House Proud

an inimitable house in KL

The owners knew what they wanted: something by turns comfortable and glamorous, fit for entertaining more than 100 people every so often and hosting a constant stream of small groups of friends. Their goal was a goodsized home  that would be nonetheless homey and intimate, and they thought that a Spanish-style exterior would beautifully complement the Malaysian landscape.

They also wanted the home to look as if it had been there for decades. Richard Landry’s range impressed them. Having seen examples of his work in his book Modern to Classic: Residential Estates by Landry Design Group, they hired him and his Los Angeles–based team, as well as a broader group that included the Kuala Lumpur–based interior designer Jeffrey Wilkes, local builders and landscapers, and metal artisans in California. The project—Landry’s first in Malaysia—concluded four years after its start and certainly Landry’s work here underscores his gift for architectural flourishes and attention to detail.”Richard spent so much time trying to understand how we live,” says the wife. “He created a home while creating a beautiful house. It’s not easy to get those both right.”

The foyer achieves precisely the right balance of elegance and understatement; instead of showily sprawling to the second floor, the staircase is tucked to one side, almost out of sight of arriving guests. The spotlight shines softly but perhaps more dramatically on such spaces as the courtyard, whose wall of lanterns takes after a similar lighting array at the Four Seasons Resort in Langkawi, Malaysia. There are 68 lamps in all, designed by Landry and forged in California out of iron and custom-bent glass, a total the owners chose partly because the numbers 6 and 68 represent prosperity in Mandarin. In the glow of the lanterns are antique wooden doors that the owners spotted during a trip to Spain, hand-painted Spanish tiles (around the door in the background), antique French paving stones, and the central tree, intended to suggest that the home had been built around it.

Family life flourishes in the living room, which offers many delights. The grand piano, a Steinway, is not merely for show, put to use by the family’s daughter and talented friends. Original artworks, such as the reddominated, muscular abstract by the Texas-born artist Cecil Touchon, have pride of place, but there is room for playfulness, too. Mingling with the sculptures of Buddhist monks and the Chola bronzes are colorful cone-shaped Moroccan tagines. The horsehair wall covering behind the landscape by the late Indian artist Francis Newton Souza softens the visual strength of the piano and harmonizes with the bronze-olive hue of the Donghia sofas—pieces the owners acquired during a trip with Wilkes to the Milan Furniture Fair. The pale-blue pillows finish the whole.

Understandably, the visuals in every room could not include the property’s enchanting view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. While one would not expect to see that striking prospect from the basement level, 1,800-bottle wine cellar, the glittering vista’s absence from the formal dining room on the main floor comes at first as something of a surprise. Yet the space’s Brand van Egmond chandeliers and the wall of lanterns in the courtyard outside are dazzling enough on their own.

The chandeliers also provide a subtle visual contrast. They have an airy, snowflake-like appearance, but they hold their own against the sight of the solid, regimented pattern of the iron lanterns beyond. The table, by Raintree Accents, features a single slab of suar wood and is flanked by Christian Liaigre benches and chairs by Reflex. Tyeb Mehta’s Falling Figure with Bird graces the French-limestone wall, and the ceiling and floors are French oak. All of the elements combine to create a space that brings pleasure to the owners, whether in privacy or in company.

The home’s overall aesthetic deftly combines elements of comfort and glamour. In the powder room – an emphatically opulent main-floor space with marble floors and walls – highlights include a custom-made Moorish-style mirror framed in dark-stained oak and a vanity counter and custom pedestal sink in bronze oxide by John Underwood, an Australian metal artist based in Phuket, Thailand. “We often want the sink to be a found object,” says Landry. “The shape of this sink is so perfect as a modern interpretation of what you’d find in this type of home

“[The owners] wanted to have fun, so let them have fun,” Wilkes says. His furniture selections range from Holly Hunt table lamps and Minotti lounge chairs to the Désirée sofa. The coffee table is a find of the owners, who discovered it in the Indian state of Nagaland. Etched on a series of mirrored doors is an Islamic pattern that appears elsewhere in the home, most notably on its vents. “It’s like a signature pattern for the whole house,” Wilkes says.

