1970s KL bungalow turned into relaxing modern home with industrial vibe


House No.16 features a modern facade that blends the indoors and outdoors. Photos: Lin Ho Photography

The original bungalow had been vacant for a while, and exhibited a typical classic layout and design: think grilled-up windows and little connection to the outdoors.

One thing that stood out was how it occupied a long and narrow strip of land, with the actual house set quite far back from the front. This feature would give rise to the idea of incorporating a modern facade that blends the indoors and outdoors.

Located in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, House No.16 has since been reimagined, with the complete makeover concluded last February.

Lead architect Dr Tan Loke Mun, of DRTAN LM Architect, shared that the owners, a young couple below the age of 30, wanted to do away with the old, restrictive design.

Although the length and width of the bungalow remained the same after the remodelling – at 25m X 7.62m – and there was a slight increase in build-up from 335sq m to 342sq m, it gave out a completely different vibe and living experience to the owners and their furry family members (a cat and a dog).

The garden patio at dusk, with the double-volume glass canopy roof overhead.The garden patio at dusk, with the double-volume glass canopy roof overhead.

“(The original house) was a basic, two-storey slim and narrow bungalow with many small and dark rooms. The plan was typically inward-looking with small heavily grilled-up windows and no interaction between the inside spaces and the outdoors,” explained Tan.

“So the design concept was to break free from these constraints, open it up to let more daylight into the house, and clean up the messy internal room layouts.

“The original house was set quite far back from the frontage and this provided the opportunity to add a modern new facade to give a better interaction between the inside and outside spaces,” added Tan.

The front part of the house was extended outwards using a new steel, raw brick and glass section with a tall, double-volume glass canopy roof. The steel structure was left exposed and industrial galvanised steel mesh was used for the upper level balconies.

The linear garden is lush with various plants and shrubs.The linear garden is lush with various plants and shrubs.

The front yard was zoned into a parking area and private lawn with the use of a horizontal raw brick wall.

“This new semi-outdoor space is enclosed on its sides by tall, raw brickwork walls to frame the terrace and provide privacy.

“The upper level flooring was a combination of concrete and timber flooring. This was preserved as the ceilings to the spaces below and used to define separate zones,” explained Tan.

The original design featured seven bedrooms and five bathrooms. The new layout incorporates a small room downstairs, with the upper floor redesigned to accommodate a new master bedroom, study, entertainment spaces and a room for future children.

On one side of the house is a long 6m-high retaining wall which, in addition to ensuring privacy, inspired the creation of a dynamic garden, with flora interspersed along the wall.

A full view of the garden can be enjoyed thanks to large glazing and sliding glass doors.A full view of the garden can be enjoyed thanks to large glazing and sliding glass doors.

A key design factor that lets the couple soak in the refreshing outdoor greenery is by fitting in sliding glass doors on both the side walls of the house.

The end result is a simple yet modern intervention that integrates all aspects of the site – the gardens, retaining walls and the recycling of the existing building structure.

“By opening up all the side walls of the living spaces with large glazing and sliding glass doors to let in maximum daylight and cross ventilation, strategic planting and sun screening with shrubs and climbers, and integrating the inside spaces with the outside, the design serves as a small textbook example of good tropical and green architecture,” said Tan.

“Reconstructed on a limited budget, the new architecture sits well with the environment and has re-used as much of the old building as possible, thus reducing wastage and the carbon footprint for new materials,” he added.

The study room on the upper floor looks down to the segmented garden patio, which is shaded by a big pine tree.The study room on the upper floor looks down to the segmented garden patio, which is shaded by a big pine tree.

Today, the couple’s favourite part of the house is the study room on the upper floor that looks down to the aesthetically segmented garden patio, which is shaded by a large pine tree.

“The well-coordinated material palette of the wood finish built-ins and the black reflective tile floor gives a good ambience to work from home – a big glass sliding door opens out to a small steel balcony to offer a nice view of the retained pine tree, front lawn and double-volume patio space below.

“It’s peaceful and serene, with a relaxed resort feel,” said Tan.

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