The pandemic has changed how we view our homes. It has pushed many to cocoon, and others to move to a different space due to the same need of being comfortable, as well as physically and mentally safe.
Celestina Arvisu, the person behind Coffee-Colored Casa on Instagram and a tanod of the Home Buddies Facebook group, is one of those who decided to find her own safe place in the midst of the pandemic. In an exclusive email interview with Real Living, she shares her journey from staying in a condo in Metro Manila, to moving back home to Baguio, and then eventually settling in a cozy space in La Union.
Celestina's City Condo
"I found the space around early December 2019 and right when I knew I would get it, I just started imagining where I would put things in specific areas of the apartment," she shares. The unit has several windows, allowing ample sunlight to come in. "I was able to take good angles of the space. I 'designed' it with IG stories using GIFs!"
Celestina notes that when faced with a blank canvas, it's important to bring in one's personality. "I knew I wanted a lot of plants, a two-top table, and my bed on the floor. Everything else just fell into place." From these three, she built the space with what she had. "I got my Ektorp sofa back in 2018 when I was still living in Eastwood (before I moved to Makati); I already had a mattress; and I knew I just wanted a semi-minimalistic, bohemian themed space—something that really reflected me as a person."
"I've always preferred a cozy, lived in space (hygge living) rather than a Scandinavian minimalist vibe because hippie/boho really represented me as a person. I'm a very friendly and open person once you get to know me and that's how I wanted people to feel when they would hang out in my place. I wanted the whole vibe to feel comforting and welcoming. The palette I was leaning towards were the colors of coffee which my IG name was inspired from because I'm a coffee addict with some pops of red."
She had already settled in well when the pandemic struck, and her plants (which by then were already more than 20), helped her cope with the stress and anxiety of the situation. Painting was also an escape, but she knew that it would be better for her physically and mentally to be somewhere else.
Celestina's Family Home
"The stress of work and the pandemic really took its toll on my health. My job had cut my salary [by] 70 percent and I was so scared and worried about life in the metro during a pandemic. I just wasn't happy anymore and it was really affecting me. Because my job wouldn't be able to cover my rent anymore, I had to move back to Baguio, my hometown. It was difficult leaving a space I had really made my own for only eight months, but I knew I needed to be closer to nature."
Similar to her condo, Celestina's room in her family home has a bohemian feel with a very lived-in, rustic vibe.
Her time in Baguio afforded her the chance to process her stresses, come back to herself, and realign her goals. Shortly after, she finally moved into her dream space in La Union.
Celestina's Beach Casa
"During the first lockdown in MNL 2020, I was set on finally making my dream life come true—which was to live by the beach. I have four animals so I needed to move to a beach close enough to drive to and La Union came to mind. I could just pack my belongings in my car with my fur babies and drive down the Baguio mountain!"
In 2021, she realized that her goal was actually within her reach. As she has already been working remotely, it was just a matter of finding the right place for her.
"Baguio is my hometown and will always have a place in my heart, but I have always been a water baby and was always happiest at the beach," she tells Real Living. While the place where she is currently staying wasn't her first choice, it was actually the perfect for her and her pets.
"The entire process was incredibly synchronistic; each aspect of the move just fell into place. It was only a struggle because I was alone in the process of packing things, loading my car with my belongings as well as the fur babies. It was all done by my own two hands, like a true-blue independent woman. With my Manila condo move, I had a lot of help. I had the guards to help load the moving truck and carry the heavy loads for me. So, I feel like this relocation to La Union was a real DIY move."
Celestina zoned the open space, immediately creating a restive nook that would be her sleeping area. The bedframe, which was made out of wooden paleta, was a dream that she had finally managed to make real. "It came with the unit here in La Union," she says. "Synchronicity!"
As with her Manila unit, she invested in organic pieces such as a bamboo cabinet and a made-to-order chair for accent. "I've improved on so much of this bare space since moving in May. I still wanted to maintain my minimalistic mindset in term of just having what I need rather than what I want—although my love for chairs has gotten the best of me."
The solihiya chair was made by a La Union-based group called Timber Design Lab. Another is on its way from Travel by Sirius Dan.
"I grew up with the mindset of supporting local textiles and craftspeople so a lot of the current accent pieces I have like my binakol blankets have been with me since I was a baby. I love showing how bohemian and hippie my home can be because again, that's exactly who I am as a person."
We have to make choices that will make our souls happy, and I knew beach life was for me.
Learning from the journey
Celestina's definition of home is simple: "A home for me is a place I can sleep soundly [in]. Sleep is so important, and I think if a place makes you just wanna crawl up in bed, all cozy and sleepy, then that's what a true home should be." Her journey in search of her own space during the pandemic had made her realize that a home is what you make of it, too. "We have to make choices that will make our souls happy, and I knew beach life was for me," she says. "I love moving into a new space. Into a blank canvas. I don't know why, but it always feels like a second chance at something new, something good."