The corporate/creative sisters on creating a squabble-free space and the joys of living with a sibling.
Photos by Maine Manalansan
Three years ago, architect Sarah Canlas made the unpopular decision to move out of her family home.
“The kwento is that I’m the eldest, and I wanted to move out. It’s not very common [in the Philippines] to move out before you’re married,” says Sarah. “So for us, we’ve been fortunate to have such open-minded parents. When I asked my father if I could move out, he let us do it.”
Sarah purchased an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment with shiny flooring and basic light fixtures. “The space was really empty. It was just a shell,” she says of when she first moved in. “But as an architect, I saw the potential, so I wanted to get it.”
Youngest sister Dani, who moved in two years ago, says that the first iteration of their home was very simple. “It wasn’t always like this before. We made do with inherited furniture from our house. We just bought canvas to cover them so that they’d look presentable. I guess you could say it was Muji-esque,” Dani says, comparing the apartment’s minimalism to the Japanese home store.
Having come from different industries also helped shape their space. Middle sister Anna was a magazine editor and is currently taking up further studies in New York, and Dani works for a company that creates and invests in forward-thinking start-ups.
“It’s nice because we’re sisters, and we grew up together. We do have a very consistent aesthetic,” says Dani. “But because we’re all so different and we do different things, the space houses all these different personalities. But we have a common ground. I guess we mix well.”
Despite living together, it’s still a challenge to fend for themselves—away from the comforts of their first home. “Minsan naghihirap ako para maging independent,” Sarah says. “But doing this has also allowed us to grow individually, heaps and bounds. We don’t come from a wealthy family. Whatever we put here, kailangan namin pagipunan.”
The sisters say that living together has also made them much closer. But finding time for each other has not been so easy lately, with Anna living away and Dani frequently traveling for work. When they do get together, however, they use it as a time to catch up and chat about their lives over coffee. “It’s nice to come home to something nice,” Dani says. “And to someone nice, of course.”
Sarah’s stints in design and architecture firms have influenced her love for classic designer furniture. “It’s either the best or nothing nalang. For the longest time, I just had a mattress. Kasi hindi ko pa mahanap yung bed na gusto ko. One chair, one light, one sofa… when I find something I really like, that’s when I’ll buy.”
With Sarah taking lead in their home’s construction and design, it was up to Anna and Dani to manage its function. “We always defer to Sarah’s design,” says Dani of their eldest sister. “I trust her anyway. Anna and I concentrate more on the things inside, plus we are about the software of the place. I have a lot of records and Anna’s movies. Most of the music will come from me. Most of the fashion magazine stuff and all the clothes making kalat are Anna’s.”
Despite employing a clean, classic aesthetic, the sisters make sure to keep their house fun and a little playful. Guests, for example, are greeted by a hopscotch rug. Their living room also features a sword from Sarah’s friend, a Muslim princess from Lanao. “Medyo goofy kami,” says Sarah. “There are things in our house that feel like inside jokes among us, and when I see it, I remember Anna or Dani and I just laugh.”
The sisters also have their own roles at home, especially on days when they spend time together. “I like taking care of the food, ’cause I want to make sure na pag-uwi ng kapatid ko masarap yung pagkain,” says Sarah.
Dani says that she gets to flex her tech-savvy muscles whenever she’s home, such as fixing any wiring in their electronics and gadgets. “My contribution to the space is making it efficient,” says Dani. Sarah interjects with a laugh, “My god, just say it you’re IT, you fix the Internet!”
One of the bigger projects the sisters undertook recently was building a wall-to-wall customized shelf. “We love to read, but our tastes are very varied,” explains. Each sister gets their own nook on the shelf that doubles as a desk for when they work at home.
“I just designed it and had the carpenter execute it,” says Sarah. She says that most of the design and architecture books are hers, the journalism and fashion books are Anna’s, and the tech and fiction reads are Dani’s.
The sisters are very fond of inviting friends over. Sarah, who takes charge of the food, enjoys making use of different themes during these intimate get-togethers. “We come from different industries, and we know people who we think magkakasundo,” explains Sarah. “So we like throwing dinner mixers.
Sarah says that their love for entertaining factored into their furniture decisions. “Everything is deliberate. Like this couch, it’s leather. I chose that because we like to drink. So ‘pag nag-spill, madaling linisin. I just want people to feel relaxed.”
Sarah still sees their home as a work in progress, and is keen on starting on bigger projects later on. “I really want a kickass kitchen,” she says. “Gusto ko gawing open kitchen. But again, I want a certain kitchen. So pagtiya-tiyagaan ko muna yan until I can get the one I want.”
The sisters are firm believers that furnishing one’s home is a worthy investment. “Kahit na simple yung kotse ko, simple yung damit ko, for me kailangan gastusan ko yung bahay ko,” says Sarah. “I’m so stressed na outside. Your outside self is, so to speak, your mask. When you go home, it’s really you. Wala kang makeup, naka-pambahay ka, tamad-tamaran ka. You seek refuge in your home. So to me, it’s a worthy investment.”