Refined, Modern and Tropical


Understanding a client is the first step in presenting a good plan for a private residence. One example of this can be seen in the beautiful home owned by a young couple near Graha Famili in Surabaya, East Java.

Photo by Sefval Mogalana

Measuring 657 sqm, the house was designed by Budhi Harmunanto and Ajeng Suryadityasari of b.h.a. Architecture & Interior Planning, while the interior was the brainchild of Valvonne Interior’s Valdy Wijaya. Before the planning stage, the owner came to the designers with a brief to create a modern and natural house with a unique ambience. A standard look that is similar to most city dwellings was out of the question.

“Our sensitivity regarding the demands and imperfections of the [design] context was a challenge that we had to face,” Budhi said. Working with a corner house, b.h.a could explore the possibilities for various openings that offered picturesque views, setting it apart from other houses in similar locations.

The location also allowed the architects to develop positive and negative spaces. Deploying vernacular architecture allowed for the maximum exploitation of land. In b.h.a.’s development of the home’s living quarters, it is evident that they tried to turn the open space into its mass orientation. This eventually created something different from other nearby buildings.

Overall, the house, which sits on a site of 532 sqm, reflects a modern tropical flair. However, it does not display strictly tropical architecture. On close inspection, it offers good aeration, which creates rooms that are neither damp nor dry. The application of large openings was the most realistic solution, although b.h.a. anticipated this by adding a second layer and an adequate overhang to withstand the frequent, intense downpours of Surabaya.

As seen in other b.h.a. projects, a play of shades and shadows was also at work. The client’s brief, which asked for a building that was neither too dark nor too bright, was tackled with the addition of an outdoor space that was allowed to protrude inside. The application of a second skin also created shade for the otherwise open surfaces of the building, which is especially beneficial during rainy season, as it prevents rainwater from entering the house. The second skin itself was crafted in an aesthetically pleasing manner, giving a distinct flavour to the facade of the building.

The house’s interior design is a striking riff on its architectural approach. A simple, modern and elegant tropical vibe was the theme used by Valvonne. “We took a cue from the feel that we got after witnessing the shape of the building and the room scaling done by the architects,” Valdy says. The harmonious collaboration between architect and interior designer ensured that a similarly harmonious blend of theme and concept was realized throughout the dwelling.

The two main rooms that became the design’s focal points were the guest room and living room. Inside the house, the guest room indirectly functions as a display room, as it is the first thing that guests see after the foyer. Anticipating this, Valvonne came up with a bold play of colours and shapes. Valdy also paid attention to the living room, where most of the occupants’ activities take place. As a communal space for the family, a lighter colour scheme was chosen for the room. The placement of an L-shaped sofa to dominate the room was offset by the couch’s simple, modern look and bright tone, which perfectly complements the natural colours of the surrounding.

A similar modern tropical feel was implemented for the house’s exterior and interior colour scheme. Timber and stone were used in their glorious natural state with only a few touch-ups to adjust the intensity of their finishing. The addition of a metallic hue gave a modern vibe to the house’s design.

The materials were naturally sourced, complementing the simple yet elegant artworks throughout the house. Fancy and contemporary shapes and colours were avoided, so that the classy and elegant ambience that the owner and designers want to achieve was not overly glamorous in appearance. The interior expertly brings together materials, furniture, colours, lighting and artworks and is one of the reasons why the house exudes a strong modern tropical feel that blends seamlessly with its architecture.

The placement of a pool that also acts as a point of orientation for the public rooms around it shrewdly complements the modern tropical ambience. It also helps create a microclimate inside the building site. The values that belong to the house are contained within the concept of a house that is formed through its spatial existence and also through the ambience that it creates. This expression can be clearly seen in this house as it skilfully interprets the elements of design into elegance and comfort that is craved by the occupants.

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Anton Adianto
Anton Adianto graduated from Parahyangan Catholic University majoring in architecture. His passion for writing, watching movies, listening to music, uncovering design, exploring the culinary world, traveling, delving into the philosophy of life, meeting people and disclosing all matters related to technology feeds his curiosity. Currently he resides in both Jakarta and Bandung.

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