Cover This staircase is the focal point of the house

Fabian Tan Architect creates a minimalist yet comfortable home for a young family with a sculptural staircase that heightens the spatial experience

Minimalism does not necessarily mean cold and clinical as this home by Fabian Tan Architect proves. Dubbed the Makio House, the home is located in a corner two-storey unit in a guarded Kuala Lumpur neighbourhood.

 

The clients were a couple with a young son and were already well acquainted with Tan's portfolio.

"The client is a fan of our work and had been following us for a while. So when we talked about the work, there was a sense of familiarity, like talking to an old friend," recalls Tan. "I was reticent at first because being in a gated community meant that renovation to the exterior would be very limited. Nevertheless, the limitations were a challenge I was happy to take on. I was interested to see how I could could infuse creativity within fixed perimeters."

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The brief was to create a home that was minimalist yet comfortable to suit the client's family and personality. To this end, Tan conceived a concept derived from the original space, that is to embrace the site's light and views while heightening the spatial experience through materiality.

 

 "When approaching any site, I like to keep my mind in a state of tabula rasa. So there was no inspiration at first, but the starting point, in this case, was probably the staircase in the middle of the space," muses Tan. "I thought it was awkward at first, but I could also see how interesting it could be to add more layers to its dimensional presence. It developed into additional spaces, for instance the walkway spine which would help bring it closer to the trees and also be a vantage point to view the stairs."  

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The idea was to unify the original architectural elements in the house through the wrapping of solid timber panels to connect the stair to the first-floor mezzanine. This prominently positioned stairway would serve as a centrepiece of the house with the material continuity carried through to the upper mezzanine with the addition of a galleria that extends the existing floor plate to wrap around the periphery of the double volume living spaces.

This space serves as a walkway with shelves, windows and storage which terminates in an end nook that houses a daybed cum study area that floats in view of the treetops.

 

Light and the expansiveness of space were prioritised in design decisions. A good example is the master bedroom which was enlarged at the expense of another existing bedroom to form an open space concept.

The interior walls here were also intentionally built below ceiling height to allow natural light to diffuse throughout entire the room. "The gap above the master bedroom to the walk-in wardrobe and master bath is retained to bring a sense of light and ventilation. This bright atmosphere amplifies the expansion perception of the space."

The kid’s bedroom was reimagined as a hide-and-seek play of levels with a three-tiered bunk bed complete with a pull-out bed and an alcove to peek out into the neighbourhood through an existing clerestory window.

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Outdoor spaces were celebrated whenever there was the opportunity to do so. The architect opened up the living area to a zen rock garden which provides visual respite and a calm refuge. Further expanding views and the expansiveness of the space is the addition of a steel stairway in the lightwell leading up to the roof level. Here, a platform was raised over the roof and acts as a viewing deck to emulate an outdoor living room overlooking panoramic views of the city skyline.

In terms of materiality, Tan exercised restraint in his choices and stuck to a palette of maple, marble and white which interplayed with the existing elements. "The architecture has a mix of terrazzo, marble and timber. Timber is the most prominent element of the space as it exudes a certain homogeneity of dominance to what seems to be a warm element."   

The furniture, lighting and objects echo the home's austere yet serene ambience with clean lines and a neutral palette. "Almost all the pieces were sourced online, some by myself and some by the client. The client has similar tastes to mine, so it was a very easy process," he says.

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