New Life In Old House
If Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman were alive today, he probably wouldn’t recognize his old house in Taman Jesselton. Now owned by a Chinese family who bought it over from a relative, the house has almost tripled in size after undergoing RM2mil worth of renovations.
The lady of the mansion, Monica Tan, welcomed me and my photographer colleague into her “humble abode”. We were accompanied by her interior decorator Ong Hock Teik who brought a bunch of flowers to “freshen up” the place for the photography session.
Teik, as the well-connected florist and decorator is popularly known in Penang, should have brought a truck load, given the 720sq m (8000sq ft) built-up space, excluding the car porch and pergola.
Monica recalled that what attracted her and her husband to buy the house in 2002, was that the property was a “small and pleasant colonial house” with maid’s quarters.
“It is a good location. And it belonged to former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. We bought it from his daughter who came to our apartment to meet us before deciding to sell the house to us. She never lived in it.”
The land spans 1440sq m (16000sq ft) and the market price then was RM250 per square foot. The asking price for similar property in Taman Jesselton now is between RM8mil and RM10mil.
The upgrading and extension project for this double-storey, detached house was only completed in 2006.
“The original house was very small,” reiterated Monica, “It now forms the private wing for the family. We were advised by the architect to demolish it and rebuild but I decided on major renovations instead. I knew exactly what I wanted.
“This is because I liked the original house and felt a little sentimental, as there’s a bit of history connected to my house. I now feel the old part adds character to the house even after renovation.”
The house now consists of two wings separated by a courtyard but linked by a common foyer. The former wing is for entertaining and the private wing for the family.
The formal wing comprises the main lounge, dining hall, kitchen, maid’s quarters and upstairs guest room.
The private wing accommodates the master bedroom and two other bedrooms, study and audio visual room as ell as the studio.
There are motion sensors within the perimeter of the house for security.
The various rooms in the house are basically, the master bedroom, two secondary bedrooms, a study and audio-visual room, a guest room and even a dance studio with mirrored walls.
“I love dancing so I have private lessons at home, and also to do light workouts and to listen to my music,” explained Monica, a stewardess with Singapore Airlines.
“I practice once or twice a week so that my body will be more flexible and I won’t forget my steps.
“No, I am not a professional dancer, I only opt for social dancing and just dance for fun, like Latin dances such as the Salsa, Cachata and Argentine tango.”
Does Monica’s husband share her interest in dance?
“No, he tried out but found it’s not suitable for him. He plays golf.”
At this juncture, Teik interjected to say that dancing keeps Monica young and beautiful and she could easily pass for 35.
“My friends tell me I look 30,” quipped Monica.
During renovation, the original teak flooring of the old house was removed, sanded and now forms part of the flooring in the formal lounge and family living room.
The dining room has an open concept that includes a dry kitchen. The kitchen concept is by SignatureKitchen. This area extends to the wet kitchen, laundry space and maid’s room.
Above the kitchen and dining area is the guest wing. It is separated from the family area to give guests greater privacy. Guests have the convenience to come and go as they wish without interrupting the family. Also, the guest room is within access of the kitchen.
In the private wing, the upstairs master bedroom is accessed through a dressing area built with plenty of wardrobe space and comes complete with a vanity table. The corridor-like dressing area leads to the master bathroom on the left and master bedroom to the right.
The extra large and airy bathroom has separate areas for the spa tub and the glass-partitioned shower space built with a sunroof.
On the same level as the master bedroom are the two bedrooms for couple’s teenaged boys.
Outside the house, the covered driveway can park six vehicles.
The garden has an expansive lawn that provides a spacious feel to the whole property.
According to Monica, the garden was landscaped by the same people who designed the Penang Spice Gardens. A huge tree has been retained as it gives plenty of shade to keep the surrounding cool.
The entrance to the house is flanked by two rectangular koi troughs. Actually, the walkway resembles a bridge across the koi pool, as the 28 colourful fish can be seen on both sides.
Although renovation costs came to about RM2mil, it excluded the furnishings. The budget over-run included the tiles, bathroom fittings, sanitary ware, built-ins, lighting fixtures, landscaping and interior decorating services.
Decorator Teik assisted Monica in giving the interior a more unconventional look.
Said Monica: “He gave me good ideas and helped me turn my own ideas into reality. He proved to be very helpful in coordinating and liasing with the main contractor.
“Teik was highly recommended by a very good friend who had her apartment refurbished by him.
“When I saw his work at my friend’s apartment, I liked his ideas and appreciate the quality of his work.
“I also like his personality, as he is polite and very helpful. I wanted someone could work comfortably with.
His best advice in renovating the home?
“To keep it simple,” said Monica.
What Monica likes most about the house now is that it’s “warm and homely”. The window openings give the whole house an airy feel.
“There is a view of the garden from every room. It is very quiet here and I can hear the birds chirping throughout the day,” remarked Monica.
Earthquakes and tsunami
Before moving here, the family was living in a penthouse on the 37th level of a condominium development on Gurney Drive.
According to Monica, her family wanted a home with more privacy and a greater sense of security.
“We were caught at home during the two recent earthquakes and tsunami that hit Penang. We were very shaken by the experience and decided to quickly move to a landed property.”
The best thing about living in Taman Jesselton, pointed out Monica, was the surrounding lushness with many mature trees.
“It is very green, quiet, nice and safe neighbourhood and close to almost everything you would need. It is also within walking distance of the Botanical Gardens and Youth Park.”
Of late, Taman Jesselton has attracted many newcomers who have been building gigantic houses that dwarf neighbouring properties but Monica is unperturbed by this development.
“There are many big houses here but they are all beautifully designed and the gardens are big enough to give adequate space to each other. The people who live in them are not noisy nor intrude upon our privacy.”
Interior decorator Ong Hock teik can be contacted at 012-4012818---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------