Living: Chinoiserie chic

This article first appeared in Haven, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 4, 2017 - September 10, 2017.

The open-concept living and dining area where chinoiserie-themed items are placed alongside contemporary furniture

Ben, Eylia and their daughter Chinta

The top floor of the house consists of two bedrooms and a library — Chinta’s favourite room

Bamboo, royal blue and prints are in perfect harmony

The creative mini attic makes full and clever use of the space

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A sanctuary in the heart of Sri Hartamas designed with oriental flair 

 

Located in Sri Hartamas, the townhouse of a young family, comprising Ben Syazmin, Eylia Yunus and their six-year-old daughter Chinta Zara, stands out in the neighbourhood. Quite unlike the exterior of the other houses, a well-maintained live wall covers almost half the façade of the home, framing its entrance and balcony on the top floor while blending in beautifully with the abundant greenery in the compound.

A stone pathway takes us to the front door, beyond which lies a stark contrast to the lush exterior — a simple and uncluttered space with an eclectic mix of benches, chairs, a sofa and a plush chair of various shapes and sizes placed all over it, making it perfect for entertaining guests. An umbrella holder with willow patterns and an oriental ceramic stool peek out from two corners of the otherwise minimalist room.

“My shoes take up half the space,” Ben laughs, gesturing towards a large white floor-to-ceiling rack as we prepare for the shoot.  “The rest of the shoes belong to my wife and daughter. But one day my daughter will possibly have more shoes than me!”

Previously an open extension of the porch, this area was converted for indoor use to maximise space and with practicality in mind, seeing that the couple is fond of entertaining at home, said a representative of Zhreka Interiors who worked on the home with the couple. 

Besides a career in law (Ben is a litigation lawyer with Tan Norizan and Associates) and a strong sense of wanderlust, another aspect that the couple have in common is a love for chinoiserie, which is evident in the décor and furnishings of their newly renovated home. 

Both the 32-year-olds — Ben is from Terengganu while Eylia is from Johor — met while reading law at the International Islamic University Malaysia and have since made KL their home. 

Unlike the ground floor, the first floor of the home is an explosion of design, punctuated with vibrant colours and interesting keepsakes from the family’s travels. The décor and furniture reflect different interpretations of oriental designs, but not exceedingly or garishly so.

“I like Baba Nyonya and Peranakan-inspired items, patterns and motifs. When we go on holiday, we like to stay at hotels with these elements such as the heritage hotels in Penang,” explains Eylia, who was involved in the decision-making process during the renovation and redecorating of the house. Ben opted for it to be a surprise. 

“So we thought why not incorporate the elements that we love so much into our home,” adds Eylia, who was a regulator before becoming an entrepreneur with a number of businesses to her name, including lifestyle brand, Elinuri. 

The items that fill the house are a combination of old and new. For example, the handmade wooden fittings left behind by the previous owner and the repurposed furniture with an oriental theme.

“When we bought the house, I felt that it could be designed to incorporate a chinoiserie concept, seeing that it already had quite a few wooden elements we could work with,” says Ben, referring to the personalised kitchen door and the electricity meter cover fashioned from old railway wood by the previous owner of the house.

In another corner of the room, a cabinet is filled to the brim with crockery reminiscent of the iconic blue-and-white motifs of China. It is the pride and joy of Eylia, who is also an avid cook. Her favourite space, she tells us, is the kitchen where she also conducts one-on-one cooking classes.

Beyond the living and dining areas, the top floor of the house consists of two bedrooms and a library — Chinta’s favourite room. A haven for book lovers, one of the walls is covered with ceiling-high shelves that are neatly stacked with books and equipped with a ladder with rollers for easy access. An armchair sits invitingly next to the shelves while a daybed is located at another end. But the most interesting feature of the room is probably the mini-attic that can be a hideout of sorts, to read for hours on end, uninterrupted.

When asked for his favourite spot, Ben exclaims, “I love my whole house!” But as the photo shoot progresses, he confesses that the balcony extending from the open kitchen is his favourite. “I like to have breakfast here in the morning while Eylia cooks,” he says, and it is not difficult to see why. The balcony offers an unobstructed view of the garden below and the sound of water from the fish pond has a calming effect.

On the evening of the photo shoot, sunlight is only beginning to stream through the grey clouds, due to intermittent showers that persisted since morning. As far as city living goes, green lungs are difficult to come by. In addition, this home is also filled with all the things that the family is fond of, making it a sanctuary for ultimate quality time together.