Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebrating Malaysia's 53 Years of Independence

To all Malaysian...

We've come a long way and will be celebrating 53 years of independence tomorrow on 31st August.

Happy Merdeka Day!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nak Hotel – Interview with owners Anton Ngui and Linn Yong

Nak Hotel is a bit of new and a bit of old. It was over forty years old when the new owners of this generation, married couple Anton and Linn set out to give it a new lease of life. Located in the old port town of Sandakan in East Malaysia, this family owned hotel is brimming with stories and memories from its four decades of existence.

Read on for an insight into the becoming of Nak Hotel’s new facelift.

1.       Anton’s grandfather founded Nak Hotel in 1966. Tell us a little more about him and what was the style of the hotel back then?
I never had the opportunity of meeting my grandfather but what little I was told from the family was that he started out as a general clerk and rose to become the first Chinese Member of Parliament from Sabah.

He sadly passed away in Dec 1963 when NAK hotel had just begun construction. It opened officially in 1966.
As it was the tallest, grandest (with its infamous nightclub) hotel in the port town, it attracted a large majority of the wealthy locals and foreign expats. I’m not sure it had a distinctive style, save for the building architecture itself, but with rooms which cost over rm200/night in the 60s, it was definitely only for the well-heeled.
Old recption

2.       What ideas did you have for the hotel when you decided to refurbish it?
Design came second, practical solutions to the endless list of structural and management problems really came first…
The newly refurbished Nak Hotel

3. What challenges did you encounter while reconstructing the hotel and how did you overcome them?
The 2 main constraints we had to work to were time and money. When the whole idea of taking on NAK hotel as a renovation project was first pitched, a figure was agreed upon to give it a breath of fresh air. However it only managed to achieve a fraction of what was hoped; the more we went into redoing the place, the more problems cropped up. Hence the hotel has became a drawn-out, ‘work-in-progress’. What we generate in income, we put back into the list of to-do items for the building…in the hope that one day, we’ll get it looking the way we really want it.
Guests' bedroom and bathroom

4.       Anton and Linn are also owners of Panganakan Dii, a retreat with wooden stilt houses built along the hill slopes of tropical Sandakan. Tell us more about your experience in building this retreat.
Having spoken to various people before we started, we were given this impression that things would be simple and take only about 6+months. The project eventually took us 1 1/2yrs to complete!

I had this great idea to experience learning how something like this could be achieved by taking on the role of the contractor, working with a local team of carpenters and workers………

From the very first days of then-girlfriend (Linn) and I sorting (read lugging) belian logs we had just purchased, to endangered animals being discovered and swiftly sold off by our workers, the whole experience was going to be memorable. Hence we documented a lot of it on our blog…. 

Topping it off we even had one of the workers pimp Philipino girls to the other workers and then get subsequently kicked out by the gang for disrupting work…resulting in all the wives suddenly paying daily visits to the worksite….

Those were just a few of ‘incidents’ throughout that construction period…

5.       What’s a typical day at work like for you?
It was once chauffeuring (now we have a driver) guests, shopping for foodstuff (I still do), maintenance, interacting with guests and replying emails. 8am-12midnight shifts, 7 days a week.  

6.       What tips do you have for aspiring boutique accommodation owners?
Do serious business planning beforehand, be adequately capitalized, and then focus on a strong ‘idea’ – concept, design, whatever your emphasis might be on, and never waver from that ideal. That one detail will define how you are seen/perceived and how you grow the business down the road. I wouldn’t call us boutique accommodation; that term has connotations of trends….we hope to achieve something a bit more lasting….something memorable.
Rooftop of the old Nak Hotel
BaLin Roofgarden - overview
Balin Roofgarden - Restaurant and bar

7.       Who or what are you most inspired by?
Since coming back about 5yrs ago – I’ve really come to appreciate what an amazing place this place we call Earth really is and that there is a God who has created all of it.  Each and everyday that I head up to our retreat, for work, I take a moment out and just peer out at the trees and greenery – and I always take a deep breath and say ‘amazing’ – there’s a different detail out there for one to ponder on each time. That’s what inspires me endlessly. 

8.       What is it like working as a husband and wife team?
Interesting, for lack of a better word. We split our roles so as not to get in each other’s way. But we do throw issues back and forth so as to get the best opinion on a matter. It’s a bit like a relay race; we just keep passing the baton on to each other, yelling encouragement to each other, in a race that never ends. To borrow from a popular expression; it’s becoming a race where the destination is not important, it’s the journey that matters.

9.       What’s the best kept secret in Sandakan?
1. Doing the mangrove walk from Sepilok orang utan centre (about 30km from town) right through about 3-4km of virgin rainforest to the mangrove bay area, where you can hop on a boat and ride out to Sandakan bay (the big sea) and town.

2. Seafood meal at the Fishermen’s Association headquarters – booking needed, only 4-5 tables only. Quaint place above old shoplots.

10.   If you could do anything in the world, what would you do next?
Build a hotel in the sky!

P. O. Box 761
90708 Sandakan

+6 (0)89 272988 


* Images courtesy of Anton and Linn

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're in Singapore's Square Rooms Magazine

Hello Singapore!

