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Robert Cheng of Brewin Design Office was given carte blanche to design this family home in Indonesia for an aspiring art collector and his young family


When Robert Cheng of Brewin Design Office was given the floor plan of this apartment in the prestigious Keraton Private Residences in Jakarta, there wasn’t a single internal wall. The designer had the authority to locate rooms anywhere he saw fit, including the kitchen and bathrooms that are typically fixed to ensure efficiency within the stacked construction of a tower.

The client, as aspiring art collector with a young family, came to Cheng with a typical Keraton apartment: an unfinished interior where columns line the perimeter housing plumbing lines. The floor slab is set 45 centimetres below the finished level to allow enough gradient for the drainage pipes to reach anywhere in the plan from the columns.

‘This had interesting potential for us because we approached it as an architecture project minus the roof or facade,’ says Cheng, who helms the Singapore-based design studio. The final plan considers both formal and informal aspects of residential design. The lift opens to a corridor-cum-art gallery where two portals reveal the common living, dining and kitchen spaces. At the other end of the gallery, a door leads into the family room before splitting further into three bedrooms. ‘From their bedroom, each person has to walk though this family nucleus that is part of the private space,’ says Cheng. It’s a simple but effective gesture to improve the social aspects of domestic design. 

The material palette is sophisticated and favours natural materials. Silvery off-white Venetian stucco gives the ceiling and walls a subtle pearlescent sheen. Charcoal-coloured slate flooring in the common spaces adds an industrial touch, while American Walnut flooring in the private areas injects warmth. In the master bathroom, the sinuous veins of Moon Beige honed marble are splashed across surfaces like paint on a canvas, paralleled by the curves of decorative Lefroy Brooks bath fixtures. Linen blinds soften the tropical light while custom-designed carpets soften footfall.

As in all his projects, Cheng approaches the interior design in a holistic manner, considering all aspects from finishing to furniture. Vintage and modern pieces mix, with art a particular focus. In the living room, for instance, Indonesian artist Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo’s resin artwork Volcanic Ash Series #4 is complemented by a bespoke carpet in similar shades of greyish-blue and a dark Orobico marble coffee table from the Brewin Collection. A sculpture of leftover resin layers punctuates the gateway into the dining room, where a custom-designed Orobico marble dining table continues the material conversation from the living room.

Where necessary, Cheng has bestowed gravitas. The living room ceiling is nearly a metre higher than the rest of the house (a result of keeping pipes and ducts to either side). An Anish Kapoor gold dish hangs across the main entrance, its gilt echoing the solid brass door handle. Key thresholds are accented with solid timber frames, as are niches containing artwork and the dining room banquette seat.

At another time and with another brief, Cheng would have liked to explore the country’s artisanal culture. But here, at the client’s request, the interior design is guided by a more international flavour. The construction necessary to attain the refined aesthetic meant workmanship and products were mostly imported: timberwork was milled in Australia and assembled on site by Australian craftsmen; stone was imported from Singapore, and furniture and fixtures were sourced globally. Polished and cosmopolitan, in this home Cheng has pushed boundaries by giving a twist to domestic spatial planning and creating a holistic environment for both artwork and occupants.

Text / Jingmei Luo
Images / Marc Tan (Studio Periphery)