Exuberance and relaxed functionality combine to create a loveable and livable space in Kuala Lumpur
Alive with colourful and quirky details, this 1,900 sq ft apartment is brimming with personality. James Koh and Dinesh Rao, together with their corgi Miso, are very much at home in a space that is imbued with a real sense of joie de vivre.
There was a natural evolution in the sequence of events that led to the three of them moving in here. Rao and Koh were already living in a 2-bedroom property in the same development.
The facilities were great, but a combination of factors prompted them to search for a larger place—not least among which were the addition of Miso to the household and the growth of Rao’s home bakery business.
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“Everything started to feel cramped,” shares Rao. And so there was a brief dalliance with a landed property. This did not work out.
“We only lasted a few weeks because of the three flights of stairs,” laughs Koh. “We realised we wanted our living space to be horizontal!”
It was back to the drawing board for them. By pure chance, they came across this current property. It was perfect as there was plenty of space for entertaining, the natural light was well-balanced throughout, and, since it was just in the next block, the hassle of making another big move was significantly diminished.
An added attraction was that the apartment itself was full of character. “Older apartments have charm,” explains Koh, “and when you juxtapose this with the modern, there is a story and a narrative.”
HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS
This approach of mixing and matching is evident in their choice of furnishings and art. While the selection of furniture is marked by variety, deliberate attention has been paid to curation such that there is a pleasing harmony to the whole space.
Modern plastic dining chairs from Kartell sit nearby a classic mid-century Eames lounger; darker wooden pieces inherited from the previous owner serve as a contrast to paler-toned items such as the Eero Saarinen-inspired marble table from Tabula Rasa and the light-gray Olta sofa from Tekni.
Certain rooms feature statement pieces that command attention while working together with the overall mood. In the bedroom, the calm of the white walls and the blonde wood flooring allow the curtain’s horse-and-paisley print to emerge in its full sumptuousness.
As Koh puts it, “a ‘Liberty’ vibe in the sanctuary of the bedroom.” In the bathroom, meanwhile, the clean straight lines and gleaming marble set the scene for the bright pop of colour provided by the orange resin bathtub from Bina Warehouse.
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As for the art, a commitment to supporting local artists is interwoven with a fondness for the whimsical and witty.
A wide range of contemporary Malaysian artwork has found its way here: from Rafiee Ghani’s playful riot of colours and Raimi Sani’s intimate portrayal of a sleeping girl to Nizar Kamal Ariffin’s abstract tessellations and Ronnie Mohamad’s charcoal portrait of his son. The mix is made more eclectic by the addition of pieces with a more international provenance, including prints from London and Eastern Europe.
In pride of place is the range of Chinese and Nyonya porcelainware housed in a glass-fronted cabinet. It took Rao 7 years to amass this collection of tureens, bowls, and plates.
He shares: “I was intrigued by the colour and craft, and so I wanted to preserve this history. I realised that if I didn’t start buying, it would disappear from our shores.” These porcelain items have a larger role than being precious heritage pieces, of course, they are in constant use and thus play an integral part in the household’s meals.
A DESIGN FOR LIFE
Since the original space was already so amenable to their lifestyles, the renovation was largely kept to a minimum. Where changes were made, it was all about adding to the generous flow of air, light, and movement—hence the raised ceilings and the opening up of the lanai. The resulting flood of natural light made it all the better for the lush greenery of the house plants.
The initial idea for the flooring was to go for something dark; however, suitable black material was difficult to source, and there was also the matter of Miso’s shedding. And so they kept the simple light marble, which ended up being a good decision as it emphasises the sense of spaciousness and allowed the colours of the art and furniture to stand out.
Both wet and dry kitchens were redone in the spirit of simplicity. The counters and backsplash were removed so that the whole visual identity have more clarity. Rao explains: “We tried to make it look seamless.”
This apartment has turned out to be a perfect fit for its residents. Do they have favourite spots?
Rao would opt for the TV room since “it’s such a cosy nook." Koh settles for the couch while Miso declines to make a decision and is completely at ease in every square inch of their home.