Worldwide Warehouse: An Evanston Loft

While growing up in the Philippines, Joaquin Franco discovered a special talent that none of his friends possessed: decorating.

“It all started at home,” says Franco, who started by selecting the paint and fabrics for his own bedroom before branching out into the rest of the house. “I grew bored of seeing the furniture in one place, so I’d move things around in the living and dining room. It was how I expressed myself.”

As an adult, Franco left the Philippines for long-term work assignments in Jakarta and Bangkok, where he picked up many pieces of art and artifacts. “I had the opportunity to start from scratch,” Franco recalls. “My friends and I spent many weekends on antique hunting expeditions.”

After a six-year stint in Evansville, Indiana, Franco was transferred to Evanston, where he struggled to find the right home for his eclectic global furniture collection until he toured a converted loft with 16 ft. concrete ceilings, exposed ducts and more than enough space for all the teak. “My realtor had gotten to know my furniture even better than I did,” Franco says. “When we walked into this loft, we both knew this was it. I don’t think I could ever move into a conventional condo again after this.”

In Evansville, he had a wrap-around deck with a view of a pond that was part of the property, which is one of the things he misses most. Still, Franco was happy to have found a loft with an outdoor space large enough to accommodate his teak daybed and a dining area.

Franco uses antique windows that were salvaged from an old school house in Manila as a room divider.

Adding contemporary pillows from Restoration Hardware lends a contemporary flair to this Javanese teak bench. Although he purchased the striped rug last, he was able to find one that brings together the room’s existing blue and green tones.

Chocolate brown walls anchor the dining area. “It has tones of red that coordinate with the burgundy.”

Franco purchased these fans, which were hand-painted by the former Philippines president Corazon Aquino. “She was one of the most, if not the most, beloved presidents that the country has ever had,” Franco explains.

Franco paid only $20 for a pair of dining chairs he discovered in an antique store in Jakarta, although he had to splurge on new burgundy and cream striped upholstery. “They had seen better days,” he says.

Franco purchased this wall tile and took it to a woman who created lamps out of her home in Jakarta. Although the “lamp lady” would ordinarily drill a hole in the center of the vase for wiring, he had a different idea that would leave the tile undamaged. “The tile just sits on the base,” Franco explains. “She picked the shape of the lampshade.”

Franco had the interior panels of a room divider upholstered for use as a headboard. Ironically, when he stumbled across an actual headboard sans frame, he had it framed and it now hangs behind his dining table. “In a typical Javanese home, they don’t have rooms,” Franco says. “Instead, they use wood screens to create divisions.”

This antique cast iron Buddha is one of the first pieces Franco bought in Jakarta. It commingles well with a pair of bottles from Crate and Barrel.

Franco bought much of the art in Bali, including two paintings by a popular Indonesian artist. “Bali is a totally different world from the rest of Indonesia, because it’s primarily Hindu,” Franco says. “The Balinese love color, and they experiment with oranges, greens, yellows and blues.”

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