Malaysian 2-storey terrace uses creative wall art for a Malay-Nusantara feel


The DIY ‘Batik Terengganu’ wall art in the living room. Photos: Mazneera Zainal

With a passion for interior design, Mazneera Zainal has been using her own home as an experiment ground ever since she and her husband, Arman Abdul Talip, first bought it in 2005.

Today, Mazneera has been a freelance, self-taught interior decorator and home stylist for over 10 years.

Their beautifully designed, two-storey terrace house is located in Bandar Saujana Utama, Sungai Buloh, Selangor. Named Armanee – coined from the couple’s names – the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home has a build-up of 3,200sq ft (297sq m) after renovation.

Though purchased in 2005, the house did not go through any renovation until 2014.

“Only after living here for seven years did we decide that renovating and adding on to the home’s square footage would be good for our growing family,” explained Mazneera, adding that budget was also a factor.

The renovation was done in three phases. In 2014, they extended the back right to the end to enjoy a bigger kitchen as well as a new dining area. The old dining area was then turned into the TV lounge and the living room now solely functions as a formal living room.

The staircase landing area is decorated with wall art pieces similar to ‘Batik Terengganu’.The staircase landing area is decorated with wall art pieces similar to ‘Batik Terengganu’.

“In 2016, we changed the position of the ground floor bathroom so you can no longer see it from the living room.

“While we were at it, we also changed the bathroom floor tiles, so no more ugly builder-grade tiles,” she said.

The last round was in 2020, where the front patio and side entrance were renovated to turn them into an extension of the current living room.

“Each renovation process took a maximum of two months. I believe that the biggest obstacle to remodelling our home was money. We had to make sensible decisions and prioritise our needs in order to ensure that we stayed within the RM25,000 budget for each rear and front extension project and the RM5,000 budget for the refurbishment of the ground floor toilet,” said Mazneera, a mother of two girls and two boys aged between 10 and 22 who describes herself as a “full-time mum, part-time everything else”.

In the beginning, she admitted she wasn’t sure what kind of concept she wanted for the house, although her taste gravitated towards urban contemporary and eclectic with a bit of an industrial touch.

A wall adorned with Mazneera’s father’s paintings, caricatures and pictures of her family, her kids’ batik canting and printed artwork.A wall adorned with Mazneera’s father’s paintings, caricatures and pictures of her family, her kids’ batik canting and printed artwork.

“However, I always knew that I wanted to include the Malay-Nusantara identity into my home decor, and I have stayed faithful to that goal even when layouts, furniture and colour schemes have changed,” she said.

The Armanee home in general has a range of neutral colour palettes paired with medium to dark wood-toned furniture, along with other bold and accent colours. Mazneera shared that her preference is towards a nature-inspired colour palette.

The overall design concept and colour palette choices of the home have a certain flow and coherence to it. Only in spaces that are more enclosed and divided, like the family hall upstairs or the bedrooms, does Mazneera design them more freely, using bolder or unusual accents.

Recently, Mazneera’s home was selected by @ighometourmalaysia – a local home tour group on Instagram hosted by home decor enthusiasts to inspire one another and share ideas on home design and decor – under the theme #ightmwallart for her inspiring work.

The home's entryway also features a wall art and elements of the Malay-Nusantara vibe.The home's entryway also features a wall art and elements of the Malay-Nusantara vibe.

If you follow Mazneera on Instagram (@armanee_interiors), you wll know that she often shares her wall art, which is a fan favourite.

“I think wall art is a fantastic way to express your personal style, individuality and taste in interior design. Actually, every piece of decor you choose for your home should have a significance beyond mere aesthetics,” she said.

When creating her wall art, Mazneera starts by selecting what is meaningful to her and what reflects her identity well. She hardly leaves any wall empty in her home.

For Armanee, Mazneera chose to inject elements of a Malay-Nusantara identity, namely through the creative DIY “Batik Terengganu” wall art for her living room.

This piece is not something new for the home as Mazneera first made it with a different coloured batik cloth back in 2009. She recently swapped it out in 2022 as the cloth had degraded over the years.

“My kids insisted that I keep this batik piece even though I considered getting a different type of large wall art. Thus, after looking for patterns and colours that worked, we decided on this blue-black batik,” she said.

Floating shelves offer room for various decor pieces.Floating shelves offer room for various decor pieces.

To lift the entire panel and give it more dimension when hung on the wall, Mazneera used plywood that was cut into three equal-sized pieces and added wood strips to the back borders, as opposed to just using thin and flat plywood on the wall. She then secured the artwork onto the wall using strong double-sided tape.

Another wall art, the “Green Kebaya Songket”, was a piece she got from another home enthusiast who has a similar design taste as her and was also into the Malay traditional vibe.

“Other than that, my wall art pieces consist of my dad’s paintings, cartoons and pictures of my family, my kids’ batik canting, and printed artwork that relates to us,” she said.

Mazneera’s favourite part of the house?

As a freelancer who works from home, anywhere downstairs is her favourite space, because while working, Mazneera gets to share those areas with her kids whenever they are at home.

“We also alternate who gets to watch TV in the TV area. For example, mum and dad will use the space to watch K-drama at night,” she chuckled.

The 46-year-old is also a firm believer in the practicality and functionality of a space apart from just aesthetics. Aside from budgetary concerns, these are the crucial elements in deciding what style of furniture and materials are appropriate.

“Those usually serve as the foundation for the design because I have a limited budget. For example, what furniture options are within our means? From there, we gradually develop the design concept and complete the entire look,” she said.

Though it took the family a little longer to achieve their dream home design, Mazneera said she was fascinated and gratified by the ongoing home decor initiatives and renovations.

“My belief is that ‘good design doesn’t have to be expensive’, which has contributed to my expertise in budget decor. I personally enjoy building spaces in an economical manner by promoting the concepts of thrifting, reusing and repurposing what can be saved, recovering resources and other similar ideas,” said Mazneera.


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