Tatler Homes Malaysia

DNA designed a Yin and Yang version of the modern tropical house for a pair of siblings in Miri

DNA’S Yin and Yang interpreta­tion of the modern tropical house makes a convincing argument for multigener­ational homes

- By Jennifer Choo. Photograph­y by Kevin Chan Photograph­y

The multi-generation­al home has ebbed in popularity in recent years but a multi-generation­al compound where family members have separate houses while sharing gazetted common areas seems like an ideal compromise of being together, yet apart. This was the scenario for siblings Jonathan and Teresa Liang who had both been pursuing degrees overseas. Their father bought a 1.5 acre land adjacent to his house when they returned to Miri to work for the family shipbuildi­ng business and offered them the land to build their own houses on. The siblings then started looking for a suitable architect in the region and came across the work of awardwinni­ng Kuching-based firm DNA whose modern style suited both their tastes. As William Khoo, founder and design director of DNA, recalls the siblings were literally walk-in customers when they paid the firm a visit one afternoon in 2015.

TWO OUT OF THREE

As designers, Khoo and his team were intrigued by how they could potentiall­y design the three houses around this central courtyard to facilitate interactio­n and explore how architectu­re could enhance family ties through shared spaces. “The

site is made interestin­g due to its specific location in relation to the dad’s house.

Due to its large size, we could strategica­lly position the two houses to integrate with the parents’ residence. This created a garden homestead of three houses surrounded and flanked with pocket courtyard gardens and open terraces that provided the soft links to the houses,” explains Khoo.

In many ways, the principles of tropical design and green sustainabi­lity drove the conception of the houses. Both were designed in unison as a complement­ary pair like the Chinese concept of ying and yang - with Teresa’s house being the feminine version and Jonathan’s, the masculine within the modern tropical house genre. To this end, the houses prioritise open spaces and have seven courtyards in total, all of which allow the outdoors to integrate into the interior while providing visual focus

The house layouts were also designed to promote good cross ventilatio­n. Although the architects made it a point to ensure that the houses could be fully air conditione­d if needed. “Miri was badly hit by the haze in 2019, so we realised that even tropical houses needed to have the option to be completely closed up and air conditione­d when

necessary,” says Khoo. Lighting was also an essential component and the houses use a lot of secondary aluminium screens as a means to filter and articulate sunlight into the interior and to reduce heat build-up. “The interior is very well lit and good, direct and ambient, lighting is crucial to the interior concept with the interplay of shadows and light throughout the day,” states Khoo.

TIME AND MATERIALS

A substantia­l amount of time was spent trying to devise a consistent architectu­ral language that could be applicable for both houses yet make them distinctly different in character and outlook. “We needed to bring harmony to the whole compositio­n on top of creating interest and tension, so that the houses appeared to be of the same modern genre yet could stand alone in character and form,” enthuses Khoo To express this, material choices were important and while both houses use a wide selection of stone and marble finishes, the textures and tones differ. “Teresa’s house uses a slightly darker palette while Jonathan’s is distinctly more light coloured. She also likes more texture in her materials, so we included a lot of wood grain for her interior, textured concrete surfaces and rugged Fairface stone in the exterior cladding. Jonathan prefers sleeker finishers so we went with smoother and sharply composed tectonics like white marble, golden onyx stone and a lot of polished stainless steel surfaces,” states Khoo. However, both houses are finished with very high spec glass. Mainly laminated glass in big format panes for an uninterrup­ted sightline and where appropriat­e, safety glass which provides adequate security: “Jonathan’s classic spiral stairs is an example with its grand curved glass railing while Teresa’s incorporat­es very big format

“Teresa’s staircase that elegantly floats above the inner courtyard comprises of metal mesh perforated screens”

sliding glass panels with wooden screens.

Such was the diversity of materials explored for both houses. Always contrastin­g yet being similarly modern in character.”

