Malaysian Timber in Applications

Peter’s Woody Heaven on Earth, Langkawi, Malaysia

Successful German entrepreneur and motorsport enthusiast, Dr. Peter Worm, finds peace and quiet, and a place to de-stress in a luxurious hideaway nestled among the treetops of a 150 million year-old Malaysian rainforest. Dubbing it his “heaven on earth”, this is where horsepower-talk takes a backstage to nature’s aural harmony of hornbills, hawk-eagles and other flourishing fauna.

Peter is in most aspects a “man-on-the-go”. The German US-trained mechanical engineer loves life in the fast lane, literally speaking, having had his first taste of success in motorsports at a tender age of 18 in the VW Beetle Slalom Cup in 1976. One race followed another, and he has since raced in a Ferrari F355, a Porsche GT2, a Lamborghini Diablo SVR and a Lamborghini Diablo GTR. Such was his passion for motorsports that in the year 2000, he founded the Konrad Corona team with the Formula 3 racing driver-cum-sportscar designer Franz Conrad. Outside of motorsports, Peter attends to his business interests, which includes (surprise, surprise!) supplying precision parts for racing cars and other automobiles.

So how does a man living life in the fast lane slow down and chill out? By having the ultimate ‘tree house’ that serves as a hideaway and a home when he is far away from home. And far from home, it is: perched dramatically on the hillside among the treetops the rainforests of Datai, Langkawi Island in Malaysia, is Peter’s luxuriously appointed woody hideaway, named Villa Hutan Datai. This is where Peter unwinds, recharges and occasionally entertains friends and family, and where langurs, squirrels and kingfishers count as his immediate neighbours.

Flashback to 1999: Peter did not require much convincing to acquire a 4.5-acre piece of undulating forest land in Datai in Langkawi, one of Malaysia’s idyllic island retreats. The property,offering breathtaking panoramic views over the Andaman Sea, was brimming with potential. Arguably the most perfect spot for the ultimate hideaway that he could also call a home away from home, this was where Villa Hutan Datai was born (“hutan” in Malay means forest or jungle).

Drawing from the Malaysian coastal architecture theme, Peter decided to build four individual wooden suites comprising a master pavilion and three guest houses, with separate communal living and dining halls surrounding a central courtyard that features a pool All of the structures are raised on stilts, and connected to each other via boardwalks and stairs. The suites were built in sympathy to the terrain, so they ‘stand’ on different levels, with the master suite situated at the highest elevation on the site. Railings connecting walkways and stairs are made of Red Balau and Yellow Balau.

All the suites sport a high ceiling with trusses made of Yellow Balau and Red Balau. Solid hardwood Red Balau and Merbau flooring help to up the luxury quotient. The master suite is the biggest and most luxuriously appointed among all. The luxury note plays on in the master bathroom, which has solid Yellow Balau beams supporting its ceiling. One can imagine how a glass-walled Jacuzzi give guests the feeling that they are lounging amidst treetops, providing a connection between the beautifully applied timbers within and their ‘cousins’, the trees outside.

Yellow Balau has also been utilised for the windows, doors and door frames in all the suites. And what better way to dream the sweetest dreams on a tropical island whose history is steeped in legends and romance, than in the custom-made Yellow Balau four-poster beds in all the suites?. “Timber has perfectly complemented the whole feel and theme of my piece of heaven on earth,” explained Peter.

Other furniture such as wardrobes, show cabinets and writing tables are made of a lighter Malaysian species, Nyatoh. Villa Hutan Datai is managed by the Datai, a 6-star resort that is the development’s immediate neighbour. In fact, guests of the villa can also avail themselves of the facilities and spa at the Datai.

As per traditional Malay timber houses, all the suites come with a verandah. This aspect of vernacular Malay architecture contributes to the cooling of the house’s interior and keeps out wind-swept rain. In fair weather, it also enables the occupiers to enjoy the outdoors and, in the villa’s case, catch the breezes from the turquoise-coloured Andaman sea. Given its exposure to the elements, durability was provided courtesy of Malaysian Red Balau and Yellow Balau used for the verandahs and railings.. For the roof shingles, Peter chose Belian – also known as Borneo Ironwood – sourced from Sarawak.

The communal areas like the living room and formal dining areas are where he hosts private parties and sumptuous soirées. The living room doubles as a showcase for Peter’s private collection of Asian artifacts. Large picture windows made of Yellow Balau frame the 270-degree view of the surrounding lush greenery and a slice of the Andaman shoreline, providing ‘live art’ and complementing Peter’s collection of Buddha statues, Chinese wooden cabinets and other ethnic craft collectibles. Red Balau and Yellow Balau trusses that support the ceiling are laid out to resemble the inside of a ship’s hull, somewhat hinting on the marine theme which seems rather apt, given how close the development is to the sea. Different shades of solid Merbau and Red Balau are laid to create a dark-light-woodgrain linear pattern for the living room floor, a clever collaboration with nature, indeed.

“Although concrete and tiles have been used extensively for the poolside and some other parts of the villa, I strongly feel that timber is the unifying language that pulls the whole design of the development together, lending both warmth and romanticism to a luxurious retreat while helping it blend perfectly with the surrounding verdant greenery,” said Peter.

Thirteen years have passed since the property was built, but with proper and regular maintenance, the villa looks as good as new Said Peter: “There’s no compromise when it comes to maintenance, just as it is with sports cars. Actually, timber is not that difficult to maintain, and its beauty is timeless. And that’s what I love about timber and the value that it has added to my little piece of heaven on earth. I absolutely love it here,” he concluded.