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.
Her home may be in a popular enclave of Damansara Perdana, but Sheila Kary’s house feels like a little slice of Arizona, brought over piece by piece in packing cases from her and her husband Jack’s previous abode. “Everything is from our house in Tucson,” she explains, as I gaze around at the rich red walls covered with pictures and the fluffy rugs. “The region in Spanish-influenced, and that really inspired my design here.”
The two-storey unit that the Kary’s currently call home, occupying a corner of a stylish condo, has undergone a drastic transformation since the couple bought it in 2006. Over a period of six months, the three-bedroom home was renovated to their specific design, which included adding wooden beams in the ceilings and removing the maid’s room to allow for an expansion of the kitchen.
“It was rather stressful as we had to be here most of the time to make sure everything was done as we wanted it,” admits Sheila. The majority of the design was hers, from the rich colour theme to the shimmering tiles on the kitchen walls, and the design process was one that she “really enjoyed! I am thinking about doing a course in interior design, perhaps starting a business here,” she continues.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Kary’s have no regrets about leaving America. After meeting and marrying here in Malaysia, US-born Jack and Malaysian Sheila moved to the US in 1995, but regular holidays to Southeast Asia kept reminding them what they were missing. “We just disliked the cold winters,” laughs Sheila. “After one holiday, we arrived back in the US and Jack just said ‘let’s go back to the tropics!’”
Jack and Sheila arrived back in KL in 2006 and, after trawling the multitudes of available condos in the city with little enthusiasm, finally walked into Armanee Terrace and knew they had found their home. “We went down by the pool and it just felt like a resort,” beams Sheila. It is easy to agree: the pool is surrounded by loungers and palm trees, while the tennis and squash courts, spa, gym, restaurant, and supermarket make sure all needs are catered for.
The delights continued when the Karys visited the apartment itself, and their hearts were well and truly lost from the moment they entered. “We saw that view and just fell in love with it!” recounts Sheila, leading the way to the large, wide balcony. “Then we came back at night and saw the view again – with the city all lit up – and we knew we had to buy it.” Thanks to its position on the twelfth floor in a spot unblocked by towering structures, the apartment offers a sweeping vista of the city streaming into the distance, and the balcony is big enough to house a mini garden that complements the green hills outside and is lovingly tended by Sheila.
“I love nature. This is my favourite part of the apartment,” she says, gesturing to a table and a chair that are the location of her morning coffee. “In the morning I can hear the birds, and I spend a long time working on my plants – I never realised how hard you have to work to keep them alive!”
Sheila’s interests may be the natural kind but Jack’s are more technology-based, unsurprising considering his working life – via a stint in the army – has been spent in the telecommunications industry. The apartment is dotted with Jack’s collection of antique telephones and radios, and his interest in the latter is indulged through regularly broadcasting across the airwaves on his own amateur radio station. Jack makes contact with fellow broadcasters from all over the world, and the walls of his study are covered with cards sent from the radio “pen pals” he has made over the years.
Other surfaces display memorabilia from a long and active life – the study wall has a framed selection of mementos from Jack’s time fighting in Vietnam while an upstairs wall displays the front page of the Kuwait Times on the day Saddam Hussein was captured (Jack was in the country at the time). These pieces of history are accompanied by various art works – all of which came with them from the US – and a few interesting pieces collected during the couple’s travels around the region.
Travel and weather may be two key factors that brought the Karys in Malaysia, but what keeps them here is the charming, comfortable home they have created for themselves. With three bedrooms upstairs as well as a cosy TV area to add to the living spaces downstairs and the large balcony, the 2,800 sq ft duplex unit is ideal. “I don’t think we would ever move – it’s just perfect for the two of us,” says Sheila.
The location is a winner, too – the Penchala Link connects them to KL city centre in just fifteen minutes, while malls such as the Curve and 1Utama are a short ride away. A five-minute walk takes Sheila to the supermarket for her weekly shop, and a nearby park is the destination for a Sunday walk to allow Shamini, the adorable pint-sized shih tzu who dashes around the apartment, to enjoy the outdoors. “We brought her over from the US with us,” says Sheila as Shamini bolts around delightedly, excited by the new visitors. “As long as she is quiet, the management don’t mind her being here.”
It is clear that the threesome have a cosy life in their Damansara home and despite their connection to America, they are not looking back. When they can watch the sunset from their balcony with a glass of wine in hand as Jack grills up their dinner and Shamini lies contentedly at their feet, who can blame them?
Source: The Expat May 2013
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