(Stay) at Home with Justine Arcega-Bumanlag

by Japs Medina May 08, 2020

(Stay) at Home with Justine Arcega-Bumanlag

Set designer and interior stylist went from styling weddings to designing sets for celebrities

If you haven't heard of Justine Arcega-Bumanlag just yet, we have five words for you: Seek The Uniq Guide Shop. Together with Kitty Bunag, the set designer and interior stylist breathed life into our gorgeous guide shops with larger-than-life panels and on-point paint shades.

Justine's design journey is quite interesting. She started out as an interior designer doing freelance projects for residential and commercial spaces. Her path led her to style weddings and events, where she met Michelle Katigbak who was then the editor-in-chief of Chalk Magazine. Justine opened up her paths to style sets for editorial shoots, with some even landing on magazine covers. The rest, as our guide shops would show, is history. 

Take a tour around Justine's home and workspace (which she and her husband remodeled in just four days!) as she welcomes us into her eclectic space. 

Justine enjoys designing her home with warm tones and a splash of bold colors

Who are your design heroes?

Almario Sisters
When we started doing interior design projects in the early 2000s, I was inspired by interior designers Cynthia and Ivy Almario. My mother-in-law used to spearhead the marketing arm of a real estate company and the designers for their model homes at that time were the Almario sisters. Their design is just so elegant and impeccable, and their use of materials and furnishings were just exquisite. That experience influenced me in so many ways. The discipline in the output of their work, the selection of quality pieces used, and the possibilities of using patterns and colors in their design were just so inspiring.

Kelly Wearstler
When I bought her book Modern Glamour in 2005, I was floored. Her old-world, Hollywood glamour coupled with a touch of modern stimulated my senses. I still dream of experiencing her work in real life. Her work is graphic - I love how she marries color, shape, texture, and detail.

Milo Naval
When I was still doing interior design projects, I would go to LRI and sweep all the shops and get a glimpse of what they all had to offer. I particularly love Milo Naval’s showroom as it was industrial and minimalist - perfect for his modern Filipino resort-style pieces. I love the way he uses wood and the craftsmanship behind all his pieces. I would always imagine using it in my dream home/resort. I'm still hoping that someday I would be able to bring home a piece of his work.

Also, I even got to meet him when we went to Sorsogon to shoot for H&M!

The interior stylist shares that even an eclectic aesthetic has to be well-planned

Tell us about your design process in decorating your home.

Our current home used to be our grandparents' house. It used to be a warehouse for our department store items. When the old residential compound was sold, this lot remained for my grandparents so my grandparents turned it into a home. My husband and I did some refurbishing to turn it into a place of our own - the first floor as our warehouse/workshop and the second floor as our residence.

Our home is eclectic; some pieces we have are from the old house. Planning for the additional furniture and decors is essential to make the look work together. There are mid-century pieces that I paired with modern and contemporary pieces I sourced out. Choosing quality furniture pieces is a good investment for the home.

Since the existing furniture is in dark wood, I decided to paint the walls white to create a blank canvas that would house the assorted period-style pieces. Main pieces like the sofa are typically in a neutral shade. I added a colored ottoman and other accent details such as throw pillows, curtains which are inspired by the main pieces we have. I mix patterns, color, and texture to complement and unify the look. I love vintage and organic pieces which I juxtapose with new, modern objects.

A personal tip: don't rush in filling up your home. You can take your time to fill it with well thought of pieces instead of impulsively buying and regretting it later. It will save you time and money.

Vintage with a touch of modern: Justine's home started out as a warehouse for her grandparents' business

If you could sum up your design aesthetic in a song title, what would it be and why?

Can it be a song instead? The song that sums up my design aesthetic is Tadow by FKJ and Masego. The song is mostly instrumental with a short lyric at the end. FKJ is a multi-instrumentalist with an audio engineering/production skill who created a velvety jazz sound in Tadow. The song was actually an improvisation but they made it seem fluid and soulful. What made the sone impressive was the whole process.

The same can be said of my eclectic style: it's about the experience and stories told by the pieces which make the process more memorable and appealing.

What’s your favorite hosting hack?

I love creating the mood; I dim the lights, turn on the lamps, use candles, and set the table accordingly. Even with just chips and beer, a perfectly played out mood makes the night extra special.

Quarantine project: Justine and her husband gave their workspace a makeover in just four days

Which room do you spend the most time in? The least time in?

The living room is my fave. I mostly finish work there, but that's also where I binge watch movies and K-dramas. The kitchen is the least place I go to. I don't step foot in it not unless I am requested to or I get in the mood to whip up something special for the family.

We know that you deal with a lot of gigantic set pieces. Are there any hacks or tips on sustainability?

Since we do sets, the most used are the panels we fabricate. We change them accordingly by repainting or adding new details to them. We also acquire furniture pieces. For basic ones, we re-upholster, paint, and refurbish as needed. If the piece has been in our collection for a time and cannot be used again, we sell the pieces online or we donate them to schools or Caritas Manila. The pieces that remain with us are offered as rentals to other stylists and designers.

Justine's design process is one of storytelling

What’s on your quarantine playlist?

My ECQ playlist includes Billie Eilish, FKJ, Daniel Caesar, Sam Smith. I also have a mood playlist of Everything But The Girl along with other happy hits.

If you could wear only one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Green. It soothes and grounds me.

Is there anything about your home that you wish to change?

The kitchen. We really need more storage plus an overhaul of appliances. This became especially clear this ECQ, since our children have been experimenting a lot in the kitchen.

We got it from our momma: the spaces used by Justine's two daughters show how they are just as artistic as she is

Give us your five favorite Instagrammers.

I love their collection of furniture and décor pieces for rent. This is my dream business too.

A tie between @satie_san and @hiltoncarter
Their green thumbs are just so awe-inspiring. Having greens in one’s living space requires a lot of commitment and they just make it seem so effortless.

I dream of having an all-neutral space with really beautiful statement pieces juxtaposed with organic materials. I love how Carley Page puts things together, how she appreciates beauty in interiors, and how she captures those details through her photographs.

I enjoy the rich colors, as well as the mix of materials and textures of her pieces. She features them in her own home and sells them online.

I love Mikka's style and overall vibe. I embrace her confidence and fashion sense in ways only imaginable to me - I apply her freedom of style and discipline the best way I can to myself and to my work.

How do you hope your guests feel when they visit your home?

I want them to have that sense of comfort. I want them to have a place where they can feel at home.

Plants or flowers?

Definitely indoor plants. They bring that sense of life within the spaces. But I also love flowers; I enjoy arranging them and they bring that extra whip of color to my home.

What does home mean to you?

A home is the heart of a house. It is a space that you call your own and is shared amongst the people you love; it's a place where you grow, seek comfort, and find peace in.

Check out Justine's work on her Instagram account: @justine_arcegabumanlag

Japs Medina
Japs Medina


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