Gale’s Residence is a complete remodeling of a 1970s terrace house located in a hilly suburb of Kuala Lumpur. The brief was to reconfigure the layout and to transform an interior that was dark, cloistered, and suffered from many poorly designed spaces; into one that feels bright, spacious, and well organized.
At the onset, lengthy conversations took place with the owner to either up-cycle the existing frame or instead extend with a second floor (a common scenario in the region with the underlying motive to optimize value). The final decision to up-cycle and to dwell in optimizing the one-storey model resulted from the owner’s desire to enhance the building’s original character.
While retaining the original frame, important interventions were made to accommodate the new owner’s requirements. The revisited layout now divides the house neatly into two distinctive zones, the living, dining, kitchen and other common spaces on one side, and bedrooms and bathrooms on the other. One enters the front door (a full width bi-folding window that maintains full visual continuity with the front garden) to an open plan whereby the house common areas are subtly segmented into several ‘micro spaces’ through furniture and changes in floor finishes.
To add a sense of harmony and comfort, we also looked at Southeast Asian vernacular passive cooling techniques that allow occupants to feel comfortable throughout the day (despite harsh temperatures and humidity typical of the tropics). The main device to that effect lies within a central yard that functions simultaneously as a light-well, a ventilation shaft, and a connector between the different spaces of the house.
By removing partition walls and reinstating the central yard (that had been condemned by previous owners) we were then able to create a generous and bright open-plan interior. In this process we also retained and buffed the existing terrazzo floors at the dining area and former living room, restored existing ventilation blocks, and reclaimed metal grille elements at all openings. By opening up the ceiling, we have also provided the house with an enhanced sense of loftiness.
Overall our intervention has been much about contrasts; the relation to the street is about privacy, with tall brick walls thus creating a boundary, while the interior opens up fully to the garden view with large expanses of glass. Where the exterior is mainly clay bricks with black painted steel, the interior is filled with light reflecting on various colors and textures. The house as a result offers the opportunity to enjoy bright open spaces while still allowing for reclusive quiet moments off its immediate surroundings. To this were added the owner’s eclectic furnishing and tasteful collection of artworks that all come together to create a unique bespoke home that oozes charm and character.
Essentially the various up-cycled aspects of Gale’s Residence together with the reinstated vernacular passive cooling methods are proof that the single-storey terrace typology remains a suited model to live with optimum comfort in the city.