Quirky mementos, a minimalist way of living, a creative’s dream apartment
It’s easy to spot the elements that tie together Koji Arboleda’s body of work: finding beauty in the unconventional, an exquisite use of color, a masterful use of stillness that somehow evokes excitement and, conversely, a way of capturing photos of subjects in motion that somehow create a sense of calm. Loud isn’t his style because his art never has to scream for attention. His art exists to tell a story, but in hushed tones (as we would imagine) to draw genuine interest and intrigue instead of a mere sensorial response.
Beyond being a lensman, Koji Arboleda is a visionary. He always creates with the big picture in mind. In a lot of ways, the artistic inclinations that make him who he is as a creative translate beautifully into his home. Here, there is no shortage of visually captivating elements. Even so, they don’t compete with one another. Nothing screams. Closer observation shows that every nook and cranny of this one-bedroom apartment comes with a unique narrative. Everything has its own reason for being. And together, they create a much bigger story: Koji’s.
Not one to sugarcoat things, Arboleda jumps right in with a reminder that living in a well-curated space comes with a cost: “Naubos yung savings ko ah [laughs]. For me though, getting my own place was an investment that made dipping into my savings worth it. You save up for the next phase of your life, diba? For me, this was it. This was my next phase: claiming my independence.”
And nothing says independence quite like becoming a self-motivated, self-sufficient member of society. “It was a mutual understanding with my mom when I left our house,” he shares. “We agreed it was time that I started truly being independent.” After walking us through the nitty-gritty of solo living (from the kinds of compromises that come with #adulting to coming to terms with the cost of living in his new residential area and having to be very smart about grocery shopping), he tells us about how his beautiful abode came to be: a work of art that he himself created—wall to wall, floor to ceiling.
There are the expected involvements of a homeowner in the early stages of furnishing a new apartment: looking at paint swatches, selecting finishes and finding furniture. Then, there are the laborious handyman tasks better left to an interior design team with contractors. Arboleda, a hands-on kind of creative, did all of the above himself. It took him two straight months of work to get the foundations of his new home just right. And even as we discuss the finishing touches in his home, Arboleda speaks with such gusto. Listening to him talk about things like the motion sensor light he recently installed above the sink (he says it makes washing dishes a little more enjoyable), it shows: This apartment is not only his haven, but a labor of love.
“When I started, I was only sure about three key pieces for the living room: a sofa, a coffee table and a rug. In the dining area, I was sure about a buffet table at the corner and, of course, a dining table. I was also sure about a work desk somewhere in between,” explains Arboleda. “I knew I wanted to divide the two areas without obstructing the space and I really wanted a mirror [laughs], so I had this large mirror framed and just put it against the wall.”
Building on the basics was a starting point, but this didn’t mean bringing in things on a whim after the essentials were in place. Paring things down, Arboleda helped us realize, allows you to better care for the belongings you do have. “I also feel like for you to be happy with your space, you have to be thoughtful about how you fill it,” he shares. “For me, that was about focusing on the things I need. I just have to be able to function in this space.”
“One good thing about being a picky person, I guess, is you won’t mind sifting through uninspired designs if it means finding really great ones.”
Being a man of excellent taste doesn’t mean being opposed to roughing it out or taking the thrifty route either. In this well-curated space, Arboleda proudly shares that a lot of his items come from unsuspecting shops around the metro and on Lazada. He passionately vouches for local depot stores, too. “I sourced for these items at some predictable places and then some very random ones,” he says, laughing. “That sofa and this living room lighting fixture are just from Mandaue Foam and I got them at a really good price. I also sourced for items at Our Home and Wilcon. You never know what great finds you’ll come across there. You really just have to look.” He adds: “One good thing about being a picky person, I guess, is you won’t mind sifting through uninspired designs if it means finding really great ones.”
Life imitates art and Koji Arboleda’s space is proof. In essence, anyway, we don’t think it’s possible to separate the artist from the man: He knows to inspect, not just look or see. He sees beauty where people see the mundane. His imagination knows no bounds as thinking outside the box isn’t something in Koji’s world that needs prompting.
Koji Arboleda is a 26-year-old fashion photographer based in Manila who produces commercial and editorial work. He has collaborated with publications such as SCOUT, Preview Magazine and Young STAR as well as brands like BENCH, Converse, Carl Jan Cruz and Salad Day. You can follow Koji Arboleda on Instagram and Facebook.
Art and Photography Alexandra Lara