Articles Interior Design Philippine Heritage Inspired Interior Design: A Simple Guide

Philippine Heritage Inspired Interior Design: A Simple Guide

The Philippines abounds with historical structures and heritage homes. Here are 5 unique features of heritage interior design that you can use as inspiration for your own personal space.

The Philippines, brimming with culture and life, is riddled with many heritage sites and structures that relate back to the country's colorful history. Alongside organic elements and the vast nature, Philippine heritage architecture is one that brings a unique spirit to an otherwise purely modern and commercial landscape.

Due to their age, heritage builds can greatly benefit from renovations and gut-out jobs that make the structures work with current technology. Some of the best renovations involve preserving the heritage style of a home while implementing modern electrical and water lines. This is something that some ancestral homeowners have taken on to do so they can enjoy their lives in a place that's meaningful to their family; they try to make sure most of the house's uniqueness is intact while making the structure function according to their current needs. And even if one doesn't have the luxury of calling a place their ancestral home, there's no reason why they can't build a heritage style home that's full of character and can transport them back in time.

If you're a fan of heritage style homes and want to renovate an existing structure or to build one from scratch, here are 5 characteristics that describe the interior design of many Filipino heritage homes — from stained glass windows to native weave décor and greenery abound:

Historical And Period Builds

Antique dining room furniture in Filipino heritage style home with large window and wooden shutters

Heritage is understood to be anything that has been passed on from generation to generation, be it natural resources, cultures and traditions, or material and physical remains of history such as food, art, and architecture. For architecture, heritage style can mean anywhere from pre-colonization aesthetics to Spanish-era structures to post-war constructions like brutalist builds and post-modern erections.

Possibly the most common heritage style in the country is that from the country's time under Spanish rule. Spanish style builds date back to the 16th century, yet many design elements in these structures can still be applied today. Stained glass windows, while most associated with the Renaissance era, can be dressed in a way that reflects contemporary trends — think square stained glass windows for beach houses that see a ton of sunlight, instead of collage-style glass windows typically found in a cathedral.

For large furniture and smaller accessories, stick to capiz, rattan, and bamboo — natural materials already found in the Philippines pre-colonization. In terms of intricate decorative elements — styles popularized during the heyday of monarchy and aristocracy — try stamped patterns on walls and ceilings, detailed wood carving on furniture and trim, and complex metalwork and glassware.

Native Weaving Patterns

Green native inabel placemats on wood dining table

Known weaving tradition in the Philippines dates as far back as the 13th century, making it a mainstay in many historical builds and ancestral homes. Depending on your hometown or the tribe your family belongs to, there are weaving techniques that originate from your specific locale and that correspond to the beliefs of your community. The famous inabel fabric hails from Ilocos Region, and can be woven using different patterns such as binakul which is believed to ward off evil spirits. The eben lobun pattern pictures rain clouds, something endemic and considered beautiful in South Cotabato, where the T'nalak weavers reside.

The Filipino weaving tradition typically makes use of raw materials such as cotton, abaca, and piña fiber. These lightweight, climate-appropriate materials make woven fabric functional in most home cases, from bedding and linens to dining textiles like placemats and table runners. Currently, many contemporary brands have adopted the weaving styles of our local tribes, making these artistic fabrics much more accessible in the marketplace. Just be sure to purchase from a brand that uplifts and supports weaving culture, versus one that steals from the original weavers.

Ventilation And Airiness

Double sized bed with wooden cabinet and rattan lights and ceiling fan

Thanks to the humid and tropical climate, the Philippines needs structures that provide proper ventilation and emphasize open air. For heritage homes this is especially true, considering air-conditioning was not invented until the 20th century. To make do, many heritage homes were designed to accommodate multiple windows and larger doorways that promoted good airflow.

Nowadays, you can find older builds with more recent designs like jalousie and slat windows, screen and sliding doors that open up to outdoor extensions and patios.

Emphasis On Nature

Outdoor deck with green plants and rattan seating furniture

Filipino interior design is characterized by the abundant use of natural materials and elements. This could take form in the make of furniture or the materials used in the flooring and cabinetry, or in the way the home is laid out — large windows that show the view of a generous outdoor space or indoor pocket gardens.

For heritage builds, nature is a primary structural and decorative element. Back in the day, there were certain materials that made up majority of the items people used, such as wood or metal. This is because manufactured materials such as plastic and its subvariants were products of industrialization. Structures built during the Spanish colonization, for example, were typically made of stone (bahay na bato) and often had wood furnishings. In addition, these structures — especially the more lavish ones - were situated in large plots of greenery.

To recreate a heritage style home today, focus on natural materials like wood, rattan, and linens to design your interiors and decorate your space. Invest in plants that thrive in bright sunlight — after all, you're in sunny Philippines.

Lived-In Homes With Large Shared Spaces

Classic style living room in a Filipino vacation home

A home that follows Philippine heritage interior design is a home that reflects Filipino sensibilities and lifestyle. Filipinos are generally known to be hospitable and family-oriented, making the home a central location for many important events in a Pinoy's life.

Following this, it makes perfect sense why heritage homes have large shared spaces and specific areas for entertaining guests and bonding with family. Heritage interior design puts an emphasis on seating and dining for large groups. In many ancestral homes, mixed families make the deliberate choice to live together and enjoy their inherited space.

Even if you don't live with your extended families, chances are you spend your Sundays with your favorite cousins and grandparents. Not to mention all major events are typically celebrated with loved ones and kin. If you're considering a true Filipino home, you have to accommodate the possibility that you spend a good chunk of your time enjoying company. In terms of interior design pieces, think multi-seater couches across from each other — as if to encourage conversation, or stackable side tables that moonlight as coffee tables or even stools for quick guest encounters.

Aside from the focus on entertaining spaces, heritage homes also have a penchant for the lived-in, cozy aesthetic. Seating for guests, while mainly functional, has to be comfortable and restful for the times you want to relax in your personal space. Soft bedding and textiles do well to promote the homey feel of a place, while vintage décor and select heirloom pieces make a space feel intimate and uniquely yours. Personal accessories are your best friend when it comes to that lived-in aesthetic.