Making a house into a home is hard work, no matter what city or country you find yourself living in. Walking through your own front door for the first time after weeks & months of hard work making everything just so and realizing you’re “home”, is a feeling unlike any other, and believe me, I’ve done it more times than I care to count! Well alright, to count…..in the past 10 years, I’ve lived in 9 homes and in total over 33 years, my count is at a staggering 23+ homes mark, spanning 3 continents. Yea….I’ve moved a time or two in my life- both as a child and as an adult.
Now picture that feeling of being in your home, embrace the memory, and envision yourself as an expat…..intense right? The desire for us to find a house here in Kuala Lumpur & make it a “home” was of the utmost importance, especially when the distance from our old home in Indianapolis to our new home in Kuala Lumpur is 9,432 miles (or 12,179.33 km)!! That is a LONG way from anything and everything familiar to us. I no longer have my trusty sidekicks- Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Z Gallerie, West Elm, Macy’s, Pier One, World Market, Target, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Costco, and various other time-sucking & decadent home furnishing & knick knack stores to wander through. And don’t even get me started on all my favorite online stores that I order from and usually ship directly to our home in the states…all of which is either just not possible or way to cost prohibitive to ship to Malaysia. For a girl who prides herself in making a house a home, it’s a dilemma let me tell you!
All of the above is not to say that making a house into a home is impossible in Malaysia…..it just takes some creativity, some patience, some thinking wayyyyy outside the box, and some compromise! The beauty & fun of creating a home overseas though is the “fusing” of cultures & histories. Yes I can get Teak, Mahogany, Rosewood, Cherry, Elm, Pine, Walnut, & other types of timber pieces at the above named stores in the states….but they will most likely be sold at a higher price as well as being mass produced, so already you lose an element of individuality, uniqueness, and history, let alone the cost difference! I love the fact that our home here in KL reflects pieces and history of our various homes within the states, as well as pieces we have already scooped up while out here in Malaysia, creating a unique “Asian/American Fusion”.
Teak is hugely popular here throughout Asia. Most common to Indonesia, Teak is a beautiful timber that can be dressed up or dressed down, to whatever occasion you are looking for. Teak is the type of timber that can be “reclaimed”, meaning that it was used in the past (100+ yrs at times) as a door or a side to a building, but then re-used today for a dining room table. So in this instance, the wood is already used to the extreme environmental changes here in Asia and can withstand the humidity, the heat, the cold, the rain, and more, with no (or very minimal) shrinking & expanding, making them perfect for both indoor and outdoor living spaces. The same cannot be said for “non-reclaimed” teak….something to be aware of in your shopping adventures, though still worth the buy for indoor use, you will just lose much of the character in the grains of the wood.
Anyway, as I was googling “teak” phrases, Teakia was found by coincidence. One of my biggest gripes about Malaysia is the lack of information available- whether at all or correct, on the web. It is baffling to me, but nonetheless, here we stand. Sure there are furniture chain & 1-off stores around KL that sell teak, but none like the family run business of Teakia. Teakia is unique in that they are both the manufacturer as well as the retail business….so there is no middle man. Do you know what that means?? It means, CHEAPER. A husband and wife team run the business and they are very close knit with all their workers. They have a showroom in Shah Alam and their manufacturing plant resides in Indonesia (I can’t for the life of me remember if its on Sumatra or more like Jakarta). Although their website lacks substantial information and is rarely updated, their showroom is a 3-story impressive display. Upon entering, they not only show you around, but will also sit down with you and scroll through hundreds of pictures on their laptop of previous work done. In fact, impressively over 50% of their business comes from custom-made pieces, the other coming from designs already showcased in their retail outlet.
We had sold our old dining room table back in the states before moving out here in anticipation of purchasing something new. We were looking for something casual, yet could be dressed up. We wanted to seat 8 people and loved the idea of a square table, where everyone could easily see and talk with one another. I brought a picture of something I had seen in a magazine, as well as a liking aspects of one I saw on their website. Asma, the owner, sat down with me and sketched out the dimensions we were looking for. She pulled up the table we liked from their website and from that picture, we were able to customize the detail work of the edges, the base, the chairs, even the color of the stain. We chose reclaimed teak and as you can see from the picture above & below, our piece came out to perfection!
We also wanted to upgrade from our Queen size bedroom set (to be relegated into our guest room) to a King size set, and thought, how hard can this be? Naively, we had no idea that there were only Asian King (shorter) & Super King (American regular King) dimensions, yet no CA King (a bit narrower than regular King, yet longer) options, unless you got it custom made.
