Whether it’s a celebrity mansion or a modest condominium unit, you’ll know Levi Sevilla is behind a project when you discover the details: extra storage created out of previously unutilized places, higher ceilings with discreet lighting to create the illusion of airiness, a home entertainment system set-up that looks like you spent tons despite the finite budget.
If clients don’t hear of Levi via word of mouth or track him down after a recent feature in Condo Living, he gets contacted for projects via his website or the message boards on skyscrapercity.com or PinoyDVD forum. One client saw Levi working on his neighbor’s unit, liked what he saw, and obtained Levi’s contact details.
Levi says that he gets a pretty good idea of what his clients want after they discuss the theme or feel that they want for their home. “They always say, ‘Bahala ka na’, which means I am in charge, and I take full responsibility because I know I need to give more than they expect. Of course, it’s easier when the client tells me what they want or do not want, so I am able to design and max the functionality of each area.”
Tailoring a unit’s features to his client’s specific needs is Levi’s trademark: a large pantry was created for clients who lived more than 30 minutes away (on foot) from the nearest convenience store; walls were knocked down to create a spacious master bedroom with anteroom for a single lady, a soundproofed entertainment center was discreetly hidden in one unit by a sliding door. If you want a lair (read: mancave) worthy of the Green Hornet or a Bond villain located in your basement, Levi’s the guy to talk to. Says Levi: “I enjoy sounds. Whether it is movies or music, as long as it has something to do with audio and video, I truly enjoy it. My entertainment center designs differ from client to client, because each is based on their needs and wants. I have done a completely computerized game room in a condo. I have done a lot of home theaters in different forms and designs, but I always consider the client’s lifestyle and make sure the design of the condo is not cluttered, since most condos are not big.”
Levi’s skill as a contractor allows him to reconfigure spaces with skill, knowing which architectural elements are structural, and which can be redone or done away with to achieve something that hews closer to the client’s needs than what the model unit offers. “I am more of a contractor than a designer”, says Levi, adding, “I work well with interior designers. There are just some who ask me to design because they do not have the budget for a professional interior designer. I just design basic functional areas and make it practical”. He acknowledges the input of his wife, Cotton, who suggests features that he would not have previously considered when designing for female clients.
When Levi isn’t at a job site or watching a movie with his wife and kids, then he is probably outdoors on a bike trail. “It helps clear my thoughts when I am with nature and just biking in the mountains. I bike to be physically fit and to recharge myself.”
To manage his time, Levi says he never accepts more jobs than he can handle, because he is very hands-on. “I am actually in touch with them every day through SMS, emails and calls. I want to be in control of my projects. I visit all my projects every day. My wife gets mad at me when I am sick and I still go to work.” But at the end of a hard day’s work, it’s family time, and this time is sacred. “My family is my source of strength and inspiration”, says Levi. When the kids are on vacation, Levi brings them along to work. “It is nice that they see what work I do. It also helps them widen their career choices because they are exposed to many things.”
And, it wouldn’t hurt to have more designers from Levi’s tribe. He’s big on practicality and functionality; big on problem solving and space saving; and he’s especially big on getting clients’ needs right.
Written by Anna Gamboa Gan
Photographed by William Ong and Mark Jacob
Portrait by William Ong