Rahila Malik recently renovated the first floor of her two-storey penthouse at President Park and Masala gets the first look!
As you walk through the front door of aspiring interior designer Rahila Malik’s home, your eyes are immediately enthralled by the outdoor seating area. Quaint and charming, it features a swing with an impressive canopy and sweeping curtains, perfect for entertaining guests and holding intimate candlelight dinners. “I always say it’s the Hamptons meets English garden,” she tells me, as she leads me outside. “It may be a fusion of styles but it works.” Not only is it the focal point of the home, but it is the ultimate representation of the ethos that dominates the stylistic choices of her treasured abode.
Having spent her youth in England, and much of her working life in Australia and Bangkok, Rahila has been exposed to a variety of different cultures, from both sides of the globe. These influences are clearly evident in her lavish interiors, from the pictures on the wall — most of which were painted herself — featuring day-to-day scenes and buildings from her travels in Cambodia, Spain, Vietnam and Pakistan, to the unique custom-made furnishings sourced primarily from Chiang Mai.
The balcony area is probably the best toast to her childhood in the UK. Easy to set for afternoon tea, it is surrounded by pots of red and yellow roses, and stands out thanks to the contrasting blue and white colours which give it a relaxed, seaside vibe. “My initial vision was a bit different,” she explains. “I wanted a black-and-white built-up canopy, but I learnt to adapt because being in a rented place, I didn’t want to go overboard with my expenditure. I was very lucky to find that particular swing at an unbelievable price from Index. I’m also a big fan of IKEA and got the curtains from there. I had my seamstress cut out a panel and sew the black cloth into a section of the white curtains.”
But that’s not where the personal touch ends. Each of the detail on the pillows was also hand-made with the tassels and buttons bought from Phahurat Market near Riverside. “Tassels are a favourite of mine,” she says with a smile. “I love how they just add an understated flair to whatever they are affixed to. When you’re in a rented house, there are certain restrictions. I’ve learned that if you can’t get exactly what you want, then you adapt.”
Looking at the images of how the penthouse first appeared, the level of dedication and detail that went into the ‘adaptation’ is no doubt evident. Rahila spent over five years working in luxury retail at Tiffany and Co. as a sales manager in Brisbane, Australia, and was heavily involved in visual merchandising, because as she tells me, she has “an eye for knowing where something belongs in a room.” Sofas were re-arranged, tables and curtains were replaced, and even the walls were repainted from bland beige to a more inviting, contemporary grey. “Grey is the new white,” she says. “Visually, it goes well with every colour, is a great background for art, and helps to showcase a piece.”
One of the major renovations was in the living room area. “I have this knack for looking at a room and knowing exactly where something should go. When I first moved in, I took these sofas out and replaced them with the ones in the TV room. They were recliners and they didn’t fit,” she says, introducing this section. Interestingly, the inlay in her living room table was originally an oriental lattice framework used to hang clothes. “I just loved the pattern and told the store-owner to make me a table from that,” she says as I lean down to get a closer look.
The concept of transforming something antique into a striking centrepiece isn’t just limited to that ornament alone. One item in the entryway near her front door is particularly fascinating. An opium bedframe found in Chatuchak Weekend Market several years ago found a new life as a mirror when Rahila had a glass plate set into it. Her TV room is also filled with plenty of unique ethnic relics from the two Korean chests on either side of her sofa to the pastel-coloured Burmese temple offering box in the corner next to the window. “Of all the pieces I bought from the UK when I moved back to Bangkok, I kept only a select few,” she shares. “For instance, the dining table which I bought 20 years ago from Chiang Mai is made from recycled teak.”
Another precious keepsake is the framed piece of fabric hanging on the wall between the TV room and living room area. It was her late mother’s wedding saree and features embroidery made with threads of real gold. Underneath that sits yet another cultural artefact — a Burmese wedding trousseau that is intricately crafted with flower motifs.
Besides anchoring each space of her home with stand-out key pieces, colours are another way Rahila creates contrast, catching the eye with a stunning bookshelf unit that breaks up the main open area into the living room and dining room sections. A yellow and lavender portrait of an Australian Jacaranda tree takes pride of place here, while on either side, red birdcages are hung with yellow tassels for visual impact. “Birdcages are another favourite of mine. I love the whimsical feel and the delicate look of the bars,” she says. “The tassels subtly match with the yellow of the background, so it all just ties in nicely.”
She points out a full-length mirror hanging on the left side of the Jacaranda painting, which she deliberately bought to complement the living room table. “When you have such vast space, there’s got to be continuity,” she tells me. “Everything has to flow or it just won’t look right. In my home, every room has its own story, but it still works
as a whole.”
Currently pursuing a career in interior design, Rahila is passionate about home décor. Altogether, her home manages to strike the right balance between chic modernity and laidback comfort. A firm believer in making the most of the space you have, she is a master at thinking outside the box and creating a residence that anyone would be proud to live in.