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Malaysian corner house remodelled with annex adds volume to living space and joy to its owners

The vaulted annex that forms the living space features a concrete floor-to-ceiling finish. Photos: Ceavs Chua

The brief from the owner was simple; a unique design with enlarged living spaces using minimal intervention.

The result is a distinct-looking annex – and a few other reworks – that stands out for its barrel-shaped roof over seamless layers of space below.

Remodelled from a semi-detached double-storey house, the original structure of the Bewboc House was described by architect Fabian Tan as a big fat boxy house on a corner lot, sitting on a somewhat trapezoidal-shaped land measuring 5,800sq ft (539sq m).

“The approach was to reimagine a form befitting a corner house and to repurpose the living spaces on ground level, ” said Kuala Lumpur-born and bred Tan, 46.

The new form is intended to be simple but bold, and takes into account what every modern tropical home needs – privacy, security, natural light and ventilation, and as a bonus, a great view of the surroundings.

Tan tackled it all with panache, though it did take a few months of discussions with the client.

The annex’s barrel-shaped roof is fashioned out of unfinished concrete while its pine wood doors add a ‘monastic feel’.

Construction took about 18 months and the end result is a very pleasing wing that fully blends in with the original building.

Much of the original footprint of the 3,700sq ft (344sq m) abode – located in Kuala Lumpur – was retained, with the living space volume at least doubled.

“Originally, there were four bedrooms upstairs. I added a pavilion and took out one bedroom. The master bedroom was redone. Two bathrooms were left untouched, ” said Tan, who has been practising for more than eight years.

The centrepiece of the annex is its large barrel-shaped roof fashioned out of unfinished concrete, both for the exterior and interior. “An arch roof extends southwards, creating a vaulted annex that forms the living spaces. This space appears continuous through the extension of the arch and exaggerated further through the concrete finish from floor to ceiling, ” said Tan.

If one takes a plan view (from the top), the living spaces are orientated parallel to the boundary wall, which results in a “break” between the original and new spaces.

The triangular space created by the reangling in turn creates a secured ventilated light well, cooling both sides naturally.

Bewboc House sports a voluminous living room that looks up to the study.

Adding further appeal to the annex are two large doors fashioned out of pine wood that open up to the garden. The doors can be swung open and secured in position to allow for complete natural ventilation of the house whenever the occupants feel like it.

“I chose the massive doors as I wanted to create a monastic feel to it. Pine wood was used to keep the weight down. The door handle is also designed to function as a latch, ” said Tan, who is also involved in other forms of art, including installations.

“The uninterrupted perspective from inside out immediately connects the interior with nature. The upper floor sets up a dramatic background with a play of curves and levels.” To counter the heaviness of the concrete vault, openings were carefully carved out on the upper level.

For example, the inverted arch window (which Tan playfully refers to as the “smiley” window) at the side of the vault is drawn as a continuous ‘S’ shape where it meets the front arched opening.

The inverted arch window or the “smiley” window at the side of the vault.

“Walking through the upper levels, this continuity echoes throughout the spaces as lines of openings and arches meet. Consequently, this rhythmic play of lines within a heavy structure lends to a play of light in subtle ways, ” he said.

The spaces are layered by creating different levels in the interior to add a sense of depth to the building. The study overlooks the living spaces and next to it, there is a step-up platform corner for lounging.

Behind this, the children’s bedroom overlooks these spaces.

The master bedroom maintains the privacy of the owner, and from it, there is a passageway that connects to the outermost section of the annex and an open balcony, which comes without any railing.

“I recommended no handrails for a clean look. Outside, I put in plants to obscure the wedge formed by the perimeter wall so that everything looks seamless, ” said Tan.

“Everything is done for a reason. My designs are not unintentional. There is a certain continuity (to the design). I want to make certain things flow and blend in, ” he said, in referring to the two half arches formed by the study window at the upper section of the annex.

On one level, things are drastically changed, yet in another way, not much has changed, at least to the casual observer standing from afar.

If anything, subtlety is key to the execution of Tan’s plan, and the Bewboc House is one such fine example of his philosophy.

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