Cover Twinkle Villa in Janda Baik (Photo: Lawrence Choo)

Whether surrounded by nature or within a historical enclave, these holiday homes around Malaysia are utterly enviable

Why stay in a resort when you have a holiday home as stunning as one of these? We pick five of our favourites around Malaysia.

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1. A minimalist kampung retreat in Janda Baik

A compact modernist cabin by Choo Gim Wah Architect nicknamed Smolhaven, this one-and-a-half storey, 1600 sq ft cabin was inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois.

In a modernist rectilinear form, the house is built on stilts like the iconic Farnsworth House and, coincidentally, a traditional Malay kampung house.

Smolhaven’s immense two-tier platform is also a homage to the Illinoian house’s split-level deck and projects weightlessly over the lawned terraces.

A corresponding pitched roof, with its 3.5m cantilevers, creates the cabin’s dynamic silhouette. Material choices were deliberately restricted to exposed brick, off-form concrete and timber to keep with the context of Malaysian tropical modernism.

Read more here.

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2. A converted Penang heritage shophouse

The holiday home of gallerist Lim Wei-ling with her husband, Yohan Rajan, combines the couple's passion for conservation and contemporary art in the heart of Penang's UNESCO Heritage Zone.

The formerly dilapidated shophouse had good bones. While it needed to be gutted, they were careful to retain as much of the original elements as possible and recycle whatever they could.

Once transformed, the home became the ideal canvas for the couple’s eclectic collection of furniture and collectables. For example, wicker furniture are juxtaposed against modern Kartell pieces, while an exquisitely carved temple bell looks stately next to a neon sign.

All the art are contemporary, and they consist of who’s who of the local and regional contemporary art scene, including works by Chong Kim Chiew, Shia Yih Ying, FX Harsono and Irfan Hendrian.

Read more here.

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3. An award-winning Janda Baik retreat

Located on the highest point of Tanarimba, Twinkle Villa by CY Chan Architect won the best building and a gold award at the Persatuan Arkitek Malaysia Awards in 2017 for “conversing eloquently with the idyllic forest and responding climatically to the setting".


When approached from the driveway, this retreat from city life has a  “hard” external appearance with a solid raw concrete wall rising dramatically above building height.

However, when viewed from the other side, “it transforms and opens up dramatically towards the woodlands while unravelling the charming and delightful ambience of a retreat within.”

Read more here.

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4. An eco-retreat in Serendah

Built within an orchard, this eco-retreat in Serendah in Hulu Selangor was built by Choon Sin Ho, one of the founding architects of A3 Projects.

Ho designed the new house for her parents, who had always wanted a retreat adjoining their orchard.



Nicknamed Serendah Hill Retreat, the Japanese principles of shakkei (borrowed landscape) were adopted, where the house is treated as an extension of the landscape.

The house was also designed to have no air conditioning and low maintenance costs, so various passive green design elements were implemented.

Read more here.

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5. A renowned artist’s hillside retreat in Janda Baik

The Canvas Hill Residence gets its name by combining its owner, a renowned painter, medium and its sloping Janda Baik site.

The house, which took home the silver in the PAM Awards residential category, expresses the spirit of the lush hills within a modern yet traditional-infused envelope.



The house comprises a courtyard by the slope, framed by two pavilions inspired by the traditional Chinese courtyard residence or siheyuan, but with three sides where an infinity pool forms the enclosing fourth side.

Accessed by a moon gate entrance, the larger of the pavilions is the three-storey main dwelling-cum-art-space, while the second small pavilion is reserved for guests.

Read more here.


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