Cover The timber cladding gives the house a distinctive facade

Seshan Design’s multi-layered home in Damansara Heights is as much a celebration of the family’s active lifestyle as it is an ode to green design

It’s often said that you shouldn’t change your mechanic or hairdresser but perhaps that should also extend to your designer—especially if he or she is designing your home.

For Ramesh Seshan, founder and managing director of Seshan Design, the clients in question were Seshan Design's second when he started out as a one-man firm back in 2008. Ramesh had helped design a home for them in Bangsar when they were dating and later a home in Damansara Heights when they got married.

Fast forward to 2018, with two kids in tow, they felt that it was time to finally build a purpose-built bungalow for themselves and they naturally came to Ramesh. The process began with Ramesh and the clients “shopping” for an ideal piece of land. After viewing and evaluating about half a dozen sites, they settled on one which fulfilled their wish list for privacy and security ,and was large enough to fit in a 20m lap pool.

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GRAND PLANS

The chosen site was a long narrow lot measuring 10,375 sq ft. Being a good three metres higher than the entry road made it ideal for a sub-basement car park. For privacy, the pool was aligned to the south since the neighbour at that end had built away from the boundary, thus resulting in an inverted L-shaped building. “The clients are very physically and socially active and do yoga and rock climbing, not to mention having a lot of friends (theirs and their children's) over a lot,” explains Ramesh.

To cater to this, the ground floor was designed to entertain large crowds with a large foyer leading either to the gym cum pool deck or open double volume living room which further opens out to the dining and show kitchen beyond. The gym-and-yoga space was created to face the pool which incorporated a climbing wall system while a large powder room with a large shower was introduced to cater for events such as pool parties where their friends could also bring their kids.

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The designers designed two double volume spaces to create the illusion of expanse and continuity of the line of sight. The first is the living room with the double volume feature brick wall and massive 8-foot diameter Airegard fan above.

“This pretty much anchors the heart of the house, allowing the line of sight to and from the family room, above into the living room, dining and kitchen below. The family room has louvred shutters to provide for some visual and sound privacy,” explains Ramesh.

The second double volume space is above the gym to allow for the indoor sports climbing wall and for the study to have an expansive view of the pool and wall climbing space.

The main staircase became the key vertical feature element together with a glass platform that takes a prominent position to the right as you enter. The top of the stairs has a full jacked roof skylight to allow natural light to penetrate all the way down to the lower ground and also creates a four-storey stack effect as hot air rises and escapes through the overlapping glass just under the skylight. 

LIGHT AS AIR

By default, the house was designed to have sufficient natural lighting and ventilation through passive means. “For lighting, we tried as much as possible to open up the spaces so double volumes and skylights were very effective. Along the way, we also tweaked and added some openings here and there to get the most amount of lighting in but at the same time being wary of the harsh heat of the western sun,” explains Ramesh.

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Ensuring sufficient cross ventilation throughout the house was a comprehensive exercise. To ensure this, every window or sliding door in every space and corridor and on every wall/ side needed to have at least a single panel (albeit narrow) of the adjustable Breezeway louvres. “Yes, it’s nothing new and all of us in Malaysia practically grew up with these adjustable louvred windows. Call it old fashioned but it works!” enthuses Ramesh.

For the rooms, to ensure that air would flow through even if doors were shut, the designers created a sliding device within the bedroom doors. “There are still fans and air conditioning in every room but the goal is to ensure sufficient natural air flow and cross ventilation so heat does not build up or get trapped,” continues Ramesh. “So fans help distribute the air more evenly for comfort, and in the event you do need to turn on the air conditioning, it doesn’t have to work too hard to get the room temperature down to the required level thus reducing overall electrical consumption.”

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SOURCE MATERIAL

After having three home renovations under their belt, the clients pretty much knew what they wanted in terms of look and feel. Colours and tones were kept neutral and mainly in greys with the same materials from their previous home, namely honed Pony Grey Marble for the living room floor and Oak Rustic Smouldered engineered flooring for the bedrooms.

The entrance features textural touches like a pebble wash driveway and the main door of solid Nyatoh timber strips and brass inlay detailing. For the feature wall, a rustic mix of raw bricks, which the designers took pains to source to get the right tones, now acts as a contrast to the rest of the house which is sleek and finished. Picking out the grey marble floor is the silver mink marble used as a kitchen countertop with a mix of veneers and Formica laminate for the built-ins.

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Terrazzo was favoured for the master bathroom floor with an outstanding feature wall of precast grey terrazzo pieces arranged in herringbone and lined with brass inlay. To create a bright and light bathroom, the joinery works in the bathroom were all designed to be in white oak veneer with fluted detailing.

In the master wardrobe, the same colour palette was still very consistent with dark grey and white oak veneer. Designed as his and hers sections to cater to the clients’ very different requirements, which included the wife's request to have everything closed up and hidden. Therefore a solid door with dark grey spray painted with groove lines detailing was designed to cover one side while the husband’s side features a dark tinted glass door with a matte black aluminium frame.

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MOVING IN

When Ramesh and his team started working on the home in 2018, a key deadline was to ensure the house was partially ready to allow for the clients to store their bulky furniture as they were planning to sell their previous home and move in as soon as possible.

“It was a very stressful project as everything had to be timed just right. In the end, we made that first deadline (for the furniture move) but just barely,” recalls Ramesh. “We had some delays after that mainly due to bad weather but it was the pandemic that bested us all. The first major lockdown in March 2020 put a stop to everything. The contractors managed to obtain Miti approval to resume limited works and the priority was to finish up the ID works as much as possible so the clients could move in and live in the house—which they finally did in early June 2020.”

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Despite the challenges, Ramesh is happy to report that the clients and their children are utilising the home to its full potential. Not to mention taking full advantage of the house’s in-built green design.

“We provided for a VRV air conditioning system for the entire public space just in case the clients may need it for a big event when there are a lot of people. Since they moved in, they have used it only once. The rest of the time, the natural airflow and giant Airegard fan have been more than adequate. This has prompted us to advise all our subsequent clients to not waste money on expensive concealed VRV units when all you need is one of these giant fans!"

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