An Expat Home in Bukit Tunku, Malaysia

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There is really no need to ask Paul and Machiko why they decided to move into their 6-bedroom Bukit Tunku home, as the beauty and immediate comfort of the place speaks for itself. “The outside is very unassuming, very subtle,” admits British-born Paul, “so when we came to look around I wasn’t convinced it was special, but once I stepped through the door and caught sight of the pool and the palm tree, I was sold!”

While the aquamarine, shimmering pool is a charm in itself, it is also the centre piece for a large, two-storey house that nestles around the watery depths and, with few walls and windows, the rooms and the outside world meld together, offering an open, modern and spacious home. “What more could you want?” asks Paul happily.

“It’s got space for a study, for my daughter to do her art, a huge kitchen, guest rooms,” lists Paul, “it’s perfect for us. Our house in Japan was about half the size of the master bedroom here!”

The Atkinsons moved to KL from Japan in 1997 with their three young children, and after occupying a different house in Bukit Tunku and then a duplex in the heart of KL, they recently moved back to the area they see as ‘Malaysia’s best kept secret’.

“Bukit Tunku is a wonderful place to live,” says Paul. “It’s green, it’s incredibly quiet, and people genuinely know each other; it has its own little community.” Machiko is also happy with the location, and though the prime reason for moving into a spacious house was for their dogs, she enjoys the combination of greenery with urban proximity. “I would hate to live in the countryside, I need to be close to a city,” she says. “Here the town is near yet this is like a holiday home!”

With three growing children, the open-plan house is ideal for the family’s needs, and they tend to gravitate towards the TV room, or flop beside the pool to enjoy the rays while Paul rustles up a BBQ like no other. “I have a tandoor oven, and a proper kebab cooker,” he says enthusiastically, “plus I grow all my own herbs too!” Japanese-born Machiko’s culinary habitat is the large kitchen where a huge variety of cookbooks line the walls. “I cook anything, Italian, Japanese, Chinese…” she lists, “the kitchen is my domain, and no one can ever get in my way because there is so much space!”

Space is something the house has plenty of, and an aspect of the house that the couple love but also one that has made furnishing it a challenge. “We have two homes worth of furniture in here,” says Machiko, “and yet still there are empty spaces.” One of the most eye-catching pieces is their grand teak dining table that they bought in Bali; “it took six men just to lift the table,” quips Machiko, while Paul draws attention to a crystal sculpture of a woman. “This is my favourite piece. It is by a French artist and it’s called Apres L’Amour. I call her my second wife!” he jokes.


The most noticeable of their personal touches to the house is the display of art work that lines the white walls. “We like our paintings,” smiles Paul, “and we have so many that aren’t on the walls. We own so many!” The Atkinsons are impulsive buyers, picking artwork up all over the world during their holidays and they both have an eye for stylish pieces.

The works that can be glimpsed around their home range from subtle ballerinas painted by a friend in the UK to Machiko’s favourite of a cat painted by a French artist. “Our paintings are our memories of the places we have been,” says Machiko fondly.

Although there are many modern furnishings, the house still has a few classic touches, such as an old gramophone from Paul’s parent’s house and Machiko’s Japanese drums, which she plays at various local events with a small group of drummers. Paul and Machiko were keen, however, to allow the house to retain its natural charm. “There are things we could change but we don’t,” says Paul, “this is a little oasis; it’s beautiful in itself.”

Now that the children are teenagers and already looking to lives beyond schooling and living at home, does the couple see themselves staying in Malaysia? “This is home for the kids,” says Machiko, “they don’t know any other place,” while Paul needs no other reason to stay than sheer satisfaction: “Malaysia for me was always white walls, marble floors and pools, and now I have it! Why would I change it?”


This article was written by Sarah Rees for The Expat magazine and has been edited for 
Source: The Expat April 2012
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