Some of the most stunning homes in Malaysia are owned and occupied by expats seeking to create an oasis for themselves in their new country. Manveen Maan takes us on a tour of one such home.
Perfectly poised, Dewi Jacobs is a woman of the world. Born in Jakarta, raised in France, and having travelled to various countries around the world, Dewi has had the opportunity to soak up a kaleidoscope of cultures through her travels. Yet, despite her globetrotter ways, she is still a Javanese girl at heart.
“I was born in Jakarta, and I grew up in Paris. My dad was a diplomat, so I went to school in France,” the affable Dewi explains. “I spent six years there and then went back to Indonesia to work before I got married. We still go back fairly often.”
Having lived in Kuala Lumpur before (from 2007 to 2010), the decision to return was an easy one for both her and her husband, with Dewi citing the more laid-back vibe of KL as a contributing factor. “We live close to my husband’s office and my daughter’s school so it’s very convenient. The traffic here is also not as bad as Jakarta’s, so that helps,” she laughs.
Now a resident at The Avare Kuala Lumpur, a luxurious condominium located just a stone’s throw away from KLCC, Dewi spends much of her day puttering about her three-bedroom home and cooking up a storm in her bright, spacious kitchen. “The kitchen is definitely my favourite area of the house,” she says, her eyes lighting up. “We spend most of our time here relaxing, eating, and chatting. Even when we have guests we hang out here!”
It was perhaps quite fitting, then, that we spent most of our time talking across the island that sits in the middle of her expansive kitchen, while digging into a sumptuous spread whipped up by the master chef herself. “I absolutely love cooking,” she tells me over a bowl of piping hot Indonesian-style oxtail soup. “I can’t choose a favourite, but I do enjoy French food, Italian food, and of course, traditional Indonesian food very much.”
“She’s a great cook too!” interjects her elegantly dressed sister Rini Ramelan, who is visiting the family from Paris. “I always ask Dewi to make all my favourite Indonesian dishes when I come for a holiday.”
Dewi’s skills extend past the realm of the kitchen. With a keen eye for detail, it comes as no surprise that Dewi’s home is artistically beautiful, yet full of warmth. “I did all the decorating myself, so it’s quite personal,” she explains. “It’s what makes our home really feel unique; it’s ours to the very core.”
Peppered with heavy wood and antique items, the large living room area is a tribute to Dewi’s Javanese roots. “Almost everything here is from Java – from the chest of drawers, and the wooden wine rack, to the antique gramophone, and the artifacts. We also have some things from Madura,” she says, naming another Indonesian island. “Good, solid wood furniture is so difficult to find these days so I do want to hold on to the stuff we have for as long as possible.”
A log of wood carved out in the middle sits just underneath the glass dining table, adding a naturist feel to a very modern home. Along with adding to the aesthetics, the hollowed-out log plays second home to pets around the house. “Once we thought our cat had gone missing. Turns out she was hiding inside the log!” she chuckles.
The pièce de résistance sits in the middle of the living room, where a tall, wooden Javanese-Chinese daybed holds a very modern large flat-screen TV in place. “It seemed like a strange concept at first (using a daybed for this purpose) but I couldn’t find a spot for the daybed in the house, and decided it could be a TV stand. It works though! Everyone loves it,” she says.
Although not quite as grand as its daybed neighbour, Dewi’s husband’s miniature alcohol bottle collection sits next door, and adds a splash of colour to the area. Prettily displayed in a glass showcase, hundreds of tiny, multicoloured bottles glint in the morning sunshine, bringing a hint of mischief to a very sophisticated home. “Vodka, whiskey, rum, gin – you name it, he’s got it. A bottle even broke once but he refused to throw it away. That’s how dear it is to him,” she says, smiling. Despite being an avid art collector, the stylish Dewi admits to having difficulty finding a space in her home for her many paintings. “We have a lot of glass, and not enough wall!” she quips, as she continues the tour of her light-filled living room. The luminous, large area boasts a stunning view of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and I’m not entirely convinced a painting could match the beauty of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. “It’s a fantastic view, definitely better than the kitchen but the attraction there is anything on the stove top!” she quips.
So, it is only natural that we returned to the hotspot of her gorgeous house, tucking into delicious Indonesian rendang, soaking up the warmth of a beautiful home that is, if nothing else, a tender memoir to her native Jakarta.