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This article first appeared in Haven, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on September 4, 2017 - September 10, 2017

In an older part of Petaling Jaya, a homeowner has thoughtfully created a truly relaxing sanctuary for friends and family 

Just about anyone can build a house, but it takes someone with a special sort of sensitivity to build a home. A house, after all, is merely defined as a building fit for dwelling — it is just walls, ceilings and floors that serve the functional purpose of protecting its inhabitants from the elements. But a home is much more than that — it is a safe sanctuary, a relaxing haven where you feel welcomed and loved.

In a quiet, older area of Bukit Gasing, a brand strategist and her husband have created a perfect home, completely making over the 1960s-style structure and turning it into a modern and comfortable abode that exudes warmth and conviviality. 

With its outdated façade and architecture, the house had not been much to look at, but the homeowner saw immense potential, especially the large parcel it stood on — there was plenty of green space both in front of and behind the house. The final layout — a U-shaped structure that wraps around a lush courtyard — was inspired by the homeowner’s childhood in Kuantan, where the sea breeze flowed unfettered through her family home.

The couple, who had made the neighbourly area of Petaling Jaya home for decades, bought the Bukit Gasing property because they needed more space. Their football-obsessed eight-year-old son and two dogs needed more grounds to stretch their legs. 

The family liked the idea of being together without compromising their personal space. Their new home is an expression of who they are and what they want in an abode — a comfortable and comforting haven and plenty of room for family and friends to visit. 

When open, the many foldable glass doors allow fresh air to flow through the spacious home. Overlooking the front garden, the broad wooden deck — ideal for post-prandial drinks or an apéritif or two — leads into a formal sitting area that is flanked by a bookshelf on one side and a small sitting room on the other, where family pictures and a leather chaise lounge take pride of place.

Having great regard for old things, the owners retained and painstakingly restored the bookshelf, along with the wrought iron banister, although it would have been cheaper to just replace them. Indeed, bookshelves are a major feature in this home as the couple takes great pains to cultivate the reading habit.  

The hall connects to the spacious and airy kitchen, which then leads to the master suite and the suite for the young master via a small corridor. The entire house opens up to the rectangular courtyard, where an adolescent frangipani tree will eventually provide shade and sweet fragrance from its ivory blooms. It is especially pleasant to sit at the formal dining area in the evenings as it opens out into the courtyard. 

The kitchen — with its white cabinetry, silent sliding drawers and a walk-in pantry — is beautifully planned and a dream space for anyone who enjoys cooking and entertaining. While the formal dining table is reserved for larger gatherings, a small table and a timber-topped island work for quick meals.

The homeowner’s sensitive and restrained touch is apparent in the decor. Bowls of flowers and stalks of fragrant lilies are a feminine touch and piles of books everywhere show that the family’s passion for the written word runs deep. 

The homeowner has chosen the decorative pieces for their significance — the artworks had been collected during the family’s travels and treasured knick-knacks had been painstakingly acquired over the years. And the books — on every surface and tucked into almost every nook and cranny — are bound to offer one an interesting read, while snuggling into one of the many comfortable nooks in this true space of grace. 

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