A cosy PJ house with character

PHOTO: A cosy PJ house with character

Upon entering Jalan 14/36 of Section 14, Petaling Jaya, one certainly can't miss this house.

From the exterior, the house which has a flat-roof, sports a contemporary design with white-washed walls and a beautiful porch.

"My neighbours always come over to admire my porch - some even take pictures," said the lady of the house, Teresa.

Teresa, 82, who lived in Bangsar before this, chose to purchase a property in Section 14 so that she would be close to her sisters.

"Both my sisters are staying in this area - they told me that if I do intend to move, it would be a good to move somewhere closer to them," said Teresa.

She recalled: "It was back in February 2011. I was at my sister's house and was reading The Star newspaper when I came across an advertisement for this house. I wanted to view the house, so I asked my sisters to come along with me. They weren't free at that time but I was so adamant that I called my taxi driver and asked him to take me to this house."

According to Teresa, she liked the house instantly. The 22' x 75' single-storey link house built in the 1950s was perfect for her. "As I entered the house, I knew it was going to be a good place for me to live in and without much hesitation, I bought it," said Teresa.

"It has three rooms and it doesn't need much maintenance," added Teresa who lives alone. She bought the house at approximately RM300,000 (S$120,528).

Love for reclaimed materials

A unique feature about the house is the usage of reclaimed materials. Room doors, beams, pillars, and the back door are all made from reclaimed materials. Even the living room coffee table is made of wood from a demolished shop in Lebuh Ampang.

The man behind the design and renovation of the house is Teresa's nephew Justin Santiago. A few years back, Justin started to create functional art pieces using reclaimed materials.

"I first noticed how much materials could be reclaimed when I first renovated my parents' house. I saw that there were a lot of materials that could still be used, so I kept the materials and discussed with my contractors on how we could reuse them," said Justin, 43.

He said, "The back door is built out of old window frames that are made of hardy wood. We could also use a plastic door to replace it but after a while it will rot. A good example is the main entrance gate which is made of metal and is new but it's already starting to rust."

"An interesting feature of the house is also the master bathroom which has a feature wall made out of louvered glass. The glass is glued to the wall and creates a pretty pattern," said Justin.

He pointed out that the majority of people nowadays tend to go for new materials but those who want a certain kind of look and character to their homes would opt for his designs. His aunt agreed saying that sometimes it is better to use reclaimed materials as they are more solid compared to most materials these days.

"It has to look even better than normal items because for people to make the transition from buying new materials to using reclaimed materials, it has to be better than what is already in the market," said Justin.


When asked about the renovation, Teresa said, "I wasn't able to travel from Bangsar everyday so I left most of the decisions to Justin. He did what he thought would be applicable yet look amazing and I went along with his ideas. I'm very happy with the outcome."

The living room and dining area is separated by a partition which is also made of reclaimed wood.

The house came with only one bathroom but Justin knew his aunt would not want that type of layout. Therefore, he got the contractor to build an ensuite bathroom for the master bedroom and the back room as well.

"I've also added a French window for the living room and the master bedroom," said Justin.

He added, "As this is an old house, we had to ensure that we redo the roofing if not it will leak when it rains. However, we didn't change the tiles - we just needed extra tiles so we had to source for it around this area. Coincidently, someone down the road was removing and discarding the old roof tiles, so we asked if we could have it and he said yes."

As there was not much structural renovation involved, it only took six months to complete the renovation which cost approximately RM150,000.

The living room is Teresa's favourite area of the house.

"It's bright and airy here so I feel comfortable when I relax and read my book," said Teresa. One will notice that the television is not placed in the living room but in one of the rooms. Teresa explained, "There's a reason why I don't have a television here - I don't want my guests to be watching television when they come and visit me."

Justin Santiago Designs

Justin who comes from a diverse background has three degrees - one in Applied Science, a Law degree and a Masters in Business. His core expertise is in market research and consulting.

"All these areas are helpful in the work that I do now and I can advise my clients as well," said Justin.

After turning his hobby into something he's very passionate about, he started his own brand - Justin Santiago Designs. "Right now I have my own team - I'm the designer and I lead a team of builders. I've also formed some partnerships with people from the environmental aspect of things. They can advise me on features that can help promote natural lighting, ventilation and much more."

"We collect the unwanted wood, glass, stones and metal and recycle them into new furniture. The concept behind our product is that we encourage people not to waste material," explained Justin. As such, his love for beautiful things has sparked endless creative works of art which include coffee tables, side tables and unique home accessories. Inspired by a lot of things, Justin tries not to look at interior design magazines as he does not want to be influenced by them.

He shared that each of his products has its unique character and story behind it and there are no two pieces alike.