Cover Photo: Ceavs Chua

Once overlooked for their lack of lighting and ventilation, these five Malaysian terrace house have been given new leases of life by a fresh generation of local architects

1. A Heritage Penang Shophouse Transformed Into A Modern Loft

Set in a 19th-century shophouse in the heart of Georgetown, nothing prepares you for the loft-like interiors within. Designed by Unit One Design, the facade was mainly left untouched but the ground floor was opened to create a continuous reception, living, dining and kitchen space. The lightwell was subsequently sealed at roof level and light enters via a two-storey high window in the east façade designed with glass louvres to permit hot air to escape at the top.

Below the lightwell, a shallow fish pond was inserted and a timber ‘bridge’ spans from the living to the dining area. The master bedroom was shifted to the rear of the house while a second bedroom obtains daylight from the lightwell and a third bedroom overlooks the street at the front of the house.

Since renovations were carried out prior to the designation of the core of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, the designers were allowed to make one major change. Here, a tall window with glass louvres was inserted to bring daylight and natural ventilation into the very heart of the house. 

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2. A Practical Yet Pleasing Terrace Transformation In Bangsar

Located in Bangsar, this 1980s end-lot house had all the drawbacks terrace houses are notorious for like low ceilings and awkward split levels but this did not deter Eleena Jamil Architect (EJA) from transforming it into a comfortable family home with views of the city.  

To open up the house, strategic walls and floor slabs were removed and the staircase was reconfigured in a new location. This not only created a better flow of spaces, but it also allowed for more daylight and improved the natural ventilation. 

To ensure uninterrupted views of the city, a level was added on the rooftop. A playroom was placed with a direct connection to the roof terrace so that the family can come up to the terrace which is a safe outdoor place for the children to play. Clad with an exposed concrete wall for privacy, carefully placed openings also frame views of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.

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3. A Terrace House In Suburban Seputeh Transformed Into A Tropical Oasis

Located in suburban Seputeh, this corner terrace unit had five split levels which were typical of the original layout of houses in this neighbourhood. While this initially posed something of a challenge, the husband and wife team behind ELD turned this into an advantage by defining the clarity of the spaces in each split level with ease of circulation. 

To accommodate the client for a resort-style home that merged the outdoors and indoors seamlessly, an outdoor lap pool and a semi-outdoor pavilion were added in the sliver of land the corner lot afforded.

This original split level allows for the design of an infinity pool edge at the end of the lap pool, with a cascading waterfall flowing at the lower level of the open space towards the driveway. This accidental 'water feature' gives the home a resort-like ambience as visitors are greeted by the sound of cascading water upon entering the house compound.

Bordering the pool is a casual living area and dining cum kitchen area which opens up to the pool’s edge with fully collapsible doors to suggest a blurring of indoor and outdoor spaces.

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4. A Lush Soho in Taman Tun Dr Ismail Ideal For A Floral Designer

Lushly planted and minimally finished, this terrace house in the genteel suburb of Taman Tun Dr Ismail is an inspiring environment for Jane Tan, founder of Dear J by Jane, a floral designer.

The long narrow mid-terrace was designed by renowned architect Kevin Mark Low of Small Projects and transformed by Low into his signature raw style which embraces imperfection rather than eschewing it. This wabi-sabi style was a big draw for Tan when deciding if she wanted to take this space.

All rooms on the ground floor were removed, transforming it into one large open space and the lot was further cut in half to have a garden run straight through it. This garden was planted with trees to provide shade for the spaces below when they matured.

Although Tan admits it looks a little abandoned from the outside with all the greenery and trees growing around it, Tan believes the house exudes a very calming vibe which is also appreciated by the six Angora rabbits that roam around the house all day.

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5. A Terrace House With A Tunnel-Shaped Pavilion In Kuala Lumpur

Inspired by the Mulu Caves of Sarawak, Fabian Tan Architect put the wow into this ordinary terrace house with a tunnel-shaped concrete pavilion in the front of it. This was included because Tan noticed that the boundary shape was askew. Though it appears detached from the house, the pavilion houses a cosy living area that flows seamlessly into the inner parts, directing the flow of natural light and ventilation like a horizontal airwell.        



With the client's request for minimal alteration to the original space, Tan ensured the transition from the existing structure to the pavilion seemed as seamless as possible. Like a cave, the shape of the pavilion is a continuous vista where you can't tell where the wall ends and where the ceiling starts. 

Outside, a beautifully manicured green lawn contrasts the house's stark grey exterior. The concrete is contrasted with white walls, while large black doors and subtle touches of timber soften the overall colour scheme and counter the weightiness of the pavilion's arched shape. 


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