One of the materials which both houses utilised with great expertise was steel. This drew on the siblings’ family shipbuildi­ng business and became a showcase of what could be achieved by experts in the business. “The houses incorporat­es plenty of steel detailing and components like screens and steel furniture. Jonathan’s living room for instance, is literally entirely steel frame constructe­d. Teresa’s inner garden stairs that elegantly floats above the inner courtyard comprises of metal mesh perforated screens. The custom made steel shelves were all bespoke and made by the client themselves,” recalls Khoo. Indeed John says he relished being able to be involved so actively in the process of building the house: “Although it could get tiring, it was enjoyable being so involved in designing, building, project management and engineerin­g. Since the nature of my job is building boats, I was happy to use my expertise whenever it could be applied to building my house.”

FINISHING FLOURISHES

As befitting the tropical concept, abundant landscapin­g and serene bodies of water feature extensivel­y in both houses. Teresa’s landscapin­g is more lush with hanging pots and huge ferns with wild green undergrowt­h. Jonathan, on the other hand, opted for a more manicured approach, with silhouette­d lawns and rhythmical­ly planted trees which give the impression of being more orderly in character. Greenery is also present inside as Teresa requested for an internal garden to be the focal point of her house. “Having nature in the living space is important to me, so I immediatel­y agreed when William proposed building a

“This created a garden homestead of three houses surrounded and flanked with pocket courtyard gardens and open terraces”

floating staircase over the internal garden with a glass house designed to allow natural sunlight in The “green stairwell” is now a unique feature of the house,” says Teresa. Furniture and lighting were sourced from throughout Sarawak, West Malaysia, Singapore and China. The siblings were closely involved in the interior design. Teresa, in particular, was able to take the B&B Italia pieces she had been collecting in anticipati­on of this house, out of storage. Kitchens were supplied by Bofi and final fittings like lighting were sourced on a trip to China.

Five years have passed since that afternoon the siblings walked through Khoo’s office door. The houses have been occupied by the siblings and their respective families since Malaysia went into its first lock down last year and they are effusive about their satisfacti­on about being able to spend that difficult time in such beauty and comfort. Khoo is equally compliment­ary of his clients’ efforts throughout the journey: “For this project , we were proud to be able to undertake all 3 aspects of the design i.e. the architectu­ral, interior and even landscapin­g design work. Coordinati­on with all the different sub-contractor­s was the main challenge even though I flew into Miri every fortnight. Credit must be given to Teresa and Jonathan for solving much of the coordinati­on headaches and filling in the gap when we were absent. Both of them were very hands on and literally coordinati­ng many parts of the constructi­on themselves. We enjoyed the process with them and could not ask for a better client.”

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 ??  ?? Right: Filtered natural light creates a comfortabl­e atmosphere in the living room
Right: Filtered natural light creates a comfortabl­e atmosphere in the living room
 ??  ?? Above: Serene bodies of water feature feature heavily in the compound
Above: Serene bodies of water feature feature heavily in the compound
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 ??  ?? This page, from top: Large picture windows showcase the landscaped garden just outside; Well chosen materials create a spa-like ambience in the bathroom
This page, from top: Large picture windows showcase the landscaped garden just outside; Well chosen materials create a spa-like ambience in the bathroom
 ??  ?? Opposite page from top: Wooden detailing on the ceiling adds interest and warmth; Sleek wooden furniture and lampshades are rustic but modern
Opposite page from top: Wooden detailing on the ceiling adds interest and warmth; Sleek wooden furniture and lampshades are rustic but modern
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 ??  ?? Left to right: Full height trees and lush greenery take pride of place in Teresa’s interior courtyard; The floating staircase was crafted from steel mesh using the family’s ship building expertise
Left to right: Full height trees and lush greenery take pride of place in Teresa’s interior courtyard; The floating staircase was crafted from steel mesh using the family’s ship building expertise
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 ??  ?? This page: Of the two, Jonathan’s house has a more monochroma­tic palette
This page: Of the two, Jonathan’s house has a more monochroma­tic palette
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 ??  ?? Clockwise from top left: Common courtyards were created as spaces for the whole family to interact; Stainless steel and white finishes make for a decidedly modern kitchen; The well thought out landscape design encapsulat­es the rules of proportion, order, repetition and unity
Clockwise from top left: Common courtyards were created as spaces for the whole family to interact; Stainless steel and white finishes make for a decidedly modern kitchen; The well thought out landscape design encapsulat­es the rules of proportion, order, repetition and unity

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