Home Tour: A Multi-Generational Malaysian Home Overlooking a Forest Reserve
We live in an age of nuclear families when having any more than three children is greeted by amazement. As such, multi-generational homes are the exception rather than the norm. So when Tony Heneberry of Two’s Company was given the task to renovate a home where four generations lived together, he was faced with the challenge of creating a home where the great-grandmother, grandparents, parents, and their toddler son could live comfortably and would grow with them.
To solve this, he looked towards its surrounding environment and took his design cues from the lush tropical flora to create a magnificent family homestead that would endure for generations to come.
The house in question is a more than 20,000 sq ft bungalow in Bukit Gasing, which the family patriarch bought in the '80s. Over time, the home had gone through several renovations but none of them were cohesive or particularly well thought out.
In fact, when Heneberry came aboard the project, he found the family living in a tiny corner of a large house because it was full of Chinese collectibles and resembled more of a collector’s warehouse than a home.
Heneberry, an erstwhile engineer turned record company CEO turned house flipper, made his home in Malaysia for over two decades and in the last five years, both him and his partner, Jessica Lim, have carved a niche in the property market for renovating houses that embrace the Malaysian tropical climate. The owners of the Bukit Gasing house had been referred to him by another client and after they dropped by to have a look at Heneberry’s own house in Bukit Gasing, invited him to pop over and see what he thought.
"When I went over, I was blown away by the setting of this house, perched as it is over the entire Bukit Gasing jungle reserve. I walked around for an hour and did a few quick freehand sketches after visualising a totally different flow and aesthetic. I left it at that, assuming they would want to hire their own architect but after they had a family discussion a few days later, they invited me to develop the designs and transform the house for them,” he remembers.
“I guess it was just chemistry and a sense of trust that seemed to develop very quickly between us. And trust and chemistry are perhaps more important than skill and creativity when doing a project as large and complex as this one was.”
During the design development process, Heneberry was so inspired by the house’s enviable surroundings that he was determined to make that the focal point.
“The setting of the house is truly magnificent, possibly one of the best in KL and PJ, and certainly one of the best I have seen here. The owners are active conservationists, therefore we were immediately on the same page in terms of my natural style of integrating landscape and external features with the architectural ID,” enthuses Heneberry. “The original house had many interesting and good aspects to its structural framework and when I stripped that away, I visualised a stunning, bright and cheerful space that embraced its own landscape and was connected to the views of the Bukit Gasing hills.”
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Although the basic skeleton of the house was maintained, every wall and floor was changed and the arrangement of spaces reconceived to allow the generations to have private as well as shared spaces. This was achieved by providing for apartments within the house, for example, the parents and their son have a separate living area and large elevated child-friendly garden which is set away from the grand living room and main pool garden but are still on the same level so that they could all still live as a family.
“The last thing I wanted to create was a situation where the generations were separated by a floor and therefore missed out on casual interactions,” he explains.
“Being a very social family who entertain a lot, the house is centred around a large dining area and kitchen which opens out onto a huge balcony, all with the most stunning views. The basement of the house has been converted into a Chinese style tea house where a selection of the collectibles is used as practical furniture pieces in the vein of a Chinatown style tea house but no longer overloads the modern, open, spacious living space they now have.”
In keeping with Heneberry’s preference for simple finishes, polished concrete and cement, brushed concrete driveways, bare finished rusted steel features, recycled railway sleeper bench seats and horn granite steps are featured throughout the house. However, this was balanced with more intricate finishes to give it a more luxe feel, these include high quality micro terrazzo and German made cement screed finishes as well as a feature courtyard floor where black and white marble tiles were employed. All these provided a background of soft neutral textures, which the interior designer layered with strong bold textiles and wall colours.
To ensure that air-conditioning is barely used, 300 mature trees planted throughout the property. The driveway entrance opens out like a pair of arms welcoming visitors complete with cut steel Chinese lettering depicting the name of the village in China from which the family originated.
Heneberry is clearly happy at how the house has been transformed but what he’s more pleased with is how the whole family is settling comfortably in the home and made it their own.
“I pop by the house quite regularly and every time I do, I just love it more as the huge landscaping matures in and settles. It has the most peaceful and relaxed vibe, partly because of the design but also very much because of the personality and friendliness of the family who live there.”