An Expat's 'Colourful' Home in Kuala Lumpur

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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.

For German expat Heidrun Dörner, colour is everything. “Everyone has a connection to colours,” she tells me fervently, waving me into a seat on the patio at the back of her wonderful home. “Colours reflect your personality, determine your mood, everything!”

They are also vital when decorating a home that you want to feel, well, at home in, and Heidrun has mastered the art of choosing colours which most reflect a person and designing a home that balances them, using colours that calm and colours that energize in equal measure.

It goes without saying that this approach guided the decoration of her own house, which became the family residence three years ago, when two days after arriving in KL, Heidrun and her husband walked through the doors and fell in love with it. “I hadn’t anticipated this would be the right house,” she admits of the four-bedroom house tucked away in a quiet corner of the Valencia residential development. “But when we stepped in, I knew it had potential. Plus I heard the noise of the water and saw the view; the view is the main issue for me.”

The view is one that many would covet, and from the comfortable chairs on the patio it is easy to think you are somewhere in the countryside: a calm lake surrounded by trees disappears into the distance, while a waterfall gushes genteelly out of sight. “It’s a perfect location too,” Heidi continues, pointing out the golf course and the clubhouse just across the water. “We can walk to the pool in three minutes, it’s like living in a resort.”

Positioning was one thing, but the interior space was quite another, and Heidrun delighted in creating a décor design that would soothe and invigorate harmoniously, using the colours she loves for her Malaysian home (magenta, violet) as well as incorporating bright blues as well as pale blue walls to make the space feel cooler.

“I move things around all the time depending on my moods. If I need energizing, I put out the brighter things,” she explains, nodding to the brilliant pink cushions that she sewed from saris purchased in Brickfields, “and I always have something on every axis, so wherever you walk, there is something to catch your eye.”

The biggest eye-catcher in the downstairs living area is the sunken “play room,” a carpeted area, adorned with rainbow cushions, that simply begs you to curl up in its cosy corners. “It was a pond originally, but with the children being young, it seemed dangerous, so we emptied it and turned it into a little play area. Everyone loves it!”


The Dörner youngsters – Desiree and Lucius – are aged 8 and 6, respectively, and adore their Malaysian home, especially as Mummy encouraged them to pick what colours and designs they wanted for their bedrooms. “I suppose I am always encouraging them to be aware of colour, so they are quite intuitive now,” explains Heidrun.

Colour doesn’t just govern in the home, it serves as Heidrun’s work, and while it was her husband’s job that brought them to Malaysia in the first place, she has set up a Malaysian company – HD Home Design – that focuses on Colour Design, Home Staging and Interior Coaching.

When not at the office, she does much of her creating in a cosy nook of the master bedroom, her desk looking out over the balcony and the green trees that surround the lake. “I know you are not supposed to work in your bedroom,” she concedes. “It’s bad feng shui, but I need to be somewhere high. I grew up in Stuttgart on the top of a hill, so I feel happier when I am high up.”

With her commitment to colour (she has a Interior Design degree and a Colour Diploma), it would be easy to think that the painstaking décor and placement would make the house unwelcoming, lacking the cosiness of a family home, but this couldn’t be further than the truth. The carefully selected colours brighten and cheer, and are mixed with impulsive purchases made during travels around the region and paintings the children have created themselves. “If I like something, I find a place for it,” she laughs. “A home doesn’t just have to look good,” she adds as she gestures to the children’s swimming clothes that are waiting by the front door, “a home has to be practical and, most importantly, it must feel good.”

The family are clearly very happy to be in Malaysia, and when I broach the question of how long they will stay, Heidrun is swift to cry, “Forever, hopefully! I didn’t know much about Malaysia until we arrived here, but the moment my feet touched the ground I felt at home.”


Source: The Expat April 2013

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