How creating this Punta Fuego masterpiece was a sojourn for the soul.
Lior and Kathleen Liechtenstein were looking for an alternative to their small island in Palawan because “it was too involved to prepare going there and we thought to bring the sea nearer to us,” shares Kathleen when asked how and why they began conceptualizing their Punta Fuego home in Nasugbu, Batangas. Construction began in 2015 and the house was completed in 2017.
The concept and theme was simply, “To see, to feel the sea! For the sea to surround us,” Kathleen explained. Together with her husband, they decided on a modern and minimalist design.
Maymay, as she is fondly called by family and friends, shares with Lifestyle Asia, “We initially planned to bring to Manila a renowned architect who was very interested to have a masterpiece in South East Asia, but we realized a local would understand more the climate.”
Maymay elaborates, Pabling Calma is the best friend of Lior, and Carlo, his son just finished architecture from London. We knew after talking with him that we got a winner!” She adds, “He was exactly the kind of crazy, unconventional mind my husband can work with.”
The couple worked with an Italian architect from Milan for the interior design. There were two trips to discuss the project and another trip guided by a Brescian artist, Giampero Gastaldi, to go to a 400-year-old Carrara marble factory.
“We went to the quarry to understand the Carrara marble cutting to choose for our floors. We went into the belly of the factory to select from their collections, slabs of magnificent marbles for tables and art pieces. Most of which were priceless and frustratingly coveted by the family,” Maymay intimates.
She adds, “For the kitchen we decided on Minotti, and the Italian architect designed the entire kitchen and shipped everything to Manila.” There were four Italian artisans who worked on the installations. Maymay expressed how meticulous the process was, with the cabinets and stone slabs, fitted without any adjustment, shaving, and cutting.
Maymay elaborated further still, “They came and just like puzzles, the pieces were gently put together almost with caressing hands. It was a eureka moment–to realize why Italians are master craftsmen who have built masterpieces beyond beauty still celebrated today!”
She reveals that for the entire house, they turned to the inner sanctum of Flexform, conveniently possible because “the mother of our architect was an original prized designer of the company!” Again measurements were incredibly precise and blended artfully. Maymay says in wonder, “Even the lights and small fixtures were given the same attention to detail by the maestro.”
When asked how hands-on the couple was in the conceptualization, design, and construction, Maymay replies, “I remember meeting Carlo at the Polo Club cogon area and told him: ‘I want only one thing, cathedral height entrance, the highest you can go. The rest, I don’t care.’ That was my cue to smartly allow Lior to do what he does best for relaxation and tranquility–build art pieces!”
Maymay narrates how Lior, who is an engineer, loves building and creating houses and art works. She says she knows the house took longer to build because “everytime he goes to the site, he would have more crazy ideas to implement.” According to Maymay, at one point he wanted a cantilever pool and had to buy the adjoining lot, which set the timeline back almost a year.
Maymay continues, “Carlo is like a son to him who knows exactly his artistic nature, being an artist too. It was a good collaboration. Plus good parenting made everything smoother.” She adds that Maribel and Pabling Calma raised their sons to respect the elders when they are atrociously difficult as clients.
“Early on, Lior’s other best friend, the late Gabriel “Gabby” Barredo showed him his latest work dedicated to Lior! Immediately that piece was given a distinct area of its own, to be the centerpiece of the living room. Gabby went to install the piece, long before the house was finished and declared it a masterpiece! It was his last installation,” Maymay shares lovingly about the home’s centerpiece.
Asked what she enjoyed the most about building their seaside home, Maymay says that she doesn’t enjoy building houses because of the time it takes: “The process is excruciatingly slow for my mood. I normally come once or twice to make Lior happy. But I’m happier to see it finished.”
The most challenging moment for Maymay was, to no surprise, the waiting. For Lior, however, he relished the fun of doing creative projects as his stress reliever from business.
“Looking at the finished product and knowing how creative Carlo is has been a rewarding experience,” Maymay says. She loves the outdoor stairs, the excavated volcanic boulders that Carlo turned into garden centerpieces! The soaring height of the doors giving way to view the sky and the ocean, unimpeded. Maymay exclaims, “It is man-made but achingly nature-simplified!”
She speaks of Gabriel Barredo once again, about their friendship, and how the portrait embodies the love, devotion, and respect he had with the family.
Maymay points out the six-meter yellow Buddha that is facing the West Philippine Sea. It almost didn’t make her initial selection cut because she did not like the idea–however, she now believes “it’s divine and watches the ocean for us at all times!”
She calls the naughty ladies “ugly as hell” but admits to their “naughty elegance.” The jellyfish kinetic art were painstakingly created and now stand as an exciting sentinel in the outdoor area of the home, also facing the sea, ready to catch the wind as if waiting for its performance with an applaud when the wind pauses.
Maymay shares that she loves the monumental serenity of the Kalachakra that Lior found in the Tibet National Museum, while The Girl At The Beach was a love at first sight purchase from New York, which is now in her daughter Lauren’s room, “with so much character to look at.”
“We are behind buying pieces for their investment values. We choose those we like and we know we will enjoy much more as it stays with us,” Maymay says. The thought process behind the selection also includes how they will transport the piece, specially the large ones. But these considerations remain just that and they have not been deterred from the adventures of finding art that they love.
Maymay believes that the ocean “has a way of refreshing your tired body from city foolishness, embracing you with calm energy and stillness.”
Is there truth to how one’s creative juices flow more abundantly and effortlessly when near the sea? As the President and CEO of Ballet Philippines (BP), Maymay spent what she refers to as her COVID bubble of two years navigating the challenges to survive the lockdown. She declares, “We created the only one of its kind digital dance stage that elevated BP to a higher global position!” She refers to BP’s virtual stage, BP OnStream, the website ballet.ph, that was conceived and launched during the pandemic, which vowed to keep ballet alive. Maymay affirms, “Yes, it certainly made it easier for me to confront that dark moment in human history.”
She is an artist herself, most obviously so in the kitchen and when asked how the glorious sea views surrounding her feeds her creativity when she is cooking, she responds, “I’ve cooked for more than a hundred to send to Manila within a three-hour window! I’ve often wished I have the same view in Alabang to serve dinners to guests!”
Maymay describes the sanctuary that is their Punta Fuego home: “The buoyancy you instantly feel as you step inside the gate is almost spiritual. A brilliant magenta sunset that colors the pool pink and the sky lavender brings you heaven on earth.The uncertainties of Covid when we ran here for sanctuary in March 2020 faded easily away. Watching the rain with heavy fogs coming at you alone in the pool is a study of life itself. Swimming in silky warm water with only moonglade as company is God’s gift.”
On the biggest blessing their residential resort home has given them as a family, Maymay shares, “It’s been a sanctuary of the family. My husband wishes to live in paradise when in the Philippines. My son Philippe, in his twenties, chose to spend COVID lock down to work from home and continues to do so. My daughter Lauren, a surgeon, runs for comfort and to recharge in bliss. A simple home can be paradise too because it is the heart and mind of the people who dwell in it that makes it so.”
“The blueness of the sky allows your spirit to fly and be weightless. The sun cajoles you to have more fun, to enjoy the moment–the green plants, the trees, the birds–they ground you solid for the sanctuary they provide,” Maymay concludes.
Photos by Excel Panlaque of Studio 100.