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 of these beautiful habitats in Tanjung Bungah in Penang.
Although he has been away from his home in Kashmir for a while now, Shakeel Katroo always carries a piece of it in his heart. “I’m from the Indian side of Kashmir and we have a beautiful culture that I try to emulate in my home here,” he says. The Penang-based businessman and Kashmir-tour operator is quick to tell me of the pride he feels for his hometown, and the steps he has taken to bring that piece of home with him: “I’m satisfied with my space; it’s everything I have ever envisioned.”
Now based in the picturesque suburb of Tanjung Bungah in Penang, Katroo calls a recently-renovated condominium overlooking the sea home. “I live here with my wife and three children,” he says. “We first moved to Penang in 2004, and then we were in KL for two years, then back to Penang. The lifestyle here is much more relaxing!”
Besides the spectacular view of the sea, Katroo enjoys the green spaces and quiet ambience of his neighbourhood, along with the proximity to his sons’ schools. “I have three boys. The eldest is eight, the second is five and goes to school, while the third is just three years old. I definitely have my hands full!” he quips.
The Katroos’ four-bedroom, five bathroom home is bright with influences from South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Handmade Persian rugs adorn both the marbled floors and the walls – “they are the best in terms of quality” – while images of mosques and Islamic verses frame the walls of the house. “In Kashmir, no matter how rich you are, you would sit on the floor on a rug to have a meal with your family. I want a piece of our culture to stay with us,” Katroo explains. “Although my wife is Malaysian, my kids are part Kashmiri, so I don’t want them to forget that part of their heritage.”
Most of the furniture that fills the house is imported, but locally-purchased. However, Katroo has been known to pick up decorative pieces on his travels. “Recently in Singapore I found some Turkish lights that I thought would look great in our dining room,” he recounts. In line with the “Rustic Country” feel set by his designers, ID Industries*, a solid oak wood and quartz stone worktop brings a warm, cosy feel to the area.
When speaking about his recentlyrenovated home, Katroo admits that his influences aren’t just restricted to his homeland. “It’s like a Kashmiri home but I like picking pieces from different cultures as well,” he explains. “I have always dreamt of a Victorian-inspired home so there are parts of my house, like the vintage writing table, the dining table and the chest of drawers, that are Victorian inspired.”
Some of the key pieces in the home include Eubiq designer products, antique furniture, and action and adventure DVDs. “I love Hollywood movies,” he admits. “I also have to keep an eye on the kids as I don’t want them ruining the antique furniture.” The bathrooms of his house however, boast a very contemporary theme. “A modern bathroom is needed I think!” he admits. “It’s got to be spacious and clean so it’s aesthetically appealing.”
When after some down time, everyone in the Katroo family heads to the expansive living room. “I like to call it a drawing room,” he says smiling. “My children love playing here; they watch cartoons and movies all the time. They have rooms filled with toys but are addicted to their iPads!” Once the kids have gone to bed though, Katroo loves the relaxed vibe of this family hotspot, and often spends time unwinding while watching TV or surfing the net on his laptop. Having three boisterous sons means it can get noisy in the home but Katroo says his boys know when it’s time to pipe down. “If they’re too loud, it’s back to the bedroom for them!” he laughs. “Their rooms are comfortable and brightly colored, with lots of storage space – for when things get messy!”
The condominium’s pool and gym are also key players in the move to the building, with Katroo spending at least two hours a day working out. “My children’s schools are only a five-minute drive away, so once I drop them off, I head home to exercise, get groceries and do some work.” Given the space of his apartment (3,000 square feet) and its prime location, Katroo feels that the only reason his family would move would be to be closer to his wife’s workplace.
Although an avid preserver of his country’s traditions, Katroo admits that his home is entirely different from that of his relatives. “The concept of lighting and wall hangings, furniture and the whole kitchen set-up is totally unique to my tastes,” he explains. “I don’t have one single concept in the entire house; everything is derived from different inspirations.”