Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
PENANG -- Having lived overseas for so many years, Xie Yang Tai left his job as a chef and returned to Penang in 2003.
While looking for a suitable place to settle down, Xie set out three conditions in picking his future home.
Firstly, the property had to be either a bungalow or a semi-detached house. Secondly, a condominium and thirdly, a unique historical home that must be located in town centre.
"By the time I came back to Penang, the values of historical buildings were already on the rise. As these houses had large built-up areas, the renovation cost would be high as well.
"Although I was fond of such houses, their environments, hygienic conditions and lack of parking spaces were my concerns too."
Xie finally found his dream house along Jalan Irrawaddy, thanks to the recommendation from a property agent.
"It was strange. I had viewed seven or eight houses along this street but the moment I stepped into this one, it was love at first sight."
What Xie liked about this place was the availability of parking in the front yard. The building itself is spacious with tall ceiling, exuding the feelings of an old building. The building offers versatility in designs and different changes can be made to the existing building. Besides, as the building structure remains largely intact, renovation cost could be kept to a minimum.
As no new houses of this type will be built in the future, their values can be hedged against inflation and make a great investible item.
"Heart" of the house
A qualified architect, Xie said the most essential part of a house is its central part which is known as the "heart" of the house.
"Most of the time the heart of a house refers to the living hall. But in my case, it is the patio."
The patio allows sunlight penetration and ventilation, especially in an elongated house.
Xie started his design works from the patio to make sure the front and rear parts of the house were compatible.
Most people would just lock up the patio but Xie thinks the patio is a comfortable space with cooling effects from the wind. On rainy days, the patio offers a different feel.
Having lived in France for many years, Xie came back to Penang with a lot of furnishings which are now displayed inside this old-styled residence, giving the place a truly exotic feel.
Xie doubled up as a "designer" in the planning for his house, making decisions on the furnishings and how the house should look.
After discussing with his wife, the couple agreed on the striking yellow-and-blue colour scheme reminiscent of the sunny French Riviera.
As the local people are still not used to having brightly coloured walls for a residential house, Xie's neighbours were worried the house would be turned into a kindergarten during the renovation phase.
Xie loves green plants, and has made good use of the available space to grow plants, including the front yard that serves as a garage.
Apart from the patio, all places outside of the rooms have also been filled with green plants.