There is a sense of randomness that Mark Nicdao ascribes to when buying decor. When he shops for his two-floor loft, he doesn’t always check if the pieces fit the space first. Most of the bigger items in this apartment aren’t brand new: his staircase, cut in half to save space, has an old bed frame for a handrail; the dining chairs are from a Colonial-era garden set supposedly from India; and the centerpiece that the whole house is built around is a salvaged Victorian-style couch from a store in Manila. “I’ve had this couch since 2008, before I moved here. Dito talaga ako natutulog before. Ang sarap talaga ng tulog ko lagi dito, so special siya sa akin.”
Nicdao has filled his corner loft with oddities and curiosities, some of which have the strangest provenances: a tall lamp with an eerie glow turns out to be a funeral light; Russian military hats decked with medals and inscribed with the name “Mark” inside one of them (he found out about it only after he bought it at a flea market in Prague); a crumbling 17th century book from France; and a replica of a 16th century Italian globe bar that looks exactly like the one Michael Fassbender and Mike Meyers got their drinks from in Inglourious Basterds—one of Nicdao’s favorite films.
Drawing inspiration from the production designs of Dante Ferretti (Interview with a Vampire, Sweeney Todd, and Hugo), Harry Potter (he read the book From Page to Screen before designing his pad), and dungeon-style clubs in Edinburgh, London, and Paris, Nicdao’s love of cinematic detail flourishes in every nook and cranny of the house, an imaginarium that also serves as a testament to his body of work.
His walls are decked with a growing taxidermy collection, including a baby bear from Xbesitzer and a crow from Deyrolle in France. The two are named Henri and Pablo, respectively, after his favorite painters, Fantin-Latour and Picasso. Tall bookshelves line the upper room and the dining area, brimming with action figures, thick photography books—some of which are signed—and fashion magazines, all illumined by tall windows that diffuse the gloomy atmosphere. “It looks better at night,” says Nicdao, who used to cover all the windows with drapes and heavy curtains to keep his migraines at bay. However, this turned out to pose problems of another kind.
“I had a feng shui master come in—I hadn’t been sleeping well for three months,” he recounts. “I felt distraught whenever I was here. He said it was because yung mind ko hindi nagta-travel, it’s just in this place, which is full of darkness, death, and old things. And old things are where spirits and negative energy thrive. He told me I have to open up everything. He also told me this is one of the luckiest places that he’s seen—but the way I designed it, nilagyan ko ng death, tinakpan ko, madilim, parang tinatalo niya yung good energy na pumapasok.”
He has since welcomed light inside, giving way to a sprawling view of the Makati skyline and perhaps one of the last green spaces in our metropolis. At night, however, his abode remains a fantastical menagerie where his predilection for the old world and the macabre remain resolute and unchecked.