In the master bedroom, the Kuala Lumpur skyline takes center stage thanks to a 13-footwide, 8.5-foot-tall window by Steelworks Etc., of Newbury Park, Calif. Neutral-colored Flexform furniture and Armani Casa table lamps defer to the view, as do the French-oak floor and ceiling. Intentionally, the bed does not face the jaw-dropping view. The home’s design adheres to the principles of vastu shastra, which, like those of feng shui, emphasize flow through a given space, so turning the bed toward the skyline would have gone against these tenets.

A pivotal design idea born of a similar element at the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, the master bathroom’s central back-to-back vanities have as their accompaniment a shared mirror that hangs from the ceiling and is flanked by cast-aluminum pendant lights. The sinks-as-island configuration is a refreshing change from typical master-bath layouts and delivers a practical benefit in the form of the space’s smoother flow. Instead of hyper-polished marble, the walls and floors are clad in two different French limestones. The owners “wanted to sit and look out at the million-dollar view,” says Wilkes, so the design team positioned the Bisazza tub before three Moorishstyle steel-frame windows by Steelworks Etc. that artfully outline the scene.

The Family Room  flows seamlessly into the breakfast nook and the kitchen, creating an open layout that feels more West than East. This free-form use of space is an atypical approach to design in Asia, where the area would usually be divided into at least two rooms. The rugged coffee table by Raintree Accents is made of suar wood, the same material used in the formal dining room’s table. The table lamp and side table near the ruddy-orange Hans J. Wegner “teddy bear” lounge chair are by Christian Liaigre. Aqua hues that appear in the living room repeat here on the sofa cushions and custom ottomans, and the barstools in the kitchen are identical to those in the basement bar. The floor is, again, French oak. The kitchen, with Spessart oak cabinets by Poliform, is another entertaining hot spot; the custom vent over the stove is large for handling heavy-duty cooking for the family and their guests. The orange-painted recessed ceiling adds an extra splash of color to an already lively space.

The upper floors hosts the more private spaces in the home, including the office and study areas. The study lounge features a cheerful yellow wall that plays off of shades of yellow in the carpet. French oak graces the floors and ceilings, and the same sort of decorative chengal-wood beams that enliven the loggia also play a significant role here. Hallway-like in nature, the space serves as a natural gathering place for family members. The space does feature one of Wilkes’s triumphs, a Balinese linen closet he designed and had custom made from cinnamon wood. In addition to repelling pests, the closet imparts a heavenly scent to the clothes stored inside. The study room has French-oak floors, chengal-wood rafters, a Linley lounge chair and desk, and an Afghan wool area rug by Nanimarquina.

The estate’s trees are largely indigenous, with one notable exception: The palm trees near the house are Washingtonia robusta, a type that thrives in California and Mexico. Certainly Malaysia offers its own vast botanical wealth, but the landscaping at this home serves the same purpose as it does most anyplace else—to beautify and to safeguard privacy. The owners wanted something lush but not overly manicured—controlled chaos, in other words. With that in mind, Inchscape’s Lim In Chong chose flora with a Spanish Californian feel. Two firecracker heliconias, whose broad leaves recall those on a banana plant, flank the stairs to the pool. Nearby, a frangipani tree twists into view, and a second such tree stands next to the detached guesthouse. The overall effect is that of a cohesive East-meets-West masterwork, one that is firmly planted in Malaysia.

What started for the owners as little more than an investment property—a house in the Malaysian capital, situated on a parcel overlooking the city’s prominent Petronas Twin Towers—now serves as their personal sanctuary, an original private residence so resplendently inimitable and utterly inviting that our US edition has named it Robb Report’s Ultimate Home 2015.

Landry Design Group

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