Malaysian Timber in Applications

Gooi Residence, Penang, Malaysia

Located in Bukit Panchor, Nibong Tebal, not far away from the mainland part of the Malaysian state of Penang, the 180 square-metre Gooi Residence sits stately on a 15-acre timber yard belonging to Gooi Kok Wah.

It is the office-cum-showhouse for the entrepreneur owner who not only salvages old timber structures from disused railway quarters, sawmills and kampong houses, but also renovates and restores old buildings.

The Gooi Residence is constructed entirely of recycled materials: timber columns, beams, trusses, floor boards, doors and windows, as well as antique bricks and even sanitary ware. Each piece of material and timber component has its own history. The house has a rustic feel to it, especially with the antique bricks which were laid fair-faced, or plastered but unpainted. It is timber that softens the rusticity to give the house a warm and inviting contemporary feel, through the roof trusses, the floorboards, side panels, stairs and wooden furniture.

All these disparate parts and components have been carefully orchestrated into a charming symphony of warm and rustic composition. Wooden furniture from the 50’s and 60’s adorn the living area, which has been deliberately kept sparse and low key.

Two terraces flank the lounge, one comprises a semi-open kitchen and dining area while the other is a nook perfect for a spot of afternoon tea, or a tête à tête. All the kitchen cabinets and work benches have been fashioned from recycled timber. Wooden latticework adorns part of the dining area to complement the retro-rustic ambience.

A row of timber-louvred windows – sourced from old shophouses in Ipoh – is installed on one whole wall of the reception hall as an architectural feature, which also facilitates cross-ventilation if need be. The reception enjoys a double height ceiling, and plenty of airiness and sunlight. A glass-and-wooden partition-cum-display shelf separates this double-height area from Gooi’s office, which has a small pantry and an en suite bathroom.

A simple timber balustraded stairway leads to the upper deck that has only one room with a dormer window for stargazing at night. This 90 square-meter of flooring is finished in Balau whereas the ground floor is of Merbau sawntimber. Each solid Merbau board measures 4.5 metres long, 38 mm thick, and 300 mm wide. All the recycled Balau and Merbau pieces had been carefully chosen for colour consistency, then sanded down and polished to perfection.

Gooi perceives recycling, especially timber components, as a sensible thing to do. Malaysian timbers that have been properly seasoned or conditioned are not only durable but also age well and would easily serve as a building material for at least 100 – 150 years with minimal maintenance. Timber also scores well on reclaiming efforts compared to brick or cement, as it can be easily re-worked to look as good as new, hence extending its useful life.