In Nature We Trust


When he was on the lookout for a new residence, homeowner Mr. Chong had initially hoped for a bungalow to move into. He never realised that instead he’d be calling a semi-detached corner unit in Petaling Jaya his home.

“A number of factors attracted me to this house,” he reveals. “The elevated site provides added privacy and security while the low-density neighbourhood offers a quiet environment. Plus, I love the huge garden that comes with it. It has always been a dream of mine to live in a tropical style house that is as spacious as it is cosy.”

bridging the gap between traditional architecture and modern comfort to redefine tropical living – images courtesy of Essential Design Integrated

Tasked to create that very dream are the designers from Essential Design Integrated (EDI). As company director Wong Pei San recalls, “One of the biggest challenges was to make the house look and feel like a bungalow. To achieve that, we reoriented the layout and structure towards the garden.”

From the outside, the unit expresses its tropical ambitions through a generous use of natural stone set against white concrete then complemented by glass screen doors and stretched windows framed in solid wood. To complete the tropical look, the unit’s original double reinforced concrete roofs are now replaced with roofing shingles while timber decking surrounds the home, acting as transition space between the building and the garden.

What’s unique about this architecture is that there are more windows and screen doors than there are walls. reminiscent of traditional kampung houses, the windows on the upper floor are of ceiling height and open out much like traditional shutters

The combination of wood flooring, Scandinavian-inspired furniture, and the tropical landscape is absolutely mesmerising.

Furnished with mid-century classics, a second lounge lies to the back of the built-in sofa in the main hall.

The building’s layout covers approximately 3,900 sq ft. Most of its existing structure is maintained in its original proportion but with one exception— The designers have extended the entire frontage of the home to accommodate a narrow double volume void, thus extending the living room area.

The nature of the site informs spatial distribution. Due to the site’s elevated topography, the porch and entrance are located at the ground floor level. From here, a staircase leads us to the main living hall. This stairwell has been expanded to include an atrium on the second floor while an overhanging concrete slab on the roof level has been removed to better disperse light into the area while simultaneously creating spatial depth.

Apart from the living room, the first floor also houses an additional sitting area, the dining room, and three kitchens. A powder room lies hidden behind the timber panelling of the dry kitchen.

Throughout the interiors, the generous use of wood practised outside is continued indoors in the form of solid wood flooring and furniture. regardless of the space, screen doors allow one to view the outside world while louvred doors help to control natural light and encourage ventilation.

The aforementioned double volume void surrounds the living room area. What’s particularly unique about this space is that the stretch of screen doors here are without curtains. Instead, curtain rails with lush sheers are fixed along the perimeter of the actual living room, allowing the residents to adjust their levels of privacy as they see fit without having to walk all the way to the screen doors to do so as in normal homes.

A mark of elegance, the living room is a marriage of contemporary comfort and tropical warmth. natural wood is kept in its original hue so the colour palette for the furniture and furnishings are derived from an evergreen neutral palette of greys, beiges and the occasional black to better complement the natural materials.

Surrounded by glass screens, the dining room consists of a circular dining table set within a square void. Similar to the sitting room, a sculptural anenome-like ceiling lamp comprised of blown-glass tentacles illuminates the space. The tropical theme of the home is explored further with the breathtaking table stand, fashioned out of natural tree limbs and branches and juxtaposed against cool black leather chairs. The natural stone used on the exterior walls makes a repeat performance here.

True to the tropical spirit, this home allows its owners the pleasure of enjoying both indoor and outdoor comforts of residential living. Accessible from the dining room and living room is an outdoor patio with weather-worn timber decking that provides the space for an alfresco lounge and additional dining space. This area is a privilege that allows the homeowners to emulate the freedom of lounging in the outdoors while feeling very much at home. That’s exactly what tropical architecture should be about.. 

An open plane demarcates the living room from the dining room and kitchen areas. However, an elongated built-in sofa blocks actual access to the adjacent spaces but still allows for visual connection between them.

The casual sitting room resides directly behind this built-in sofa, furnished in mid-century classics. Spacious yet cosy, this sitting area lies between the dry kitchen at its front and the dining room at its right. To its left are the stairs to the upper floor where four bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms are placed.

Project brief To create a spacious yet cosy tropical style house

Designer Wong Pei San, Essential Design Integrated,,