A Home Away from Home at The RuMa

This newly opened hotel in Kuala Lumpur tells the story of the city’s past without tipping into pastiche, and the result is a bespoke, homely experience

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Hotels have long touted the ‘home away from home’ philosophy to project an image of comfort and respite for weary travellers. While many are well executed, they also tend to be somewhat generic. This is not the case with the newly opened RuMa Hotel and Residences in Kuala Lumpur, which delves deeper into the concept to meld a domestic approach with a strong sense of place. Every aspect of the hotel — from its name (rumah means ‘home’ in Malay) to the interior design and even the way cutlery is stored in compartmentalised drawers in guestrooms — reflects this idea.

The RuMa is managed by Urban Resort Concepts (URC), a management company known for its sophisticated brand of hotels, such as The PuLi Hotel and Spa in Shanghai. Working with local architecture firm BEP Akitek, Shanghai-based MQ Studio created a simple and contemporary shell. Inside, the city’s history and cultural elements play out in slow reveal, resulting in a distinct yet harmonious narrative.

For instance, six antique columns retrieved from an actual Malaysian house stand sentry at the entrance, heralding the hotel’s prevalent craft language. Instead of automated glass doors, guests enter a double-panelled door into the Birdcage — a rotunda wrapped in interlaced terracotta — inspired by the cages used to house canaries in the mines.

A second door leads to the reception area, dubbed The Grand Salon, where a copper ceiling and quarried stone walls continue the theme of Kuala Lumpur’s tin-mining past. Handmade polished clay floor tiles echoing those found in the Forbidden City pay homage to ancestral sojourners, and the twin sculptural staircases leading to all-day-dining restaurant ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery reference spiral staircases found in old colonial houses.

Rough stone, shimmery surfaces, timber and rattan characterise the other public spaces, such as the sixth-storey pool area and spa. Similarly, rattan furniture, local semangkok timber panelling, bronze and copper washbasins, and screens inspired by traditional kain pelikat clothing patterns in the guestrooms all reflect the designers’ dedication to uncovering — via research, speaking with locals, rummaging through flea market stalls and ambling around the city — and reflecting the country’s heritage and colour.

Text / Jingmei Luo
Images / Courtesy of The RuMa Hotel and Residences

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