In the busy and lively districts of Makati, the design of a restaurant is just as much of a draw as its food; which is why Ikomai was purposefully designed to be serene and minimalist, to serve as a calm retreat within this tireless city.
It’s always a delight to hear when first-time customers come to us expressing how walking into Ikomai has brought them such a welcome surprise. Not many expect to find a quiet oasis amid the hustle-bustle life of the city.
Ikomai features a lovely alfresco area, and green walls that are truly a thing of beauty. The person behind these works of art? Martin Lazaro of Space Garden, an up-and-coming pop-up plant shop based in Metro Manila. Martin has been reinventing himself for the past several years - starting out as a Lyricist; but he remarks that he has always considered himself a visual artist, and is passionate about expressing the beauty of pots and plants.
Recently, I caught up with Martin to get to know him a little better and gain a deeper understanding of where his ideals come from. Here, he tells us about Space Garden, the Ikomai design project, and what he foresees the future holds for him.
Hey, Martin. Can you tell me more about Space Garden?
Space Garden is basically a gardening concept that’s come to life. We create a garden for any space. We try to make arrangements that will fit any corner - we can even create a beautiful desktop garden. We have various focuses, such as interior arrangements and outdoor landscaping. But a bulk of what we do is micro gardens and small arrangements.
How did your interest in plants begin? Weren’t you a Musician before this?
Yes, I make beats with my friends and rhyme! I’m still heavily into hip-hop production and still an avid collector of records. Plants, though, have always been a great interest of mine.
I’ve always been sharply observant of plants – their leaves, and their form. There is something about them that always held my attention; and I’ve always felt this eagerness for artistic expression with plants.
At Space Garden, we use a selection of plants. From dessert species, aerial plants to indoor foliage. Sometimes, we use native tree species to create our own versions of bonsai. And then I like using worn, aged, even decaying pots as they add a lot of character to the overall design; and also, because they bring focus to the plants due to their neutral hue.
All your works are beautiful and have a minimalistic look, as well. Would you say this is your design style?
Yes, I would consider myself a minimalist because I like to strip down to the just the essentials. This manifests in the designs I make, and the music I produce, too.
Can you tell me more about your project at Ikomai?
Well, first of all, I was pretty excited when this opportunity came. I've always wanted to do an off-the-wall garden, and it was great to have been able to pursue that here.
We started off by building a grid that displayed a selection of plants that could also purify the air. And then, we also worked on the interior and exterior landscaping of the entire place. We also featured photography and plant installations to make nice casual displays for every corner at Ikomai.
What's the most challenging part of the project?
There was a really trying period when we discovered that the outdoor plants were to be displayed in an extremely sun-exposed area. But we just needed them to get acclimatized. It's also designed to be sustainable so we just get from cuttings when we need to fill up a space.
The new strategy improved the plants’ sustainability, and as you can see, every one of them are now happy and in full bloom!
Great to hear everything turned out alright in the end! So, when you’re not working or making music, how do you like to spend your time?
I like to stay in a nice place, I imagine somewhere with a lot of plants. This would most likely be outdoors – the outdoors is where I usually get a lot of my inspiration from. I like seeing landscapes, and whatever piques my interest, I try to translate into miniature versions.
When I’m not working, I could be alone or with friends. I like to stay in places where you have everything: good music, good coffee, good food, and great conversations.
What I really like about Ikomai is that as soon as you step inside, you get a sense that there’s more beyond their culinary offerings
Speaking of food, how has your experience been at Ikomai?
The art and the minimalist setting just gives off a nice atmospheric vibe. Ikomai is unlike your traditional Japanese restaurant: you walk in and you don't know what you're going to expect, and then they serve you this incredible tasting Japanese food. It’s like a surprise hit!
I’ve been here quite a few times but I haven't ordered everything off the menu yet. If I have to narrow down my favorites, it would have to be the chicken dishes that you serve. And of course, the desserts, man! That's what I always rave to my friends about. The desserts.
That’s what I like to hear! Alright, final question. You’ve achieved so much already with Space Garden and your music work. What’s your dream at this point?
Of course, the dream is to have a full-fledged shop. Currently, I run Space Garden from my home, but I would love to have my own plant store, that also runs as a café where people can come in to hangout or to work, or even just to admire and shop for plants.