Once again, I had brought in a couple pictures of ideas that we liked, and also lucked out on finding a model shown on their laptop that we really just fell in love with! We loved everything about the set, and made minimal changes. We increased the height of the base so that it was taller for us taller Americans, and we adjusted the frame to accommodate a CA King size mattress. Additionally, we knew that we would want a plush pillow top mattress so we also increased the height of the headboard so that the character of the teak would still be visible above the pillows. We included 2 nightstands, 1 tall dresser, and 1 long dresser. They turned out fantastic, and the detail showcased the grains in the reclaimed teak perfectly!
After we received our dining and bedroom set (which took about 8 weeks), I decided I wanted to also purchase a matching dressing table for a nook in the bedroom. They had kept our old info and Asma and I prompting designed from scratch a dressing table to fit into it’s designated nook perfectly, along with a little stool to match. I loved the way this piece turned out- all the character & the history of the reclaimed teak is beautiful….they are great conversation pieces!
Last, but certainly not least, I want to share with you our experience at Bliss beds. It’s funny and obvious looking back on it now, but somewhat frustrating at the time while we were juggling a ton of other balls in the air, but we had no idea how hard it would be to find a CA King size mattress, including good quality and at a reasonable price. We found an absolute GEM at Bliss Beds. Located in Solaris Dumatas, Bliss is a small showroom (2 locations total in KL) housing Serta and Naturatex brands, along with a few other select brands. Upon entry, we were pretty much sold. Their showroom was clean, well laid out, & the salesman (Loges), was kind, not pushy, extremely knowledgeable, and had the perfect “sales” balance. We liked him immediately. We got to work- I mean, searching for the perfect mattress is hard work. You have to take your time lying down and tossing & turning on each one to decipher which will suit you best for the 6-8 hrs you spend in it every night (well, maybe more like 8-10 including reading and wake-up time).
Once we laid down on the Serta Grand Lagoon, we were done. We both made a production of exhaling loudly, and I just about asked Loges to turn down and lights so I could go to bed right then and there. It was magic and just what we were looking for. Soft, but still firm, pillow-top, breathable (super important in this heat), and body-cooling features were a bonus! When we asked about “custom” CA King sizes, he said it would not be a problem…and he would give us the mattress at the Super King (standard) price AND throw in custom CA King sheets to boot (also cannot find here in KL due to CA King not existing). All in all, it was a deal we could not refuse. It took about 6 weeks for manufacturing (here in Malaysia) and delivery, and was well worth it. We sleep amazingly well on this plush Serta!
So that’s it, you now know where we eat and sleep every day ! I do have a couple disclaimers I want to point out. Both Asma at Teakia and Loges at Bliss were phenomenal. Both had superb customer service and were friendly and professional. That says a lot coming from Malaysia where customer service can be a bit hit & miss most days. Due to tons of research and shopping around, we also feel that the prices we bought all these pieces at were the most competitive around town, give the fact that they were the highest quality and all custom requests.
I wouldn’t be doing my job as a writer though if I didn’t tell you though about 2 hiccups we had- 1 with each shop. Starting with Bliss, when the mattress was delivered, the delivery guys broke a hallway light fixture of ours. The manager of Bliss was very apologetic and in fact, not only replaced that light fixture with something similar, but also replaced the one in another hallway so that they were matching. Nice touch, and something that could happen to anyone, anywhere you lived. In regards to Teakia, when I ordered the dressing table to match the rest of the bedroom set, that individual order got “lost”, meaning that 6-8 weeks after I ordered it when I was expecting it to arrive, it took ANOTHER 10 weeks to get here, along with a plethora of phone calls to others within the shop (Asma was out of town on a family emergency) who knew nothing of my order and no idea on how to solve the problem. A 10 week delay is unacceptable and although I was fuming mad at the time given the fact that they already had my money, I also understand that things happen, issues arise, and we all learn from the mistakes. In the end, everything turned out great. Asma was extremely apologetic and I wouldn’t hesitate giving them more of my business in the future as well as recommending them to everyone I know. One final point, since the dressing table was to fit in a small nook, the measurements had to be perfect. When it arrived, it was slightly too big and would not fit in the nook. Not a problem- they took it outside and shaved off a bit of each side, re-stained it, and brought it back upstairs. That is service!
A few other noteworthy items- aren’t our bedside table lamps fab?! We snatched these up at an adorable little shop in Bali called Panapoe. The maps over our headboard were ordered on Etsy from an artist out of Colorado, USA (her name is KIMBRA- what?!?!?!?!) and the other painting to the side of the bed is from a trip we took to Rio De Janiero, Brazil.
Enjoy home shopping and stay close….we will be posting about 3 other favorite home stores here in the next few weeks!
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