories. I suggest that you invest in pieces that you could take with you when you decide to move out, such as furniture and accessories. As for repainting, that would not cost much, so go ahead! Kitchen and bath remodeling could be pricey, so I suggest just cleaning and accessorizing these areas. – Hannah Acab-Faustino

6. Privacy Issues

Q. I share a condo unit with two friends and, thus, lack privacy. My bedroom is separated from our living space by a clear glass sliding door. What is the best way to cover it? – Kat, Pasig City

A. You may put sticker graphics on your glass sliding door for a more opaque barrier. However, if you prefer a more versatile barrier, use roll-up shades so that you also have control over your privacy. – Pauline La’O, Interior Designer

Housekeeping, Maintenance, and Renovation


7. Hardi-Question

Q. Is it OK to use Hardiflex (a composite material board) as a ceiling material if I want a dropped ceiling? – JS, via Facebook

A. Hardiflex or other “ficem” (fiber cement) boards can definitely be used for a dropped ceiling. Although there are various thicknesses available, 3.5mm, 4.5mm, and 6mm are the recommended thickness for ceiling. Use Hardiflex nails to fasten the boards. – Love de Leon, Architect

Kids’ Rooms/Kid-friendly Tips

8. Repurposed for Kids

Q. I want to renovate our condo unit for our growing kids. It used to be a showroom with a very ‘80s style, but I’d like to keep the traditional Filipino furniture. – Rina Gonzales

A. Your ‘80s furniture can still be revived by having them refinished in a wenge stain and reupholstered in neutral colored leather or fabric with striped or floral designs. And since you have kids, use nano fabrics that are spill-proof, stain-proof, and sweat-resistant. – Joy Ejercito, Interior Designer


Furniture Finder/Shopping Guide

9. Affordable Art

Q. If we can’t afford paintings by noted Filipino artists like Malang or BenCab, where can we go? – Watashi

A. There are many art galleries in the city where you can purchase works of up-and-coming artists. “Art in the Park,” which happens once a year at Salcedo Park, Makati, is my favorite place to look for new work. Learn more about it here. - Vito Selma, furniture and product designer

10. In Search of Sofas

Q. Where can I have a customized sofa set made at a fair price? – Aleli Santos

A. Mandaue Foam Furniture Store (see for branches) sells very affordable sofa sets that can be customized to an ideal size. You may also contact Shack Furniture at mobile 0920-922-2038. – Hannah Acab-Faustino

(Photos courtesy of Real Living)

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