In life, everyone needs a co-pilot to enjoy the clear blue skies and steer through the turbulences ahead together. For a bungalow in Seputeh, Kuala Lumpur (KL), all it needed was an actual co-pilot to transform it into a minimalist, open-space abode.
Jim Phuah, 31, who has been flying for 10 years with a local airline (with a business card that reads First Officer as his title) shares, “I studied economics and finance in RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and upon graduation, I got into a cadet programme. My duty is as a co-pilot. The next step would be captain.”
He might not be a captain just yet, but there’s no doubt that Phuah is a captain extraordinaire when it comes to expressing his creativity on abandoned or rundown homes. His latest project is a rundown bungalow in Seputeh. By the mention of Seputeh, most people would picture Mid Valley megamall or the famous Thean Hou temple. However, the house that Phuah renovated is located closer to Taman Desa. Trailing Phuah’s car via the back roads to the bungalow is likened to a taking a drive in an old neighbourhood where the roads are narrow, with some neat surprises (read: other resplendent bungalows) tucked in an area that still exudes an air that is likened to a sleepy old town.
When asked if it is indeed the Seputeh area, Phuah explains, “This is Seputeh. You see, Seputeh used to be one big enclave and today, it is divided by the Seremban highway. So, now it (Seputeh) is split and there are about 40 plus houses in this segment”.
Beautiful contemporary bungalow
The bungalow’s land area is about 5,800sq ft, with a built-up of approximately 4,000sq ft. It is rife with a medley of fresh elements, with an exterior that is almost entirely cement rendered. One is greeted by a koi fish pond on the right and there is some sort of illusion going on. It seems that the pond’s water runs underneath the home and garage, but it doesn’t. The original bungalow’s structure was a single storey house built prior to Merdeka, during the early 50s. Phuah demolished everything, except for two walls. He purchased the house in year 2008 and renovation works took eight months to complete. He orchestrated the whole look-and-feel by himself and worked with numerous sub-contractors who helped materialise his concept.
The bungalow shakes off most of its neighbours’ old-school homes. Walk past the entrance, and one is greeted with space – lots of it. It is one big space, literally within four walls. Standing at the main entrance, at one glance from the left to right, there’s a kitchen area, a 16-seater dining table and a living area, which happens to be Phuah’s favourite area.“I purchased the house in year 2008 for RM850,000. I spent about RM700,000 to rebuild the house; almost demolishing everything.
Very little of the original house is left,” Phuah elaborates. “It’s something different. I’ve done up many houses and I try to create a concept that is different. I’ve travelled to many countries around the world, so I pick the bits and pieces from here and there and put it back together. One good example is when I used to fly to Los Angeles. I would rent a car and drive around Beverly Hills area. Those are the houses that I dream of!”
Everyone’s attention is inexplicably drawn to the lap pool, which is 5ft deep, 40ft long and 10ft wide. There is also the lulling acoustics, courtesy of the “pipe rain shower”, at one end of the pool. Phuah says that easier part of the maintenance is putting in chlorine every four to five days. “The difficult part is vacuuming the dirt out. I could’ve engaged someone to maintain the pool weekly but that would cost me a few hundred per month. So at the moment, I am the maintenance guy (laughs).”
And that’s just the pool. When asked about the koi pond, he enthuses, “The pond reflects my interest in fishes. My whole objective is to achieve a zero maintenance koi pond.” After an exclamation of disbelief on my part, Phuah explains, “That’s where you are very wrong. A very simple rule of thumb is eco-system. Everything depends on each other. If you can cultivate a pond that is eco-balanced, then the good bacteria and bad bacteria co-exist. It will balance out and there is virtually zero maintenance.”
In the last eight months, Phuah claims that he has only drained the pond’s water once and cleaned its filter once. The fishes are very much alive and active. Point taken.
The bungalow is chock-a-block with interesting elements. On the right is a play room with a pool table. Then there is a room with cantilever stairs leading to a rest area. The wood for the cantilever steps are actually recycled from the old staircase. When questioned if the wood is secure, Phuah said that he had asked his biggest sized friend to use the steps and it passed the test.
The jaw-dropping moment is when one walks into the master bedroom. Its bathroom comes with a huge bathtub and the best part is the walk-in wardrobe. Phuah said that it was inspired by the TV series ‘Sex and the City’ in which Mr Big proposed to Carrie Bradshaw. Fittingly, Phuah said that the most essential thing for a home is family. “I have this house but I am still living with my family because that’s where my home is. This is my house, but I did not make it my home. Family is where you make your home. At the moment, this is my place to relax.”
The bungalow is the tenth house that Phuah has renovated and is planning to sell. He first ventured on this buy-renovate-sell model in year 2002 with link houses and has since progressed to bungalows. The areas that he usually looks into are Taman Seputeh, Bangsar, Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Taman Desa.“It started off with my dad. He is my sifu (mentor). He has been buying and selling houses all his life. The best thing is turning a hobby into a profitable endeavour. At the end of the day, I have fun doing it. It’s my own place. I get to design whatever I like,” says Phuah, who will be transforming the bungalow next door, which also belongs to him, into another dream concept. Currently, he lives with his family in the next street. Hence, this bungalow is largely (no pun intended) used a guest house or party setting for friends and families.
When Phuah looks at a property, he is disinterested in the building itself. For him, if the property is good, in the right location and accessible, he would consider investing. But when pointed out that he usually goes for abandoned houses, those at t-junctions or houses with number 4, Phuah clarifies, “Yes, generally people believe in Feng Shui. I am not targeting the mass public. I sell to someone who appreciates the house. To me, it is more of an art piece than a house. You can’t put a price to an art piece. Different people would value it differently.”
Image source: JPHomes
Original text above appeared in StarProperty and has since been removed from the StarProperty website.