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. Manveen Maan takes us on a tour of one such home.
For yoga practitioner and skincare proprietor Heike Ott, her home is definitely her sanctuary. Hailing from the south western Bavarian town of Schweinfurt in Germany, Heike’s home strives to strike a balance between her former life in a small town, and her current life as a travelling expat.
“The landscape here in Kuala Lumpur is really different. Schweinfurt is not a big city so everything is quite green and buildings tend to be low-rise ones. When we first came to KL five years ago, we were greeted with a stunning view of the city skyline, but decided that a quieter life in the suburbs was what we were after,” Heike says. “The disadvantage is that we are always battling traffic, but I can’t see myself being in the middle of town.”
Her beautiful semi-detached home in the serene Maplewoods area near the Saujana Golf Club could not be further from the bustle of the city. Tall and open, with high ceilings, the Ott family home speaks volumes about their affinity towards all things Asian: huge wooden chests stand just inside the front door and Oriental knick-knacks pepper every surface, while a huge gong (yes, a real gong!) sits just besides the stairs leading to the upper level of the house.
“We do have a lot of Asian influences for a German house,” Heike laughs. “I call it ‘West meets East’!”
Cool tiled floors, natural light spilling in through glass windows, and the quiet atmosphere of the neighbourhood combine to lend an almost Zen-like appeal to the entire layout. “I love that my house is peaceful and quiet,” she says. “When I come from the bustling city with traffic and crowds of people, all I have to do is open my front door and I immediately feel at home. For me, this is exactly what is needed when living in a big city – a place where you can unwind and relax.”
According to Heike the beauty of owning an Asian home, lies in its versatility. “It’s different to German houses where you have tables and cabinets in the same colours and tone, with matching chairs and other furniture sets. There’s something about Asian furniture that makes it so diverse and beautiful. You can mix it up and it still looks stylish,” she says.
Shopping for the home is an activity enjoyed by both herself and her husband – “We pick up bits and pieces and put it all together,” she explains – and is what they share a common interest in. It is only natural that their home reflects this sense of togetherness and Heike is quick to point out that most of their family gatherings happen downstairs, where they spend most of their time.
“The living room area is where we do everything,” she explains. “Everyone hangs out here; upstairs is only for sleeping. We come home and unwind here, the kids do their homework at the dining table – it’s really a hub for us.”
Most evenings are spent enjoying a home-cooked meal around the dinner table while weekends see the Ott family kicking back on their patio with cups of tea and some friendly competition in the form of board games.
The serenity of her neighbourhood gives this yogi a sense of balance while she juggles the duties of being a mum to two young boys, Etienne and Louis-Philippe, running her household and her own business: “My day is often quite busy so I start it with a yoga practice before I get into work mode for my [skincare line Bergland South East Asia German Cosmetics] business. It is so relaxing and sets the tone for my day ahead.”
Heike’s makeshift office, which allows her to work from home, is dominated by numerous black and white framed photos that make up the entire right side of the wall. “It’s our family wall,” she says, beaming. “Because we travelled so much and didn’t really get to visit Germany often, we thought it would be nice for the kids to be able to see a part of the family everywhere we went. That way we are always close to our relatives.”
Making a home truly theirs has become almost second nature to Heike thanks to more than 15 years in Asia due to the nature of her husband’s job. “I think our home itself is what makes us unique,” she says thoughtfully. “We have travelled extensively so everything you see is part of our journey. It makes our family special. It’s not a home where you just pick out a bed or dining table to decorate the area. This is our life.”
Although their time in Malaysia is now coming to an end, Heike will keep returning, mainly to continue working on the ins and outs of her business here. “I will definitely miss the friends I’ve made, the peace and quiet, my lush green garden and white orchids,” she admits. “I will also miss the smell of my frangipani trees and jasmine flowers, and, of course, Asian food!” she laughs.
You can take the girl out of Asia, but you can’t take Asia out of the girl.
To see more pictures and articles about Expat Homes in Malaysia visit expatgomalaysia.com/homes
Source: The Expat July 2013
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