Tuesday, July 12, 2011

+ meet 'n greet: JTJ Design {Part 1}

"We believe strongly in maximising the use and value of the natural tropical environment which is something of a reversal of how urban design has evolved in Malaysia, where homes have effectively become insulated bubbles designed to keep the tropics on the outside and the residents on the inside. We are keen to show that the local environment, even in an urban setting, can be enjoyable, comfortable and inspiring, and we design to achieve these objectives.{JTJ Design}
What does - a graphic designer plus author of children's books, a chartered accountant plus real estate agent, and a engineering graduate turned design and advertising firm owner - all have in common? Why, a passion for well-designed spaces which encourages and inspires interactions with the surrounding environment within the urban living setting, of course!!

The Terasek House featured here on Page Thirteen last month received tremendous positive responses, and even caught the attention of the designers themselves - the really nice and friendly people over at JTJ Design!

After a couple of emails back and forth, I've managed to make arrangements for an exclusive feature of JTJ Design, and Jo, Tony and Jessica have agreed to share with us their concept and philosophy, extra insights into the design and background of the Terasek House and another awesome project of theirs, plus tonnes of pictures showing off inspiring interior spaces and great detailing!

Having grown up in the tropical environment (read humid, sticky, muggy and occasionally balmy), I have experienced first hand the lifestyle of living within a terrace house and/or a bungalow in the urban setting of Kuala Lumpur and its adjacent city and suburbs. "Protecting" ourselves against the environment, closing ourselves in and observing thousand-dollars-designed-gardens from behind the glass sliding doors plus security grills plus insect screen, is the norm. I remember getting yelled at as a teenager when I forget to close the doors and windows to my bedroom come dusk, and later suffer a fitful night with the annoying buzzing of the mosquitoes in my ear.

So developers are selling us ideas and concepts of living among the greens; a tree in the courtyard of every home; wake up to the fresh crisp country air just minutes from the city centre... But us "locals" know better. Or do we? Maybe not...

What captured and inspired me most about the homes and projects by the team at JTJ Design, is their innovative and contemporary way of thinking and practice; they see what the locals might have grown used to living with and are taking for granted of (the environment they have been blessed with, of which, sadly, is quickly being consumed by slabs of concrete and steel). Jo, Tony and Jessica may be long term residents of KL, but with their distinct cultural backgrounds and progressive concepts, they see the environment in a different light, and are challenging to inspire the way of living in the urban jungle of KL back to a more social and interactive form, of which is in fact the traditional Malaysian/Asian way of lifestyle, but with their unique creative touches and details. 

I am truly humbled and inspired. And as it is appearing to be the case every time I talk about JTJ Design and their projects, I end up gushing with overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm. On that note, I'll leave you to read on and find out more for yourself, in the below Page Thirteen's exclusive interview of the creative and amazingly awesome trio - Jo England, Tony Heneberry and Jessica Lim -  of JTJ Design.

(ps. As the feature is massive, with heaps of inspiring images, I have split it into two parts, to ensure you'll be able to leisurely enjoy and absorb the most of what the team at JTJ has to offer! Part 2 will be up tomorrow, remember to come back for more! Thank you for your patience and support!)

+ + + + +

About JTJ Design

+ Please share with us about JTJ, the story behind the team, your individual backgrounds, and how you all came together to form JTJ.
We are all long term residents of KL and originally met through our children who range in age from 10yrs to 2yrs. Jo (Australian) is a graphic designer and author of children’s books, Jessica (Malaysian) is a chartered accountant and a real estate agent, and Tony (Irish) is an engineering graduate but owns and runs a KL design and advertising business.

+ What is the concept/philosophy of the team?
To create distinctive and progressive designs that use design rather than cost to add lifestyle-quality and value.

+ The idea of buying old houses and rebuilding/renovating them is definitely not a new idea in KL, but all of your projects has a unique perspective and concept which makes you stand out from the rest. How do you see these types of projects and concept influencing the design and property industry of KL? And what are the responses and impact you wish to make in the industry? 
We stand out in a few ways. Firstly our approach to design is very progressive and contemporary, so we are distilling what we consider to be the best elements of modern design and materials and adding our own ideas to adapt them to a Malaysian/ tropical setting.

We believe strongly in maximising the use and value of the natural tropical environment which is something of a reversal of how urban design has evolved in Malaysia, where homes have effectively become insulated bubbles designed to keep the tropics on the outside and the residents on the inside. We are keen to show that the local environment, even in an urban setting, can be enjoyable, comfortable and inspiring, and we design to achieve these objectives.

We hope to demonstrate to buyers, owners, developers that it is possible to achieve this quality of home/ building through design and smart use of materials rather than spending loads, and hopefully encourage others to adapt a similar approach...with of course their own flavour and personality.

It would be wonderful to see this segment of Malaysian property design move back to a more social style...which in essence is a traditional paradigm, with a focus on social and interactive spaces as demonstrated in our designs. This is the essence of traditional Malaysian/Asian living, we have just put a modern spin on it.

The kind of reactions we have received so far, as well as being generally very positive and enthusiastic, is a surprise at how well the space works.

