The gabled roofless conservatory is probably the first thing you notice as you approach the row of single-storey houses. Set against a white facade, it stands in stark contrast to the nondescript link houses surrounding it, and exudes an appealing freshness.
One thing noticeably missing from the front porch is the mandatory parking space, which has been purposefully relocated to the back. That space is occupied by a small garden and a partially-walled pathway, leading us towards the main door.
Once inside, there is an immediate brightness to the interiors – elusive of typical intermediate terrace houses – thanks to the two courtyards within. Rays of light filter down generously to the staircase on the right, illuminating the rectangular water feature below.
Welcome to 113 Ikon, a 2,150sq ft (200sq m) double-storey house that serves as a short-term rental property. Located in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, the three-bedroom property is a project by design studio Paperspace.
Renovation work was completed last April – after about a year – and the space opened for business about a month after that. Owner Penny Chow first bought the house – which is at least a decade old – to rent it out.
“But I felt I couldn’t get much rental from such an old house, which had various issues. So I figured I’d renovate it, be happy with it when I look at it, and then thought why not rent it out on Airbnb.
“This was a single-storey house with a high ceiling. So what I did was build a mezzanine floor to accommodate the bedrooms and a conservatory upstairs,” says Chow, 30, who lives with her parents a few streets away in the same neighbourhood.
The steel diamond mesh-based conservatory and front garden are meant to green up the streetscape, according to the designers. The roofless conservatory features a swing and some plants, making it a great hangout place at night.
Maximising the living space within was also one of Chow’s objectives. A room originally located downstairs was done away with to double up on the living room area. Chow also did away with the typical sliding door and installed one that opens outwards and upwards.
“I wanted to make the living space as large as possible, so this single-piece door actually opens all the way up to 90° so you can see the garden,” she explains as she pushes out the glass door that separates the living room from the outdoor garden.
“What my architect friends and I wanted was to be able to see the garden from every corner of the living area,” adds Chow. Architects Winston Zane See and his wife Amy Ang, a husband-and-wife team at Paperspace, wanted the place to be unique and did a complete makeover of the place.
Besides the eye-catching conservatory, they also designed two courtyards to introduce natural sunlight and ventilation into the house. Realising that Chow was fond of white, See and Ang worked with that theme, both inside and out.
“The black and white look really appeals to me. Then I basically added some colours with the furniture pieces,” says Chow, who trained as an orthoptist, or eye care practitioner who specialises in eye movement disorders, in Australia.
The result is a contemporary chic interior with an eclectic mix of furniture and furnishings curated by Chow, who currently works in her family business. Wooden pendant lights above the dining table anchor the dining area, while a dark green sofa bed, arm chair, rocking chair and some side tables dot the rest of the living room.
A touch of the traditional comes in the form of a dowry chest gifted to Chow by her best friend’s grandmother, as well as some Oriental drum stools.
Recently, Chow had the roof redone. She maintained the skylight there but added horizontal shades under it, which can be opened up manually. “Originally, this entire area was all polycarbonate sheet so it was very, very hot,”she says, pointing to the roof as we stood on the second floor.
To further add colour to the interiors, each bathroom features a different colour theme. Parts of the wall and the sink cabinet are in either blue, pink or yellow, set against otherwise white subway wall tiles.
So what does Chow like best about the house? “I like the colours. I definitely love the fact that (the designers) have fulfilled my want and need with the whites. I think what’s great about white that people don’t realise is if you’re not happy with the white on the wall, you can just paint over it again.”
Despite the time and effort spent during renovation and furnishing the house, Chow is happy with the end result.
“(The project) becomes almost like an obsession really. But there is great satisfaction in seeing how it has turned out despite all the hard work!” she ends.
Creating a liveable space
Architect Winston See, co-founder of design studio Paperspace, talks about the design process behind 113 Ikon.
What were your initial thoughts and plans when you were first asked to design 113 Ikon?
When I was engaged to design Ikon, I pitched the idea of having a design which prioritises human lifestyle instead of possessions such as motor vehicles. Penny (Chow) was very encouraging and open to new ideas and we never looked back since.
How did the final design come about?
Since the house is located very close to the corner lot and it has a 10ft (3m) wide back lane, I thought it was a good opportunity to explore a new design prototype, where the car park is now switched to the back of the house. This arrangement allows the living and dining areas (which most likely will be occupied most of the time) to have a garden view. (Inspired) by some of the old shophouse designs, we introduced not one, but two courtyards to provide lots of natural sunlight and cross ventilation.
In terms of the interior, we’re just trying to incorporate Penny as much as possible into it. Having a white space with pops of colours and textures is literally who she is; on the surface she’s a simple person, down-to-earth, and kind of minimalist. But she’s incredibly bubbly and outgoing at the same time, always smiling and laughing beneath the calm exterior.
Which was the most difficult aspect of the design and/or renovation and why?
I would say the most difficult part of the design/renovation was the budget management. Having a very, very old house and trying to completely change the configuration of the house is an expensive thing to do. However with many compromises and endurance, I’m proud to say that we’ve done the best we can with what we’ve got and have absolutely no regrets.
What kind of feelings do you hope to evoke in people who stay at Ikon?
I’d like the people to experience the essence of tropical living in a modern context. A lot of people prioritise floor area and are always looking to maximise the built-up but I dare say that size does not matter. It’s all about balance between outdoors and indoors, and hopefully merging them together to create a very liveable and sustainable environment in our hot and humid climate.