Some of the most stunning homes in Malaysia are owned and occupied by expats seeking to create an oasis for themselves in their new country. Here, Sarah Rees takes us on a tour of one of these beautiful habitats.
I needn’t have asked Inastuti Dwisanti what she did for a living; it was clear from the moment we walked into her Mont Kiara apartment home that this was a lady with an artistic streak. “I’m an interior designer,” the Indonesian-born Ina admitted, with a smile, “it took me three months to get this place how I wanted it.”
It is an apartment that many would covet: conveniently located in Mont Kiara and (fairly uncommon for the area) spacious, airy, and quiet. “We liked the fact that you couldn’t hear the highway,” she explained of the decision to buy, “and also that the building is surrounded by bungalows; no huge tower is going to appear to block us in!”
Ina and her British husband Dean acquired the apartment in a bid to downsize after their two children had flown from the nest, moving from their Hartamas house to the Mont Kiara pad around four years ago. As Dean spends five days a week working and staying in Singapore, Ina feels a justifiable level of ownership over her space. “I designed it all, it’s my house, but he likes what I’ve done with it, so it’s okay!” she laughs.
Her design has incorporated both modern pieces and antique treasures, bringing together the exotic (a cow skin rug) with the comfortable (plush pillows and cushions). Dashes of colour brighten the white walls, and the four-bedroom home feels even larger thanks to the ample wash of light coursing in from the many windows.
Ina may declare it as her own home, but there is much to suggest of the nomadic life the couple have lived together since meeting and wedding in Indonesia, as well as hints of Ina’s current occupation.
A combination of new and old, East and West makes the apartment a delight to wander, and many things pop out as Ina guides us around her spacious abode: a brilliant red Smeg fridge sits alongside the long, beautifully laid dining room, while a shelf full of Chinese vases and plates sits opposite a stunning modern painting within the cosy lounge area.
“That was painted by my daughter,” explains Ina as I admire the painting, “she was at school here in KL and they really encouraged her artwork.” Her 26-yearold daughter currently works and lives in London, but her presence is still felt in her distinctly “English” bedroom in which the stylish metal bedstead, floral patterns, and grand dressing table is offset with a cabinet full to the brim of teddy bears.
“She collects them, and every single bear has a name,” says Ina. “She won’t get rid of them.”
Her son’s room is equally personal, although the 21-year-old also spends most of his time in London with the Royal Air Force. A guest room is sumptuously welcoming, while Ina’s bedroom tops the list with its full wall-length window and walk-in wardrobe.
With both a dry and wet kitchen within the large apartment, there is plenty of encouragement to cook, but Ina confesses that it is Dean that ends up donning the apron. “He loves cooking, and he is so good at it,” trills Ina, “although I make a really good roast chicken.” Meals are often enjoyed on one of the three balconies – “I love having so many balconies,” beams Ina – or at the long, gorgeously adorned dining table when a group of guests are along for the evening.
Ina enjoys entertaining at home and prefers not to travel too far from the Hartamas–Mont Kiara enclave that they have made their home for 20 years. “This apartment is so convenient as I have a furniture shop in Hartamas Shopping
Centre,” she says. “I can pop in whenever I want.” Location aside, it was also the security of the condominium that helped make the final decision when Ina and Dean were shopping around.
“I feel very safe here,” she agrees, “I just turn the lock in the door and no one can reach me.” Their unit has its own lift and her floor can only be accessed with a key card, while the security guards call to verify any visitors coming in the gate.
The facilities are also worth a mention, as the complex boasts two pools – one rooftop and one ground level – alongside tennis and squash courts, a gymnasium, a yoga studio, and a launderette. Ina, with a treadmill of her own nestled in the lounge area, tends to stay in her homely cocoon: “I can watch my Indonesian TV shows and news from here!” she laughs, and curls up on the long, white sofa.
Ina’s apartment manages to look like magazine yet feel like a home, and her design has struck the perfect balance of edgy, interesting décor with cosy family living. “I didn’t want to move to Singapore when Dean got a job there,” she explains.“Malaysia is our home.”
Source: The Expat March 2013
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