Singapore, once a part of Malaysia is now an independent country with a land size that's a fraction of Malaysia. She has thrived year on year since her independence and flourished into a prosperous country that their citizens are proud to call home.

Rivalry naturally arise when compared with our closest and high achieving neighbour - which country has the biggest shopping mall, the prettiest women, the tallest building, the best talents, etc. We get a huge sense of achievement when we win over our neighbour. Personally, I think we win hands down in the food department. Sorry Singapore, your bak-kut-teh and wantan mee is still lagging behind.

Food and rivalry aside, I am extremely happy to see some Ferm Living items featured in the latest issue of Singapore's Square Rooms magazine. This issue focuses on the room that we spend most of our hours at home, that is our bedroom.

Thank you to the team in Square Rooms for sharing the wallpaper and wallsticker love with the rest of Singapore.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kuen Stephanie

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary. ~Pablo Picasso

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. ~Amy Lowell

Great art picks up where nature ends. ~Marc Chagall

Art is the colors and textures of your imagination. ~Meghan, Los Cerros Middle School, 1999

Art is pictures straight from the heart. ~Ben, Los Cerros Middle School, 1999

To me, art is the picture that sits in a perfect pose on my wall, shelf or floor with colours that match my furniture and a gorgeous frame to finish. OK, seriously now....when I chance across a piece that strikes a chord in some personal way and it fits my three digit budget, I'd bring it home.
Sitting room of Kuen Stephanie

Kuen Stephanie’s paintings get to the heart of the matter. A nostalgic revisiting of a Malaysia that is fast-disappearing, she captures the small, seemingly inconsequential details which have suddenly become precious, by virtue of scarcity. 
Snacking on rambutans

Her paintings usually depict scenes that would be considered too banal for art in the ordinary scheme of things – but which she manages to imbue with her own peculiar sense of enchantment. 
Ladies peering out of their windows


It may be the numerous cats stretched out lazily on the steps of a kampong house, the bags of grain on the floor of a typical Chinatown shophouse, the mangoes leaves adorning the lintel of an Indian household, the frangipani trees or it may be her vivid Matisse-like colour scheme. Either way, she manages to lovingly recapture the Malaysia that once was from her treasure trove of memories. 
Portrait of Love

Secret Recipe - women in a family cooking together

Kuen Stephanie can be reached at 012-2180690 or email her at kuenstephanie@yahoo.com. Visit her website at www.kuenstephanie.com.

* Images courtesy of Kuen Stephanie.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nursing Room

As a mother of two, I've been through the pains of tending to my little ones in shopping malls where nursing facilities were run down, unhygienic, smelly or non-existent. Trips to the shops were often very focussed, dashing in to get what I needed and out again to nurse my baby at home. I had to be very disciplined and side-blinded myself as I walked past my favourite boutiques.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all malls in Malaysia had large, clean, fully equipped and beautifully decorated nursing rooms? Why not since new mothers are presumably a high spending segment of customers as we frequently make purchases for new clothing to dress our new post-birth body shape. Then there's the never ending shopping for babies on growth spurts, presents for their elder sibling's birthday invitation, husbands who piggy back on our trip to the store, etc.
Magasin in Aarhus, Denmark - wallstickers from Ferm LIVING Butterflies and Birds 

Would it be too much to ask for an Eames Shell Chair Rocker to ease off the stress of shopping and breastfeeding a baby.
Add caption

Images via Favourite Things by Ferm Living and Ohdeedoh.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sexy Legs

I'm a leg woman. Yes, I am! Long, short, thin or chunky, so long as the legs are shapely, I will catch myself staring at them unashamedly and in admiration.
Elegant bathroom sink

Drool...legs can't get any hotter than these on the 4-poster bed

Fold-able Propeller stool

Eames walnut stool by Herman Miller

The ever svelte Panton chair. Still looking good after all these years.

Tulip table and X benches. NB: Love the chinoiserie wallpaper

Eclectic at its best - red, hot and sexy dining table....ooh la la. The chairs are also to die for.

Accent legs with classical painting

Legs that roll

* Some images are from unknown sources. Please email me if it belongs to you and I'd be happy to credit you for it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Laundry Room

The laundry room is often the most neglected part of the house when it comes to decorating. There's barely anything exciting about cleaning dirty laundry and less so when your laundry space is restricted to a cupboard somewhere in the bathroom or kitchen close to the water outlets. I supposed we could still be tidy and chic:
The Container Store > Platinum elfa Laundry Door & Wall Rack contemporary laundry room

Some of you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated laundry room with ample tabletop space and plenty of storage for baskets, various types of detergents and the ironing board. Like the kitchen, bigger is better and having an island in the middle is a dream.
Laundry contemporary laundry room
Laundry room with island
Pleated fabric to cover untidy shelves
Colourful pictures and a fun theme makes laundry hardly a chore
Wallpapered elegance
Little jars to store little things lost
Perhaps an air-conditioner would be ideal for Malaysian laundry rooms?

PS: This post was inspired by my dear friend, Mrs Retired Wedding Planner.

* Images via Houzz, The Designer's Attic, Bright, Bold & Beautiful and Scandinavian Chic.

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