Rundown Malaysian PJ house is now a cosy home with kampung feel, lush greenery


The plants gives the family privacy when they open up the main sliding doors. Photos: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

The interior of a house speaks volumes about the homeowners’ personalities and how they want their guests to feel when they visit, but oftentimes, it takes a little bit of soul searching to find the right vibe.

Such was the case for Ena Hadzir and Syamly Rushdi, who created a home for their family in the form of an old double-storey corner lot in a bustling neighbourhood in Petaling Jaya.

The husband and wife and their children moved into the home 14 years ago.

“When we first moved in, the house had been empty for a few years and was completely rundown. It was like a haunted house with peeling wallpaper from the ceiling and walls. We even found a dead cat in the downstairs toilet!” says Syamly.

The family took about six months to fix up the house slowly.

“We believe a home should have a vibe. It has to look and feel like you’re happy in this house. For us, a home has to create a feeling. That’s why despite the house being rundown, we wanted to create a good home for us to live in.

“Naturally everything fell into place. There are parts of the home that are still rundown but we try not to focus on that, instead we embrace the good parts,” says Ena.

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The living room looks out to refreshing greenery outside.The living room looks out to refreshing greenery outside.

She admits she struggled initially to accept the home as it was but as time went by she eventually made peace with all of its imperfections.

“That is what I try to channel through my Instagram account (@ena_hadzir). I wanted to show a different kind of home style... of what a home could be and can be, yet not be stressed about it being perfect all the time,” she says.

Slowly people started picking it up.

“We are living our lives in this home. It may not be perfect all the time but it’s about being authentic with whatever is around you.”

Creating a home that is you

As a content creator, Ena regularly shares intimate insights into her home and family, often unfiltered and refreshingly authentic.

Shares Ena, “When I started photographing my home, it was purely for self-satisfaction. I would take shots of a nice corner and post it. I thought ‘would people really want to see my house?’ To me it’s nice hence I posted it, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else to like what I was sharing. Along the way I started seeing this as a good niche, showcasing something different, opposite from what is widely available on social media.Ena (left) and Syamly at their dining area.Ena (left) and Syamly at their dining area.

“I come from a mindset that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy with your home.”

When it comes to decorating a home, Ena likes to get to the root of it by asking what kind of house you want to create.

“Rather than be trend seeking and trend hunting, embrace what you like and portray that with your house. Naturally things will fall into place and you will end up with a home that reflects your character and not the other way around. Create a home that you can live in and that is part of you,” says Ena.

“Some people have said to me that they don’t have any old stuff to create a similar look to my house. To me it’s not about that.

“It’s about adjusting your home towards whatever is available to you. What is important is to embrace what you have as it is. The question to ask is ‘where is the connection, where is the soul?’ You find your soul first. Then things will fall into place without you having to force it,” shares Ena.

Embrace your green space

The garden was completely void of any greenery when they first moved in.

“When I was pregnant with our third child 10 years ago, we planted a Bucida tree in the garden. I had seen similar trees on the highway and thought they looked really pretty with its skinny trunk and layered tiers. But little did I know that it would grow into this giant tree!” says Ena.The garden boasts a sizeable number of staghorn species, aroids, cactus, monsteras, philodendrons and others.The garden boasts a sizeable number of staghorn species, aroids, cactus, monsteras, philodendrons and others.

Once the tree was planted, slowly tables and chairs were added to the garden, creating a cosy nook under the tree’s shades.

“We then added plants around the area and that grew into a nice, wild-like landscape that gives us privacy when we open up the main sliding doors and also creates a nice airflow from the outside to the inside of the house,” she says.

The garden now boasts a sizeable number of staghorn species, aroids, cactus, monsteras, philodendrons and others.

Ena admits that she was a plant killer before but soon realised that it was “because I wasn’t ready mindset-wise to care for these plants”. But once she started to care for her plants, they thrived.

“My cactus plants were the first collection that I realised I could take care of. Plants still die but sometimes death is what you need to know if you’re up for it,” says Ena.The house is filled with hand-me-downs, vintage pieces and items from thrift stores, as well as modern furniture.The house is filled with hand-me-downs, vintage pieces and items from thrift stores, as well as modern furniture.

Organised chaos

It would be quite wrong, however, to suggest Ena and Syamly are stuck in the past when it comes to decorating their home.

Ena says there is a story for almost everything in the house.

“There are things that have been passed down to us, vintage pieces and items from thrift stores but we also have new stuff that we got from Ikea for example, but because it goes well with everything in the house, people don’t really notice it,” she says.

“Personally I’m not too keen when people associate me with antiques because I don’t collect antiques. I would say I’m more of a by-the-way-I-have-this kind of person. I just know what vibe and look I want for my house, so not everything that I come across I would take or buy.”

A well-worn metal locker from Syamly’s former office provides the family with much-needed storage in the living area. Things from tools and medicine to the children’s school books and bags are safely stored here.

“I like the idea of having this locker here as it provides space for pretty much anything.

“Everything has its place in the cabinet,” says Ena.

“I know every single thing that I have, sort of. Like I know how many toy cars or how many Russian dolls I have,” adds Ena.The heart of the home is the dining area with its wooden feature wall adorned with quirky art pieces and sculptural-looking staghorn plants.The heart of the home is the dining area with its wooden feature wall adorned with quirky art pieces and sculptural-looking staghorn plants.

The heart of the home is obviously the dining area with its wooden feature wall adorned with quirky art pieces and sculptural-looking staghorn plants.

“When we wanted to wall up that particular area, we decided against a typical brick wall and went with a wooden wall reminiscent of a kampung home,” says Ena.

With minimal cost, the couple bought the wood themselves and had it built in three days. The wood was kept unfinished to give it a raw, kampung style and is considered a key change to the home that highlighted their vibe.

Do the kids share the same passion for the home?

“My daughter has told me she likes having her friends over because we have a nice home. I know that the children appreciate the aesthetics of the house and I’m glad that they have the same wavelength as us.The kitchen was built gradually, without cookie-cutter cabinets.The kitchen was built gradually, without cookie-cutter cabinets.

“Even my eldest son has started to share what he would like for his own home when he returns back to Malaysia.”

Ena says, “My advice to new homeowners or anyone looking to redecorate is to go with slow decorating.

“Take your time in picking something that you love and that speaks to you. Let time dictate how you style your home.

“If you rush into things, you may end up with items that may not be suitable to your home. Take your time, leisurely find out the kind of experience you want to create in the home. That should be the starting point when decorating your home.”


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