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.
With so many condominiums in KL and so many expats findinghomes within them, it is easy tofeel that there is nothing new to see there,but once I had spent a wonderful morning with Sabahan Maggie and her French husband Roland, I realised that, when there is creativity and an eye for quality,there is no space for mediocrity.
“I have been interested in art my whole life,” explained Maggie as she welcomed me into her three-bedroom home. “I would have loved to study it at University, but my family insisted I do something more sensible.” Her chosen career path – a degree in Political Science and a job as a management consultant – catapulted Maggie instead into a life of travelling, and since leaving her native Sabah as a teen, she has never really called Malaysia her home.
It is a similar story for her husband, whose job in telecommunications has taken him to every continent of the world, first solo and then with his wife in tow after she was persuaded to join him in the early 90s.
The furnishings in their beautiful apartment reflect their nomadic lives, and almost every single thing housed within the 2,700-sq ft home is a piece of their life puzzle, from the priceless Persian carpet they acquired in Pakistan to an antique Buddha head from Myanmar, while a solid silver box was a present sent to the couple just moments before they were evacuated from revolution-ridden Indonesia.
But these beautiful, exquisite antiques are not the collection of accidental artists. Behind the Reynier’s charming smiles lie a pair of sharp minds, each possessing an innate sense of style and quality. Maggie is something of an expert in collecting antiques and has numerous superb collections that, thanks to her extraordinary self-control, do not dominate their home.
“I collect something until we haven’t got any more space, and then I move onto something else,” she said with a laugh. Most of her 25 handmade porcelain dolls are kept in their Paris home, but an incredible collection of antique porcelain pieces from China – some more than 500 years old – have pride of place in the open living area here that they have called home for just under a year.
“Actually, we never intended to live here,” said Roland animatedly. “We have a house in Sri Hartamas, and we were going to rent out the apartment, but it just made sense to have a smaller place as I work in Singapore a lot of the time.” It wasn’t a hardship to settle for the smaller place as High Bank Condominium is something of a rare gem. Situated within Federal Hills, it may be a mere stone’s throw from the highway and KL Sentral – “it takes ten minutes to walk there on the footbridge,” explained Roland – it could be a million miles away. “It’s so unusual to find a place like this, isn’t it?” asked Margaret as we admired the lush forests that serve as a view from their balcony, and marvelled in the silence broken only by the gentle rush from the waterfall streaming into the large swimming pool, lending a resort-like ambiance. “We could be in Bali!”
Proximity to the national palace prevented the developers from building higher than five storeys, inadvertently creating a charming, cosy place with just 80 properties that share a pool, gym, and various well-tended facilities including meeting rooms, a library, a children’s playroom, and a studio where residents gather for line dancing and yoga.
When not enjoying the pool, Maggie is on the balcony with her easel, and the results of her efforts adorn nearly every wall of their extraordinary home. “I have always loved the paintings of [Fernando] Botero, and one day I just went along to a class and had a go at doing them myself.” Her casual comment is at odds with the vast amount of superb replicas, and Maggie has taken Botero’s style and made it her own, adding embellishments, changing expressions, and even incorporating real jewels she purchased during their years living in Sri Lanka to add a touch of dazzle. “People often want to buy them from me, but I just don’t want to sell them,” she said as we eyed up the paintings enviously.
Her artistic creativity has extended into sculptures of these well-rounded women, too, the most notable being a bronze statue that weighs 50kg and took her six months to complete. “I won’t ever do another in bronze,” she admits. “It was so tough!”
If Botero-inspired artworks are one recurring feature, another is the term “handmade.” Almost everything that fills their home is made by hand by master craftsmen from all over the world, and usually to the couple’s orders. From the handmade silk bedspread in the guest room to the hand-embroidered tea towel in their immaculate kitchen, the Reyniers have created a palace of splendours that combine style with meaning, a living space that manages to imbue classic antiques with personal connections, and thus fashioned a home impossible to replicate or rival.
Roland seems particularly proud of his wife’s tremendous flair for creativity that has, alongside his own eye for antiques (one of his favourite pieces is a century-old bicycle lamp he found at a market), ensured their home is marvellously unique. Maggie, however, is not quite satisfied. “Nothing is ever perfect,” she said. “There is always room for improvement, whether it is food, art, studying, or interior designing.”
There may be no such thing as perfection when it comes to a home environment, but it is safe to say that the Reynier’s inimitable home in Federal Hills comes pretty close.
This article was written by Sarah Rees for The Expat magazine.
Source: The Expat December 2012
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