Photos by Kieran Punay
As if making a house a home wasn’t challenge enough, Anna Calvo has had to do it away from home. 2011 was full of big changes for her. In the same year, she got married to her longtime friend John Paul, got pregnant with son Eddie, and moved from her native Guam to start a new life in Manila. “We move every year like it’s an anniversary,” Anna jokes about the frequency her family has transferred homes since relocating to Manila. In June, they made the move to another three-bedroom condominium. Despite the recent resettling, the space feels cozy and lived-in.
Each member of Anna’s family is present in the design. “When my husband walks in the door, I want him to feel like this is his home too and not just his wife’s. I’ll tell you, it took years for us to find this compromise,” Anna says of their aesthetic, where her warm tones and rustic pieces mingle with her husband’s sleek, modern furniture. “It’s so important that your family feels at home in their own home,” she adds.
In a “music room,” you’ll find her toddler son’s mini instruments alongside those of John Paul, who produces major concerts. Across memorabilia signed by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, a friend of her husband’s, is a painting of an elephant—not just any animal art. The couple spotted the piece being painted on a street in Bangkok and chose it to symbolize their Republican stance. “We want something that we can connect to. Other than just looking nice, our pieces have to be meaningful,” says John Paul.
KEEPING IT PERSONAL
In the Calvo home, personal effects are cleverly rendered design elements. A perfect example of this is the crafty photo wall above Eddie’s bed. “One thing we haven’t really come into agreement on is finding the right art piece. So I say, what the heck, just put photos,” says Anna.
The sentimental value extends to a prayer devotional on another wall. She had the prayer framed and mounted during her high-risk pregnancy. “As you go through your pregnancy, you learn about what’s developing and you learn to pray for it,” she says.
GO FOR GOALS
Though Anna has excelled at creating a haven for her family, it took a while before she herself felt absolutely at home. “One of the biggest obstacles was leaving my career, leaving my identity, and moving to this country and becoming Mrs. Calvo,” says Anna, who once headed thrived in a PR and marketing career besides becoming a fixture of her church’s ministry for young professionals. “To come here and do nothing was a hard blow. There came a point, well, for a long time there was a really serious depression.” Reaching out to neighbors in their former condominium helped, as well as regular meet-ups with other young moms from her church, Victory. But a major confidence boost came from Whole30, a 30-day nutritional program from the United States that dispenses of all sugars and imitation sugars such as honey and agave, as well as dairy, grains, and certain oils. “I’m not the sort of person who does fads but on Day 6, I had already lost six pounds,” she says, citing other benefits such as better sleep, skin, and energy. Besides coaching six other women through the program, she plans to launch a blog to guide others through Whole30 and instruct them on where to find local ingredients for recipes. “The reason I finally got out of my slump was because I was finally doing something for myself,” Anna says, sharing how the program has helped some of the women she coaches deal with self-esteem issues.
NOURISH & NURTURE
With a firmer sense of self, she has more to give her family, especially being a hands-on mother without the assistance of a nanny. Mondays to Thursdays, Anna even organizes playgroups for her son and his friends. While Whole30-compliant foods are on the menu including cinnamon-sprinkled sweet potato fries and almond milk smoothies, fun food activities are often on the agenda. Recently, the toddlers created “rainbow spaghetti” and carved apples into shapes. “That alone takes 30 minutes and to have a bunch of three- and four-year-olds sitting down is an accomplishment,” she says.
“Growing up, I had a lot of friends whose parents always had food on the table for visitors,” she says. “I always wanted to be that mom.” With the Calvos trying for another child, their household may soon get bigger. “If I have a girl, I’m naming her Emma,” she laughs, referencing a character from Friends, her favorite show. At least with Anna’s ability to turn a foreign space into a place of comfort, whoever arrives next will certainly feel right at home.