What ostensibly began as a project to create a simple family home has resulted in a glorious retreat that makes full use of an enviable location.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

What ostensibly began as a project to create a simple family home has resulted in a glorious retreat that makes full use of an enviable location.

WHO A multigenerational family

HOME A bungalow in Country Heights

SIZE 13,000sqf

My Reading Room

In the Klang Valley, if you have the wherewithal and the right architect, it’s still possible to live in a home among lush greenery, with the convenience of the city at your doorstep.

Country Heights Damansara is a neighbourhood offering the best of both worlds, and Melvyn Kanny, founder and principal of MJ Kanny Architect, was in the unique position to design not just one, but two homes in this desirable neighbourhood. Events unfolded rather serendipitously; after Melvyn finished work on a bungalow in the area, the result was so impressive that the neighbour of his previous client approached him to work on their new house. He happily agreed to take on the project, being well versed with the site. It also gave him the opportunity to design the new house to complement his existing client’s house, whilst respecting its privacy.

As Melvyn was familiar with the terrain, he looked to the site to inspire the ultimate design of the house. Perched on top of a hill in Country Heights Damansara, the site commands an amazing view of undulating hills, and glimpses of Mont Kiara and Desa Park City in the distance. Because of its lofty location, the immediate views are of the canopy of trees, and Melvyn capitalised on this by designing full-height glass doors that can slide away, thus creating a feeling of being among nature.

“This became the inspiration behind the overall concept – the capturing of views. Almost like a camera capturing certain angles, a series of portals were created, focusing the views from a certain space and cutting off unwanted sights or noise, for example, from the nearby NKVE highway. The natural slope of the site also inspired the building form, which steps down from the road level. These steps were subtly emphasised in the cascading roof form,” says Melvyn.

My Reading Room

“A metal decked roof with a stepped profile was specifically designed to reflect the building’s stepped form and its natural surroundings. The metal cladding is wrapped around the walls to create privacy from neighbours on the side, as well as offering some protection from the sun. The cladding also penetrated the interior spaces to create an illusion of seamlessness between the outdoors and indoors.”

The owners’ requirements were a three-bedroom house for themselves and their two teenage children, with enough room to accommodate their elderly parents who live with them. To ensure the parents had privacy, Melvyn housed them on the lower level, complete with their own kitchen, living room, and garden. For interacting with the rest of the family, there is easy access to the upper levels through a centrally located lift near the upper living quarters, made possible by the sloping terrain.

While the overall architecture of the house is deliberately understated to allow the lush surroundings to take the spotlight, the focal point of the house is the lap pool that straddles the length of the living and dining rooms, with forested hills and the canopy of trees in the background. Because the house sits on a hilltop, the breeze flowing up the hill is cooled by the pool as it enters the space, so large sliding door panels were created to facilitate this, negating the need for frequent use of air-conditioning.

My Reading Room

“All measures were taken to blur the lines between the interior spaces to the pool and view beyond. Even though the dining room faces the morning sun, I managed to convince my client to omit curtains in order to keep the sense of openness, and to emphasise the connection to the external environment,”  Melvyn enthuses.

Now, the ample living room opens up to the dining room and kitchen, to allow free flow of air into the house, while the high double-volume ceiling enables air to flow up to the upper levels and be discharged through the windows above.

The staircase is also an important feature, as the vertical movement between the floors is celebrated with travertine-clad walls and a single panel of glass that blurs the building envelope with the garden below. The indoor living spaces flow seamlessly to the outdoor terrace and patios, which is where the owners spend most of their evenings enjoying the cool evening breeze and the twinkling of distant city lights.

My Reading Room

Although the owners did not specifically request a green house, Kanny’s design philosophy has always been to create houses that are environmentally sustainable, and as such, many passive environmentally-friendly elements were incorporated.

The sun orientation and the accompanying heat is controlled by introducing a “safari” styled roof. This is achieved by covering the flat concrete with a metal decked roof to create an umbrella effect. Sun-shade louvres were integrated with the facades and the roof to increase shade, while the western and eastern elevations are mostly clad in metal portals that create a second skin, which keeps the sun from heating up the building.

The pool and water features that surround the living spaces act as a heat sink, also providing evaporative cooling by capturing wind sweeping up the hill and cooling it down before it enters the house. Ample double-volume spaces also encourage natural ventilation and discourage the use of air-conditioning. Finally, the home is equipped with standard green features such as rainwater-harvesting tanks, low voltage DC water-heaters, inverter air-conditioning units, and LED lighting.

The end result is a liveable and lovable home, which surpasses the initial brief and is just as “green” as the picturesque tree canopy surrounding it.