30YO Malaysian bungalow is now an eclectic showroom that feels like home

The original chandeliers that came with the bungalow were retained as they fit in with the bungalow’s 1970s feel. Photos: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

Childhood friends, Franki Turner and Gaya Subramaniam have remained close throughout the years despite living in different countries at one point.

While Turner set up homegrown accessories brand Frankitas and Gaya was a distributor of Malaysian brands – Frankitas’ products included – in Singapore, they soon found themselves taking their friendship to the next level by starting a business together in 2021.

Combining their entrepreneurial talents, they set up Bungalow 18, housed inside a 30-year-old home in an affluent address in Kuala Lumpur.

The appointment-only showroom has two storeys and expansive outdoor space designed for visitors to freely explore and find inspiration.

Inside, you’ll find avant-garde lighting, art, decor items, textiles and furniture that you could imagine including in your home.

Memories of home

Bungalow 18 is inspired by their childhood memories of days spent at Gaya’s family home.

“The home was simply a place where we felt safe, welcomed and warm in many ways. There was always laughter and joy and so we wanted to recreate those memories in Bungalow 18, incorporating it with aspects of our lives that we enjoy – shopping, exercising, eating and most importantly, fundamental human-to-human experiences. We wanted a space that was welcoming and felt like a ‘home away from home’,” says Turner.

Bungalow 18 is inspired by the two friends’ happy childhood memories at Gaya’s family home.Bungalow 18 is inspired by the two friends’ happy childhood memories at Gaya’s family home.

The pair did not do much with the house when it came time to move in as “it was beautiful as it was”.

“We wanted to honour the house. We didn’t want to do any demolitions; we just did cosmetic work. Internally, we kept it simple and true to the 1970s design elements, which we simply adore. The only thing we added was the bar (at the verandah, facing the garden) and we kept it simple by using recycled wood.

“Meanwhile the pergola you see at the back of the house is made out of upcycled wood. It creates extra covered space for dining or simply to relax. Sustainability is very important to us, be it recycling or upcycling. It’s a big part of who we are and our ethos, personally and professionally,” adds Turner.

Turner and Gaya have eclectic taste, love bits of the old and new, and marrying the two together.

“We have an appreciation for the old, such as old music, old vintage rugs, vintage jewellery. There is so much history and stories in these things. We are old souls,” says Turner.

There are many inviting corners inside and outside the bungalow.There are many inviting corners inside and outside the bungalow.

Take for example the chandeliers in the living room that came with the house.

“Although I’m not a chandelier type of person, their classy look somehow worked with the overall house so we decided to keep them.”

According to Turner, in everything that they do, they have to consider nature, humans and the senses.

“We did not want to buy too much of everything, thrifted where we could, reused pieces from our own personal collection as we didn’t want the place to look clinical or matchy-matchy. “Gaya and I are colourful people, as you can tell. We love colours. For me, there are no rules for colours anymore. It’s just about the way you feel, how you want to feel that day, so colours are very important,” says Turner.

Raised in a kampung as a child, Turner professes a deep love for nature.

“With this house, we wanted to have flora and fauna. The garden was barren when we got the house, so I planted every single tree you see there. We now get a lot of bees – good, non-stinging bees mind you! There’s plenty of caterpillars which turn into butterflies, different types of birds, dragonflies and crickets in the garden,” says Turner, on the wildly beautiful garden.

Pops of colours and rugs liven up the rooms in the bungalow.Pops of colours and rugs liven up the rooms in the bungalow.

They also have their own vegetable garden in the backyard where essential kitchen plants like lemongrass, bunga kantan and daun salam are grown.

These are used mostly in the drinks and meals served at Bungalow 18’s weekly pop-up cafe, which operates on a

by-reservation-only basis every Friday.

Happy to be home

“Gaya and I are home proud, not in a snooty way but we want to create a certain feeling when we walk into the house. The feeling that ‘I’m home, I’m comfortable and I love the home because it’s me and I’m at peace’.

“Our advice is to always keep it minimal. Don’t get us wrong, we love colours but minimal could also mean the layout of your space and being mindful of the things that you put in that space so it’s not cluttered,” says Turner.

“We then add pops of colours with cushions, rugs and lighting. You can take a little risk with the colours that you use, plus colours make people happy.”

“Sometimes the easiest thing to do to spruce up your space is by simply changing your cushion covers or moving things around,” adds Gaya.

“It’s important that your house is functional at every stage of your life and that when the family dynamics change, the house changes too. That’s why as Gaya mentioned, you can redecorate without going through a major renovation,” says Turner.

Personal touches like house plants give this retail space a homely feel.Personal touches like house plants give this retail space a homely feel.

The beauty of rugs

There’s no faster way to transform the look of a room than to lay down a rug. It brings in colour, pattern and texture underfoot and creates a foundation of style that influences the feel of the entire room.

Whether you need a little pop of colour to greet guests at the front door or you want to tie together all the furniture in a living room, the right rug is always a smart solution, says Turner.

“We are a little bit more discerning with the things that we put in our homes. We invest more into our home. We look for good quality products that last. That can be family heirlooms, items such as rugs,” says Turner.

Rugs are also key to creating cohesive spaces.

“They allow you to differentiate and give warmth to certain areas. Especially when you have an industrial raw looking home, it’s always good to throw in a rug for texture. When getting a quality rug, you are getting an investment piece. Not everything in the home has to be an investment piece, mind you, but just key ones,” says Turner.

“What those key ones are depend on you as it varies with each individual. For both of us, we are obsessed with rugs!”

Turner shares a tip: Make sure one measures the room before purchasing a rug.

“Size matters when it comes to rugs.”

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