- Article by Jan Henderson
JA house is the latest project from S/LAB 10, and the design for this residential oasis in Malaysia is both refined and expansive. The interior is a polished gem, inside and out, and complements family life in every aspect.
Luxurious living in the tropics doesn’t come much better than the JA house from S/LAB10. Large to the point of palatial with lavish furniture and fittings, this three-level residence located in the upmarket suburb of Ledang Heights, Nusajaya in Johor, Malaysia, epitomises a lifestyle that has comfort at its core.
The brief from the discerning client was to design a family home that was to speak of place but incorporate the best of international style. The project was awarded to architecture and design practice S/LAB10, the three partners of which – Jason Sim, Fion Hsu and Hao Wang – each studied in Australia, then honed their craft working at HASSELL, FJMT and Marchese Partners.
Establishing S/LAB10 in 2012, the practice now has offices in Australia and Malaysia and has extended its reach across the Asia Pacific region. Working primarily in the residential and hospitality sectors, S/LAB10 brings an individual style to its designs and this is exemplified in JA house. The property is accessed through a gated enclosure that opens to reveal a sweeping driveway and garage to the side.
On the lower ground level, there is a guest bedroom and bathroom flanked by a foyer and veranda. With the room buffered from the driveway, visitors are assured of privacy and acoustic calm. Adjoining the guest rooms is a landscaped lawn with tropical plants that provide a visual feast of green for the eye, and at the end of the property is the utility area with a workshop, storage area and bathroom.
Multiple stairways lead to the ground level of the home where the rooms have been positioned in a large U around the perimeter of the building. This house is all about the merging of the outside with the inside and the rooms each have sliding glass walls and doors that can be opened for easy access to the outdoors, but quickly closed when the weather is inclement.
An infinity pool has been strategically placed at the very nucleus of the house and this ensures that every space looks into the central courtyard and on to the water and internal landscape. To complement the pool, there is a pavilion with barbecue area that incorporates a custom-made sofa (Toolbox, Malaysia), black stools (Earl Grey Home, Singapore), white chairs and Emu basket table.
Surrounding this is an expanse of lawn with lush greenery and the whole comes together to create a practical and glamorous outside entertaining experience. Two spectacular internal spiral staircases have been included in the floor plan; one is positioned at the main entry, and the other is located between the staff quarters and junior suite. These custom-made swirls of steel are, of course, functional as they lead to the bedrooms above, but they are in themselves beautiful and become major art installations within the form of the interior.
With every amenity provided, this home also boasts two kitchens. The wet kitchen is a common inclusion in the tropics where curries and fish are best prepared with ample ventilation; however, it is the dry kitchen that is one of the major focal points of the interior. It is a picture of elegance, but oh so dramatic, with surfaces clad in burnished brass sheet metal. There is also a countertop bench where the family can sit on stainless steel Bertoia stools for informal meals.
Adjoining the kitchens is the main living space that is ultimate comfort itself. Black tufted lounge chairs (Baxter), green textured chairs (The Shophouse, Singapore), a diamond buttoned leather sofa (Timothy Oulton, London) and a contemporary black leather sofa (Andrew Martin, London) surround a bespoke petrified timber coffee table (Asiatique, Singapore). The furniture sits on top of a geometric rug of green, white and black, and the space is sophisticated and relaxing.
There is an immense void in this area, but the use of solid Nyatoh timber screening (Ese Wood Sdn Bhd) on a section of ceiling and wall ensures that the space has a certain intimacy with a human dimension. This screening has also been utilised in the gates and entrance foyer and as decoration in other areas of the interior. As well as the public entertaining areas on this floor there is a staff bedroom and en suite and a dry deck for access to the outside. Further along, and virtually within a wing of its own, is the junior suite consisting of bedroom, en suite and walk-in robe.
Standout features in the bedroom include a black Barcelona daybed (Knoll), chandelier lights on the side tables (Timothy Oulton) and an intricately carved decorative screen (British India), but the suite itself is pure luxury, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the public areas. On the first floor are the main sleeping quarters and the opulent master bedroom suite with gallery, walk-in robe and bathroom.
This is a group of rooms that offers sanctuary within a fine design that is considered and very sophisticated. An expansive playroom creates an open space to separate the master suite from two more bedrooms and bathrooms, but each room has facility, detailing and design resolution at its core. This level has been pared back in size from the spatial footprint of the ground floor; however, the arrangement of the rooms is in sync with the idea of rest and relaxation and there are those fabulous views of the pool and tropical greenery below.
Within this house materiality is a constant and there is lavish use of cool hard surfaces with onyx and marble featured extensively in bathrooms, and stone and granite on floors and walls. It is, however, the use of timber that is a triumph. The screening and wide boards in the flooring have been used to great effect, adding the hues of honey, browns and reds to the colour palette, but also highlighting, showcasing and shaping the interior architecture.
JA house is exactly what everyone thinks a fabulous house in the tropics should be, but this is a step up. Refined and cool, the interior is elegant with not a hint of pomposity. The interior architecture is creative and interesting yet able to sustain the rigours of a real life family. S/LAB10 has created a home that is designed living at its best.
Photography by David Yeow