Shadows, light and things that spark joy in Kaye Tinga
A cozy, soothing space: Welcome to Kaye Tinga’ relaxing spa — or at least that’s how she designed her home to feel like with architect Johnny Ramirez almost a decade ago. It was a ‘70s bungalow that they turned into a transitionalstyle two-story family house.
Geremy Pintolo
Shadows, light and things that spark joy in Kaye Tinga
CRAZY QUILT - Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2020 - 12:00am

De-cluttering guru Marie Kondo has nothing on Kaye Tinga. She won’t have much to take away in this home that has for the past decade nestled Kaye and husband Freddie Tinga, former mayor of Taguig, and their four children.

It’s filled with Kaye’s favorite things like oddly shaped accessories, paintings and touches of Filipino heritage. But everything is put together with such restraint that you cannot subtract further without feeling that you left a gaping hole in the space.

Purveyor of good taste and refinement with her home store W17, which she founded eight years ago with Andy Vazquez Prada, and an indefatigable fundraiser for the Red Cross for the last 10 years, Kaye has a constant advice to W17’s clients: “It’s okay to not fill up your space. I always like it to be just enough or a little less, it’s better na kulang than sobra.”

She loves the sourcing part of being a retailer and a simple test is employed whether to buy or not. “What I find beautiful is not necessarily what others find beautiful or something that they’d like in their home. Andy and I always say that to put what we put in the store has to be something that we’re willing to put in our own home if, at the end of the day, no one buys it. We should be proud to have in our home.”

In this context of less is more, Kaye has created a home that embraces her like a warm cocoon as soon as she steps out of the sun and into the foyer. When the sun is high, the foyer is lit by natural light coming through the glass that frames the wooden front door. Along with the dim lights, it casts shadows on the large abstract painting by Lao LianBen.

“My daughters always tell me, ‘Mom, the house is so dark it’s not Instagrammable. Or friends say, ‘Ang dilim ng bahay mo.’ But that’s the idea — to me, it’s relaxing.”

Further inside, it starts to feel like you’re in a spa (it smells like lavender in her house) with select accessories accompanying B&B Italia sofa and chairs, like the bronze fish and jackfruit pots by Alexander Lamont from Bangkok, dried grass that looks like Spanish moss to add texture to a corner, a diptych by Fernando M. Zobel bought 20 years ago and 10 years apart. 

These pieces spark joy in Kaye because the family had them when they were living in the Taguig compound of Freddie’s father, Dante Tinga. Freddie was then mayor (three terms) and later congressman (one term because, according to Kaye, he felt that Congress wasn’t for him — he wanted to be running a city and to be closer to his people).

“When he was leaving politics, our daughters — Kyle and Kerry — were growing up to be teenagers, so we decided we needed more privacy. When they were kids and my husband was in public office, people were coming and going in the house, which was fine, it was something we enjoyed. But then we were starting our private life and we thought we needed time for the family and so we decided to move.”

They didn’t move into a new house, rather they renovated a very old bungalow from the ‘70s with architect Johnny Ramirez for two years. They restructured the layout and added a second floor.

“I love Johnny! We were on the same wavelength, he was was like semi-retired and didn’t do a lot of projects so he really gave his full attention to our house, which I liked because I’m very particular.”

They both agreed on transitional style, between classic and modern, resulting in a look that has hints and the feel of a serene tropical spa — a comforting balance of shadows and light. Like stage lighting, the light switches are preset to different moods.

Kaye’s aesthetic is contemporary but she loves adding classic elements, too. “I’m not into super modern and minimalist, I like touches that make it look lived in. I have a store, which is a showroom, but for my house it was important to me that as soon as you walk in it feels cozy — that’s why it’s dark.”

Sliding doors partition the dining room from the living room but essentially the ground floor, except for the kitchen, is one big open space. When they were modernizing the house, they added a pocket garden beside the living room, a lanai, lap pool and an entire second floor.