For example, with our Bukit Gasing property where the main living space has moved outdoors (or the outdoors has moved in and through the interior), Malaysian visitors are always surprised that this can work so well because they have become conditioned to believe that we would suffer from mosquitoes and with the doors always fully open that the heat would be unbearable.... when in fact neither is an issue.

We have a huge amount of landscaping to create shaded and cooling buffer zones to the house, and simple site-care and maintenance effectively eliminates the mosquito issue. However the pre-conditioning is such that unless the possibility is demonstrated, a typical Malaysian owner would consider what we do to be too risky with their investment....but when they experience it, they love it.

We used many of the same principles with the Terasek house.... shaded buffer zones, substantial cross flow, raised ceilings to ventilate the warmer air, etc.... but adapted for a much smaller space. And of course substantial use of low cost and recycled materials to reduce cost without compromise to the luxury or liveability of the space.

The Terasek House
{The Terasek House: before, during and after construction.}

{The Entrance: under the swimming pool, through 250kg steel sliding door, into a peaceful courtyard}

+ How did the concept/idea come about?
We were clear about the design objectives in terms of use of space, materials and overall look and flow. We drew some inspiration from other local designers such as Ng Sek San and Paul Low as well as many other examples from blogs such as yours around the world. But ultimately it was about standing inside the building and feeling/seeing what worked there, sharing those ideas amongst ourselves and settling on a direction....this was also the fun part.

A couple of key ideas that heavily influenced the direction:
a) Putting bedrooms down to ground floor, and living space on first floor....this was a paradigm change but allowed us to make best use of light, with the darker areas for bedrooms and the TV area, and the lighter area upstairs for living and dining
b) Swimming/dip pool upstairs...another paradigm shift and a complete surprise to all visitors, but created a wow factor as well as a natural focus to the living area, which leads you to look outside towards the trees, pool and sky, rather than being internally focused.

+ What was the design process like?
Mostly standing around in a partly demolished site with pads of paper and pencils and sketching many ideas until we got the ones we liked best. 

+ What was the house like before, and what changes has been made - to the flow/layout, function of spaces...?
This terrace unit is a standard size and layout used throughout Malaysia....ground floor living with kitchen, back kitchen and maid's room to rear, quite dark lower areas...leading to a first floor with 1 master bedroom and en suite and two children's bedrooms with shared w/c, also a very dark area with little natural light and no natural airflow.

We changed from 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 living room to a20a reversal of how urba 3 living rooms, 4 bathrooms, plus maid's bedroom and bathroom, AND a swimming pool. We minimised the size of the bedrooms (except for the master which is 2 rooms in size) in order to maximise the social areas...TV area (ground floor), living/dining (all of 1st floor) and upstairs lounge (a new 2nd floor to rear of house).

{Ground Floor: Sunken TV Area and corridor leading to the bedrooms}

{Master bedroom}

{Funky Kids Bunk Room with windows overlooking stairwell}

+ Recycling and re-using is a large emphasis of the project; tell us more about it?
Floor rubble was re-used to create outdoor walls (look at bedroom courtyard).

Security grills into wall shelves and kitchen hanging storage, as well as wall artworks (the steel flowers).

Old stair steps into bedroom floor embellishments.

Cement flooring, polished and epoxy painted for finished effect.

Original roof frames and trusses.

We also installed waste heat recover air conditioners so that the air conditioners, when used, would heat water for washing and showers.

We installed low energy fans throughout to be used in preference to air conditioners whenever possible.

We installed old style louvred windows throughout to maximise cross flow ventilation.

We designed and custom fabricated the dining table from cement and left over steel angle bars.

We designed and custom fabricated the coffee tables from recycled railway sleepers.

Wherever we found a piece of old junk or waste material we challenged ourselves to come up with something that might make use of it...it was part of the fun of the project.

+ What was the most challenging part of the project?
Managing the contractor to achieve the finishing standards we wanted !!

+ What is your favourite feature of the completed house?
Jo – the lounge area, for its airiness and outside views.
Jess – the entrance courtyard, it sets the tone for the whole house.
Tony – the pool.

+ How/What do you hope for the occupants/visitor to experience with the house and its spaces?
A sense of peace and relaxation.

{First Floor Living Area}

{First Floor: Views of Kitchen, Dining and Living Area, with stairs leading up to a new second floor}

{The Swimming Pool, made of polished concrete, playfully reflects its environment, turning the water turquoise on a clear day, and green like the trees when the sun goes behind the clouds} 

{Second Floor: a new added level featuring a loft-like lounge area with it's own shower and toilet, and sweeping views of KLCC, KL Sentral and Mid Valley}

{Details of the Terasek House}

I hope you've enjoyed this exclusive and insightful introduction to JTJ Design, as well as the wealth of pictures they shared of the Terasek House.We are certainly privileged to be offered this special house tour! Tomorrow, we will bring you Part 2, featuring another amazing project of JTJ's: the inside-out Gasing Bungalow. Don't forget to come back for more!

{All images exclusive from JTJ Design}

1 comment:

  1. This place is fantastic...I love the sense of space and the use of planting and concrete which is not 'brutal'. Ailish UK


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