The lifestyle blogger & DJ on starting their life together and turning their new house into a home.
Since they got hitched last year, Mike and Christel have had to marry into a whole new set of responsibilities. A big one: moving into their new home.
Shacking up for a year at Mike’s one-bedroom bachelor’s pad turned out to be good preparation for their next step in settling down, especially since they learned to compromise when it came to storage. Now working with a bigger space, communication is key.
With Mike’s day job doing sales for Yahoo! and Christel’s new penchant for homemaking (documented in her blog The + House), the couple decided on the Mrs. taking design lead, but not without updating the mister. “I would consult Mike on paint color and flooring, showing him samples,” says Christel on fixing their place up. “Here, I don’t feel like an intruder because we’re building the space together unlike when I moved into his apartment.”
“She does a real good job of choosing the essentials,” Mike says of Christel. “We just communicate on what those major purchases will be so we’re aligned in terms of design and budget.”
Sharing roots in nightlife—Mike moonlights as a DJ while Christel has organized events in the past—entertaining comes naturally to the couple. Back in the condo, Vinyl Nights were held where friends came over “to just vibe to music over some drinks.”
Anxious to recreate a similar atmosphere at their new home, they agreed on a leisurely urban look inspired by New York lofts. “I wanted it modern yet classic, fun and soulful,” says Christel, who worked from the ground up, replaced the property’s generic white tiles with polished concrete flooring.
With creative control, Christel chose a neutral palette as a canvas for the home’s interiors, while still accommodating Mike’s love for louder shades. “We can always introduce splashes of color here and there with accent pieces,” she says of fresh-cut flowers on the coffee table or art by their friend Archie Geotina.
The Cause for Customization
For the couple, storage and dining had to serve specific purposes. Unable to find the right pieces, Christel & Mike took to customization. To stash all the stuff they each accumulated, a “Tetris wall” made art out of shelving, while they had an eight-seat dining table made to take care of the themed dinners Christel hopes to hold and any work they bring home.
Inspired by her mother’s flair for cooking meals and playing hostess, Christel looked to spend more time in the kitchen. One of her first priorities: adding a bar counter to address a lack of kitchen prep space and to receive guests over drinks.
Mike had lived alone since he graduated from college and enjoyed cleaning, while Christel immediately gravitated toward the kitchen. The couple quickly eased into their household roles. “When Mike was living by himself, it was easier for him to eat out or order in, but when we got married, I took over his pantry and diet,” laughs Christel. “I like to cook and I grew up in a healthy home so I’d like for him to come home to a relaxing place and serve him good food.”
“It feels great to have someone cook meals with love for me so my role as provider—and cleaner—comes naturally,” says Mike, who’s taken charge of budgeting via an Excel sheet. Each month, expenses are taken down and the couple agrees on who takes care of what. These days, funds that were once used for records or sneakers have been reallocated to their topmost priority: the house.
Near the living room is a nook that Christel likes to call Mike’s “man cave.” “I felt bad because his apartment used to be his man cave before I moved in!” Christel says, laughing. “We didn’t have space to create nooks for when we needed to do our own thing.”
Luckily, the man cave is one personal space that benefits the household. “I laid out the cave so it can provide music for the entire house, especially when we’re doing our chores,” says Mike, painting a picture of Christel moving to his beats as she dominates her own retreat, the kitchen.
PATIENCE & PRIORITIES
Living larger but with the same budget, the couple decided on slowly but surely fixing their house up. “We prioritized on what we needed most,” says Christel of purchasing essentials such as a bed and tableware before anything else. “Also, we realized we couldn’t rush because you need to grow into a space and take time to visualize how it will look.”
“’First time right’ as my mom always says. Rather than buy something temporary, we’ll wait for the perfect piece,” says Mike. Even curtains, an unanticipated splurge for the couple, will be gradually installed. “When we had our house appraised, we were shocked at the costs of those Roman curtains! We’re having it done section by section so we can prioritize other things first.”
Mike: I’m on the lookout for some art since we have a fair amount of wall space. We travel as much as we can so I look forward to buying those one-off pieces that not only give us fond memories of our travels but can also add some color to the home we are slowly building.
Christel: Since we intend to entertain, I’m always on the lookout for unique plates, bowls, glasses, etc. They’re always great conversation pieces. Also, throw pillows because it’s one of the easiest ways to change things up.
Mike: An intelligent sound system that spans the house would be awesome. Plus a killer home office for each of us so we can ideate at home. Oh, and a cleverly hidden shoe rack to hold my sneakers would be great!
Christel: A vertical garden so I can plant my own herbs, a tablet to control the lights, and a dishwasher!