“We gained a lot of space from the renovation. Now the house has four bedrooms.”

Hang on — don’t they have four children? Don’t kids today always demand to have a room of their own? Kaye says the two girls share a room, and the two boys share another room. 

“I grew up in a family of six siblings; we were five girls and one boy. My brother had his own room and what my parents did was to convert two bedrooms into one for the girls to be together so we’d use only one air-con. My sisters and I grew up so close to each other. It’s really important for me that my children have that bond, too. And I like that because they’re sharing rooms they’ve learned to adjust because life is all about adjusting and learning how to live with each other.

“When we moved here, they were still young and we would stay together in the master bedroom so we would also use only one air-con,” she says with a laugh. “Kyle moved out of our room only when she was 17 or 18 to study abroad, after that the other one also moved to her room na.”

As slim as she is, Kaye Tinga has breakfast three times a day. First is at 6:30 a.m. when her two sons, Kody and Kristian, go off to school; second is coffee with Freddie when goes to work at his company Get Philippines, which designs and manufactures electric vehicles; and third when the girls, Kyle and Kerry, are finally ready to come down.

“I only get ready when everyone’s off at 10 a.m.,” she says. 

This private life they have now reminds her of when she and Freddie were starting their family (they’ve been married 25 years) with only the two girls  then, and they were living in Hong Kong in the late 1990s. Freddie founded an IT company that was partially bought by a Hong Kong firm and he moved his family there to manage it. Kaye remembers their flat facing Stanley Bay and when Freddie was traveling and away on weekends, she’d take the girls to Mass and hop on a bus to the city to eat dim sum.

“I was lucky we had that before he joined public service because that was really our private time. They’re among the best years of my life.”

The couple met when they were working at Citibank, though both were from UP Economics three years apart. They earned their MBAs abroad — he at University of Oregon and she at Fordham — and graduated at the same time and were both  recruited by Citibank.

They started as friends hanging out together along with seven other people in the associate management program. “Citibank was very good training for both of us. I stayed for three years, he left earlier. Even when we moved jobs, we would still hang out but it was always either he had a girlfriend or I had a boyfriend, so when we were both bakante that’s when we got together.”

All of Kaye’s past suitors and boyfriends were Chinese — Freddie was the first Filipino who dared ask her out and pursue her. “I never even dated non-Chinese. Then I met him and it was good, I was more relaxed, you can be friends, you can be more natural, and you realize he likes you for who you are, no expectations from family.”

Does she miss the 12 years when Freddie — and herself by extension — was in public service? “No, except that you can do things very quickly and mobilize people when a disaster strikes. That’s why Red Cross is my way of continuing the public service. It’s important especially because my younger kids never saw that side us when my husband was still in public service while the older ones saw us working with Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga. So at least the boys get to know that everyone can be part of anybody’s life, you don’t have to be an actual public servant or to hold a gala to carry the responsibility in big or small ways, whether it’s to pack relief goods or go to the evacuation centers.”

Two more  things that spark joy in Kaye’s heart are good old-fashioned board games and books (which they bring to their beach house in Batangas on weekends away). She’s a huge history and whodunit reader, genres she’s passed on to her kids. I’d never had an interviewee who  knew all the whodunits I read growing up (we spent a good 30 minutes chatting about them.).

“You know my husband likes? Science fiction. He’s a huge fan of Ursula Le Guin.”

Marie Kondo would probably be pleased to know that Kaye reads on a Kindle so the bookshelves (they’re upstairs) aren’t that overcrowded.

Of all the roles Kaye has in her life — banker, retailer, fundraiser businesswoman, family woman, style icon— what does she enjoy and cherish most?

“Being a wife and mother is number one. To paraphrase Jackie Onassis, ‘You be successful at anything but if you fail at being a mother, then there’s no success.’ I’m very close to all my children and for me the biggest compliment is when people tell me my children are such good kids.”

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Visit the author’s travel blog at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamtanylara.



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