Allan K’s love affair with modern chairs started three years ago, around the time he was renovating the three-story house he had bought in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.
The first time he saw that house, he already knew what he wanted to do with it in terms of design. He wanted to go modern.
The singer-comedian, dubbed the pambansang ilong ng Pilipinas, is a poor probinsiyano from Bacolod who has made it big, becoming a hugely popular TV personality (Eat Bulaga! and All-Star K! co-host) and an ultra-successful entrepreneur (major shareholder in the profitable Zirkoh and Klownz string of music bars). Although he has not turned his back on his humble beginnings, he dreams of living the cosmopolitan life of a true-blue urbanite.
It was in pursuit of that dream that he gave his then newly bought house a face-lift.
At that time, he had decided he was sick of colors. At the end of each day, he wanted to go home to a sparkling white house.
“’Yong una kong bahay, lahat ng balingan mo, me kulay,” he recalls. “E, bakla—ano magagawa mo? Nagko-color-motif pa rin naman ako, pero hindi na ’yong tipong buong kuwarto, pula… isa pang kuwarto, green. Dati, me aquarium pa nga ako sa ilalim ng hagdan na me kumukutitap pang ilaw. This time, kumbaga, nag-mature na ang bakla.
“’Tsaka noon, siyempre, bagets pa ako. Saka first house ko ’yon, kaya lahat na lang ng puwedeng ilagay, ’nilalagay ko. Ngayon, even sa gamit, konti na lang. ’Tsaka, may kulay man, small pieces na lang na pandekorasyon.”
While renovating the house, Allan started buying and reading magazines on interior design and architecture, magazines that focused on a contemporary look.
“Doon ko nakita ngayon ang mga modern chairs,” he says. “Nai-in-love ako talaga sa mga chairs na magaganda. Parang nae-excite akong na-e-ecstatic. Parang ganoon ’yong feeling.”
That’s when he started going around the metro to hunt for these chairs. He went to visit stores such as FURNitalia and B&B. “Kasi ’yan lang mga ’yan ang Italian stores noong araw,” he says. “Ngayon, marami na. May pang-low-end, may high-end.”
Even without his saying so, we know his pieces fall into the latter category. And when he couldn’t find anything here that caught his fancy, he went to the Internet.
“Kaya matagal magbuo ng isang modern house,” he says. “Kung Asian ang look mo, or Filipiniana, mas madali, kasi mas madaming sources.”
When the renovation of his house was completed, Allan started buying the furniture pieces of his dreams—mostly international designer pieces, such as the Campana brothers’ Favela chair, and the famous La Chaise by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.
Given his modernistic mindset, Allan would have nothing to do with wood anymore. Not after he has fallen in love with modern chairs made of steel, leather, and polymer. Anything that was antique by nature or in looks could not hope to make it inside his house.
“Hindi na ako nagkakahoy,” he says, shaking his head. “Ayaw ko na ng antique talaga, kasi siyempre tumatanda na tayo. Ayaw ko namang mag-blend ako sa mga furniture.”
Almost shrieking, he stresses: “Ayaw ko nang mag-blend!”
Quickly, he adds, laughing: “Modern ako, modern. Napa-fascinate ako sa mga modern designs ng mga bahay, ng mga gamit.”
Allan’s passion for modern design isn’t limited to chairs and furniture pieces. It extends to functional decorative pieces as well, such as ash trays, vases, plates, and lamps.
For instance, he owns an original—and much-copied—Arko floor lamp designed in 1962 by the brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The lamp (not seen in the photos here) is exclusively manufactured by the world-renowned Flos, a lamp-manufacturing company, and was purchased in Bangkok. It calls attention to itself because of its long arch, and it lights up Allan’s spacious living room.
“Lagi ko kasing nakikita ’yong lamp na ’yon sa mga magazines,” Allan recalls. “Ginagawa pa lang ang bahay noon. So, noong nagpunta ako minsan sa Bangkok…e, di, namamasyal kami. Napasok kami sa isang sosing home-furnishing shop. Una, hindi ko agad siya napansin. Pag-akyat kong ganyan doon sa second floor noong store, napa-‘Oh, no!’ ako noong makita ko siya.
“Ang unang tanong ko, ‘Is this the original?’ Oo daw. Next question ko agad is, ‘How much does it weigh?’ Siyempre, unang worry ko kaagad—weight. Siyempre, para ma-ship mo pa-Manila.
“’Tapos, sabi noong kausap ko, 'pag nagpapa-crate ka, hindi ka dapat sa weight mag-worry kundi sa size. Kasi ang bibilihin mo lang naman pala is ’yong crate space doon sa bapor. Wala naman palang weight sa bapor. Sa eroplano lang pala wine-weigh ang crate.”
Another interesting piece he brought home from that Bangkok trip is the projector clock in his bedroom. It’s a clock that can be turned on and off with a mere handclap. So, before he goes to sleep, Allan turns off all his lights, claps his hands, and—voila!—he has a night-light that even shows the time, projected on one bare wall of the bedroom.
“Ang taray, di ba?” Allan beams. “Aliw ako sa nabili ko na ’yon. Una, sabi ko, ‘Why is this so expensive?’ Sabi sa akin, ‘You watch.’ Noong binuksan, dyuskoday, ang bongga nga naman pala.
“Ngayon yata marami nang lumalabas na pekinis [read: fake versions] from Taiwan.”
Allan is not the type who likes talking about money matters. However, we all know for a fact that modern-design furniture pieces don’t come with an old-fashioned tag price. The word modern itself connotes things expensive, exclusive, and classy.
“Meron din naman akong gamit na mura,” Allan says humbly. “’Tsaka, may local din. Di naman lahat, imported. Minsan nga, nagpapagaya pa ako, e. Me sourcing ako na ganyan. ’Tsaka, hindi naman isang bilihan lang lahat ’yan. Pacing-pacing din. Pag nakabili ako ng isa, ipon muna ulit. Hindi naman tipong buy lang nang buy. Mahirap din, kasi baka mag-clutter din. Di nawala ang concept ko na minimalist.”
What matters to Allan is that he likes what he gets for his hard-earned money.
“Kasi, ako talaga namimili,” he points out. “Hindi ako ’yong tipo na iaasa ko sa designer lahat. Importante, na-love at first sight ako, let’s say sa chair na ito o sa lamp na gano’n.”
He admits that his spending isn’t over yet.
“Nakaalis kasi ng stress pag nag-aayos ka ng bahay,” he smiles. “Hanggang ngayon, nagi-interior akong mag-isa. Minsan, halimbawa, me bibilhin ako sa hapon. ’Tapos, darating ako sa bahay, let’s say alas tres ng madaling-araw. Magi-interior pa rin ako noon. Para akong lukaret.”
But that’s okay. It’s his being lukaret that got Allan K where he is now. And it’s the very thing that keeps him there.