Acclaimed photographer and founder of the photography collective All is Amazing, Paulius Staniunas invites us into the cosy home he shares with his wife Lee Sha and their newborn daughter

Lithuanian-born photographer Paulius Staniunas has been living in Southeast Asia for the past eight years. Since he moved here, he has become one of the most recognised personalities in the Malaysian nightlife and event scenes, having photographed everyone who's anyone and bands like Sigur Ros, The Killers, and Metallica.

He has also established the highly sought-after photography collective All is Amazing, and on a personal note, married Foo Lee Sha and recently welcomed a baby.

The couple and their newborn live in a one-bedroom, 690 sq ft apartment in the oldest condominium development in Bangsar. Although the building was built in the 80s, Staniunas believes it was smartly designed for family living as it had ample space and a functional layout.

However, when the couple moved into the unit a few years ago, it was already renovated.

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"The first thing the owner did was remove all the doors inside the unit. Even the toilet or shower room door was absent. Secondly, the air well, common in old apartments, was converted into a kitchen with a sky roof built on top. The layout is the same as the old unit, just all doors were taken out and the kitchen has been extended into an air well," Staniunas recalls.

"We chose this place because of its location and its architecture. It’s a low-rise condominium, only three floors–no elevator. This means you always meet your neighbours and interact with them. I love it. You'll make new friends and have someone to help you. We liked the apartment because it’s a comfortable place for two. If you have a small child, it’s still okay, but definitely not when you have a school-age kid. So it’s perfect for a young couple or someone single," he says.

"Secondly, location. It’s right next to the jungle. You open the door and a few meters away, there's lush greenery. It’s cooling, calming, and nurtures your soul. Every time I come home, I would leave the door open for the breeze and sound of cicadas to fill the house."

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Since the owner had engaged an architect before the couple moved in, it was a very well-planned space. There was no need for the couple to make any structural changes so they went on with doing some interior design work. "I was lucky because the unit came only with one sofa and cupboard. It's the perfect canvas for creativity," he enthuses.

"However, I did one thing. I added rattan finishings to the cupboard. It was an Ikea cupboard with glass doors where you could fill the space behind the glass with photos or drawings of your choice. I bought some rattan, cut it up, and stuffed it behind the glass door. It added extra warmth to the dining area."

Besides the rattan cupboard, most of the furniture Staniunas chose was made from wood: "I love it; it always brings life and warmth to the house. Especially if it’s old wood." This love for the organic extends to living plants as well.

"My balcony has become sort of a jungle. Even before the pandemic, I bought a lot of plants and then started collecting the discarded ones from the roadside. They were an excellent addition to the house. Plants have brought life and tranquillity into our home. From a design point of view, plants also always match well with wooden furniture," he muses.

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Indeed the balcony has become Staniunas' favourite part of the home, not just because of the plants and the view which captures the city skyline: "It’s where you feel you're outdoors, but still within your private space." 

This love for open-air and natural light has the photographer wishing for more in this already airy space: "I wish there were more windows in the unit so more natural light will come in. But that’s not up to me."

Decorating a relatively small space can be challenging but the couple has pulled it off with aplomb.

The home exudes personality and an eye for design, from mid-century classics like the Louis Poulsen PH 2/1 table lamp to a carved Chinese panel. "Because the unit is so small, I've to be mindful about having the right amount of comfortable space to move around and just enough things to make it functional and comfortable at the same time," he says.

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The artworks, in particular, have a special place in Staniunas' heart: "All the artworks I’ve gotten from my friends are my biggest joys. I love celebrating the creativity of my friends and it makes me very happy to look at their creations every day. Besides artworks, the collection of little sculptures and pieces of nature (like branches and leaves) fills the space nicely."

Wonder can often be found only if we have the vision to see it, and Staniunas' eclectic home is a true triumph of imagination over having deep pockets: "Most of the furniture, decorative objects and lighting are secondhand. I got them from thrift shops, online markets, friends, or from the street, cleaned, repainted and given a second life," he reveals.

"It’s a slow process; you cannot ID the house in one week. It’s like growing a tree, slow, patient and very mindful of what goes where so the whole picture looks perfect."

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