Textile historian's home a treasure trove of art, culture and heritage

Ang's home is a treasure trove of his collection of Asian textiles and art. Photos: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

Every square inch of John Ang’s home bears the mark of his many passions. The textile historian is somewhat of a Renaissance man with his talents extending to interior decorating, yoga, dance and art history.

All is reflected through the works of art that adorn the walls of his home, his prized antiquities and textiles as well as his beloved book collection.

The eclecticism of this 2,450sq ft (227.6sq m) corner condominium in Seni Mont Kiara (for Ang, aptly named) is united by a decidedly Nusantara and South-East Asian vibe.

Yet, rather than lean too heavily towards the ethnic, Ang perfectly juxtaposes East and West, ancient and modern, work and personal life with certain depth and sophisticated ease.

Adding to that are the calming sight of the shimmering pool below and the stunning KL city skyline above, with the PETRONAS Twin Towers, the new Merdeka 118 and KL Tower in full view.

Ang collects things that tell a story and have a soul.  Ang collects things that tell a story and have a soul.

Greeting us in the foyer are three sculpture-like rock formations carefully mounted on specially commissioned cement pillars against natural indigo Batak textiles.

Woven floor mats from Borneo, while ethnic, lend graphic edge while providing bare feet with a cool, tactile sensation. In the background, we hear the music of John Coltrane drifting through hidden speakers.

Much of the space was custom-fitted and renovated to Ang’s exacting standards.

“There was initially a window with a view of the tennis court which wasn’t what I really liked and it distracted from the display,” says Ang.

Other modifications include a large double door in place of the much smaller original one.

Family photos adorning the shelves at Ang's home.Family photos adorning the shelves at Ang's home.

A small converted alcove traces Ang’s lineage with a photograph of his great-grandfather wearing a queue as well as a 1907 photograph featuring his father’s family in Western dress, a rarity at the time.

Incidentally, Ang’s maternal grandfather happens to be Tan Yeok Nee, the illustrious businessman who cut quite a diplomatic and historical figure in Singapore and Johor.

Steel and wood floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line one side of the living room while an open space allows Ang the versatility of having traditional live music and dance, as well as fabric showcases when entertaining his guests.

A kelingkan (traditional Malay embroidery technique employing the finest, flat metallic gold or silver ribbons) wedding valance from the 1920s frames the lanai area, providing the perfect backdrop for said performances.

Every care has also been taken to showcase Ang’s well-curated collection of antiques, valuable fabrics and art pieces.

Etchings by Ilse Noor featuring the Kampung Laut mosque in Kelantan and an abstract exploration of Princess Hang Li Po complement collectibles like a 15th-century clay East Javanese fertility goddess, ancient Ban Chiang pottery, Northern Thailand ceramic figurines, precious limar bersongket (fabric incorporating two of the most difficult, intricate weaves), antique pelangi (elaborate tie-dye) and much more. Every corner is a seemingly endless exploration, each with its own significance.

Ang's bedroom is a relaxing space filled with his favourite books.Ang's bedroom is a relaxing space filled with his favourite books.

“I collect things that tell a story and have a soul,” says Ang.

The bedroom is a sanctuary filled with the historian’s favourite books. A Neeru Kumar silk and wool fringed bedspread covers the bed while a contemporary black-and-white photo montage of a warrior and tiger by Ahmad Zakii Anwar is displayed above the headboard.

Another converted alcove features happy photographic memories from Ang’s childhood. The naturally sunny master bathroom provides a glorious bath time luxury: a vista of the KL skyline when soaking in the tub.

Ang’s friends are dear to his heart and the guest bedroom displays this. Guests are treated to Neeru Kumar silk and wool bedspreads and paintings by Dr Norwani Md Nawawi.

Tiny stuffed toy animals made from hand-drawn batik tulis add a cheery, colourful touch in the bathroom. The dining table is always laden with dishes that Ang creates himself for his nearest and dearest.

The lanai has been transformed into a cosy space incorporating ancient pottery, green foliage and more.The lanai has been transformed into a cosy space incorporating ancient pottery, green foliage and more.

Interestingly, the kitchen – the most unassuming part of Ang’s condo – was where he had spent the most time and resources prior to moving in five years ago.

“I had consulted a Feng Shui master because I had not done so with my house in Taipei and my Taiwanese friends were so aghast!” laughs Ang.

“The first Feng Shui master said I had to alter the location of the stove and sink but relocating them would have meant a lot of work,” he says. “For better accuracy, I hired a second Feng Shui master at double the cost who also confirmed this.

“That’s when I thought, better listen otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live in peace!”

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