Guilty. I won’t lie about it. I personally – of all the people who should know so much better – did indeed judge a book by its cover, as I gradually drove up to this month’s cover feature. What lay in store for me was a pleasant surprise. Despite navigating endless turns and bends, going up and down numerous hills, which led to the last residence at the end of the path, this ‘House of Mystery’ surrounded by lush tropical jungle proved to be an unexpected treasure.
Built a decade ago and purchased by its current owners four years ago, the man of the house answers my first question with a brief tour. Curious as to why this couple would buy a home hidden deep in the bush, he proceeds to escort the BHC team to a patio concealed around the side of the family home where the owner simply says, “It was love at first sight.” My second question (rhetorical) catches him off guard, resulting in a short burst of laughter as he confirms that the rattan furniture set – a spherical glass-topped table accompanied by four chairs – was indeed sourced from Neo Metro.
There are a few features incorporated into this home that are fairly interesting. First among the list is the Human factor: that one of the homeowners is a ‘Diplobrat’ just like two members of this publication, myself included. As a result of this lady’s father working for our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and his family spending a good portion of their life travelling the world as Bruneian emissaries, it should come as no surprise that they own an interesting selection of furnishings.
A warm smile on her face, the homeowner shares her, and her siblings, preferred mode of shopping. “I was already 11 years old by the time my dad started travelling for work.” Placed within the Mideast circuit, she spent her youth living in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, as well as The Philippines just to mention a few. “During the latter part of our (siblings) lives mum and dad would come back from postings accompanied by trunks loaded with goods bought abroad. As everything was unpacked I would walk around the house sticking Post-its on random pieces of furniture that had caught my eye: Mine … mine … mine too.”
Most of the ground floor sections are interconnected. The owners can walk laps from the lobby to a chic living room, dining room, kitchen, and back again. With the patio located behind the dining room and kitchen, this section could also be made to connect with the inner rooms. “We are actually planning to do that,” one of the owners says before clarifying that, “We’re considering knocking down a couple of walls, extending the patio outwards, and then glassing it off.” This would mean that regardless of sun or rain, the owners can enjoy the patio in added comfort, never having to worry about the elements.
The ground floor plays host to two separate living rooms. One is the family’s personal living room and is situated on one end of the property while the second living room, which is used to entertain guests, is on the other. Acting as a Focus Space, this second living room is chic and elegant, while stopping short of being overly-fabulous. With furnishings in all the living rooms sourced from Ashly, Neo Metro, Thompsons, Daie Charm, Parvati, and Fabrica, as well as the odd piece brought in from either Miri or further abroad, the lady of the house has had a good time decorating. You’ll note I said ‘The Lady’, only. In a display of wisdom, upon hearing me utter the phrase “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” the male homeowner immediately points in my direction, nodding vigorously as a massive smile threatens to overtake his grin.
Two couch sets, each with a sofa placed back to back help to split this living room into two distinct seating areas while maintaining the appearance of being a single unified space. The central coffee table used for one of these sets – a culturally splendid piece –
Is from Jeddah, while an intricately-carved piece of cabinetry in the adjoining lobby is from Tehran. Atop the cabinet is a gorgeous copy of the Quran. With its outer coverings made from pewter with detailed designs cut into it, this holy book easily qualifies as an exceptional work of art. Nearby another massive cabinet made from dark wood with silver filigree running across its edges is part of a set, with its twin occupying a space of honour in the chic living room. These classy pieces were brought over from Jordan.
A quick peek upstairs reveals a third living room, but of far, far more interest is the glass partition that lines the staircase as it ascends. Acting as an extra layer of protection and stability, in addition to the balustrades and hand railing from the ceiling to the floor of the top floor, in addition to the balustrades. Sourced and installed by Awang Tengah Contractors, who are based in Burung Pingai in Berakas, this glass partition is actually something I would personally like to install at my family’s home.
While enjoying a sumptuous spread prepared by one of the home owners – whose culinary creations are amazing – our hosts respond to my final question: “How much time do you actually spend chilling out at home? For example, do you sleep in on Sundays or go out to enjoy community events such as Bandar Ku Ceria? After a quick glance at one another, the homeowners reply, “Hah! More like Ketil Ku Ceria!” You heard it here first everybody – Sundays are Happy Bed Day!