When a House is a Home
The Lim family home in Kuala Lumpur exemplifies the idiom ‘a house is not a home’ — that is, a structure is brought to life through the marks made by its inhabitants.
Nestled within lush tropical flora in one of the Malaysian capital’s toniest residential neighbourhoods is a physical manifestation of the family’s commitment to togetherness. They approached the new build with the view that if they’re going to spend time there together, why not design it together? And why not indeed — it’s not often you have three Cornell architecture graduates (five, actually, if you count partners) in the family: William Lim, founder of Hong Kong-based architecture and interior design studio CL3, elder son Kevin, who runs interdisciplinary design studio openUU with wife Caroline, and younger son Vince who, along with wife Elaine, is the founder of emerging design practice Lim + Lu.
The entire process took almost six years. Designed by William and Kevin, the structure is based on the principles of a traditional Chinese courtyard house that has been elongated vertically. The centre, or ‘courtyard’, of the three-storey space is an open stairwell that acts as the void, and from which each of the rooms radiates. The void allows natural light to flood the entire space, but also allows members of the family to feel together, even when they’re not. While the essential elements of the house are cultivatedly white and minimal, the staircase has been left raw and unfinished, creating an interesting contrast and a subtle focal point.
On the ground floor, it quickly becomes evident that the home was also designed with entertaining in mind. A gleaming Carrara marble and brass bar at the far end was Vince’s contribution, which an uncle has filled with a selection of his favourite tipples. On the upper level, the entertainment factor is turned up a notch with a karaoke machine, dartboard, and billiard and ping-pong tables. This is where, William says, the children can be found during family gatherings.
William, who is also known and respected as an art collector and artist in his own right, was not content to furnish the house with just store-bought items. While the artworks on display include a series of drawings and lithographs from his brother’s art collection, the walls are filled mainly with pieces by some of William’s favourite artists and a selection of his own photographs. A keen eye will also notice a number of accessories from the Lim + Lu collection around the home, as well as one of the rugs from the studio’s recent collaboration with Tai Ping.
It’s these understated personal touches and a design that encourages togetherness that truly does make this house a home.
This page, left William Lim at ease in the living room of the family home This page, right The architectural staircase provides a focal point in the centre of the structure Next page Behind the Lim + Lu-designed bar — the studio of WIlliam’s son Vincent and his partner Elaine Lu — is another photo series by William, this time of the family holiday home in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands