Upstairs, Downstairs and Upside Down


In most houses you expect to find the bedrooms upstairs with the living spaces at ground level. In this family home in South Jakarta, the owners agreed with the architect to break the rules and switch things around.

Photos by Fernando Gomulya

It is usual to see detached houses with the public zone on the lower level and the private zones on the upper levels, but this family of four agreed with their architect, Rudy Kelana, principal of Wahana Architects, to turn conventional thinking upside down.

The three-storey house is located in a densely populated urban area in South Jakarta. The ground level houses the carport, garage and the service area, so the maid can look after the gate throughout the day.

The architect decided to put all of the bedrooms on the first level. “During weekdays, their daily routines are to go to work and school. I put their bedrooms close to the door, hence there won’t be a hassle in coming and going to their home,” says Rudy.

The master bedroom occupies a generous space on the first floor. It is decorated with a wooden finish on three sides of the room, while the other side is fully open with clear floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking a small garden and a private terrace where the owners have put a treadmill for their daily workout. The room has parquet flooring which adds warmth, and is topped with a white ceiling that makes the room look even more spacious. The back panel of the bed acts as a divider to the walk-in closet and a powder room which leads to the bathroom.

The children’s bedrooms are next to each other but they are located away from their parents to provide more privacy to everyone. The children have a dramatic hallway leading to their bedroom – with massive concrete walls covering the hallway and a transparent floor made from thick clear glass which showcases the garden below. The children’s bedrooms are decorated with a wooden finish with a rich natural pattern.

A wooden staircase leads up to the second floor. This area is designed with a monochromatic colour scheme with the ceiling, concrete walls and floorings all in white – so the wooden staircase becomes the focal point of the room.

In addition to the staircase, Rudy designed another way for the guests to go to the second floor; a ramp connects the main entrance directly to the second floor. The ramp is separate from the main building and is attached to the outside wall of the house. The ramp is effectively integrated with the garden, so people can enjoy the greenery as they make their way to the second floor. When you get to the second floor there is an entrance foyer, which appears as if it is wrapped with small pieces of timber. The sense of being inside a birds nest gives a warm and comfortable feeling.

While the whole house is covered with a combination of concrete and timber, the living room is accentuated with a bluish interior. Located high above the ground, this room enjoys the best position with a lengthwise view of the garden on one side, and a clear floor-to-ceiling glass wall on the opposite side which overlooks the sloping garden on the first floor below. Only the central part of this room appears solid, as both sides have been constructed with clear glass so that people can fully appreciate the experience of high-level living. The owners like to share this lovely experience with family and friends most weekends. This spacious room on the top floor has a dining area and a pantry as well as the main living space so it’s the perfect space for entertaining or just relaxing and enjoying the view.

By breaking with convention this house has made optimal use of its site and created a truly stunning family home.

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Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.

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