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The stifling, humid heat of a tropical climate can make choice of surface finishes an important consideration


It is well known that tones and surface finishes can do much to alter the atmosphere of a room. In a cool climate, bright colours may be used to generate psychological warmth, and vice versa in a warm climate.

In tropical Malaysia, it is perhaps unsurprising that the owner of this top-floor high-rise apartment decided to follow a minimalist design philosophy, characterised by the colour white, extensive glazing and polished concrete floors. However, the humid living conditions weren't the only reason for this choice of form, says the interior designer, Kirk Robinson.

"Because of the classic white leather furniture it was a logical step to follow through with that colour theme. White does also have that cooling aspect, however, there are so many shades of white available that matching can be difficult," he says.

The open-plan main living area of the apartment includes the stark, white kitchen, while internal glazing separates the dining area from this space.

Living room furniture includes Barcelona chairs and bed set, designed by Mies van der Rohe, and a Grand Confort Sofa by Le Corbusier.


The apartment walls were painted with the purest white paint available, matched in the kitchen by an Arctic White LG Hi-Macs hard-acrylic benchtop.

Although the apartment was bought off plans, the owner was able to gain total control over the interior design, by specifying a number of purchasing conditions.

Most typical developments usually have limited glazing to reduce heat intake. In this case, however, the owner wanted extensive glazing to maximise the city views.

The problem of heat control was combated with ducted air conditioning, rather than a wall mounted unit. As the apartment is on the top floor, this system was able to be used. To prevent staining near the diffusers, they were recessed.

Blinds were also recessed into bulkheads, so when drawn up, they maintain the lines of the different rooms.

"Perhaps the biggest challenge was selling the ideas to the contractors, as they had difficulty accepting some of the solutions given they were so far from the norm," he says.

One such specification was a polished concrete floor.

"One thing I didn't want to do was opt for soft flooring. Timber is a popular flooring choice here, but it doesn't have the cooling properties of tile, granite or concrete," he says.

However, even when polished and coated with sealant, the floor lacked the desired sheen. Applying a patina of wax proved a successful pull up remedy.

The spacious apartment has two bedrooms and an office that can also double as a third bathroom, complete with ensuite, if required.

Cube-shaped, the office has a distinctive facade of ceiling-to-floor glass, joined above door level by an aluminium strip. Storage cabinets are built in to the walls, with 130° hinges enabling easy access to interior items.

A recessed counter, made of a hard acrylic similar to that used in the bathrooms and kitchen, provides another work or storage space. The office desk is wood, painted white, lacquered and connected through underfloor wiring to phone and electricity cabling.

Moving through to the master bedroom, the modern aesthetic is maintained. Large, sliding mirrored wardrobes and extensive storage with negative detailing feature in this room.

The entrance to the master bathroom is doorless; however, the ensuite toilet is contained in a separate room. A trough-like rectangular sink in the master bathroom is another recurrence of the hard acrylic surfaces found elsewhere in the apartment. Double-doored medicine cabinets provide space for toiletries.

First published date: 03 March 2006

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Credit List

Interior designer Kirk Robinson (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Builder Kwanli Concept Design
Kitchen manufacturer Signature Kitchen
Audiovisual Bose; Bang & Olufsen
Plasma Hitachi
Kitchen cabinets Cabinet Industries
Benchtops LG Hi-Macs Arctic White
Oven De Dietrich
Ventilation and dishwasher Teka
Furniture Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs and bed; Le Corbusier Grand Confort Sofa