When you think about architecture from days gone by, pastoral vistas flush with detailed, archaic runes might come to mind. This, of course, also depends on which part of the world you’re from as traditional architecture varies from place to place. In Malaysia, traditional Malay house interior and exterior styles will undoubtedly conjure up some imagery of palm fronds, gabled roofs and plenty of wood. Akin to the classic elements of idyllic life, the traditional Malay house design boasts of a lot of charm. 

If picturesque views and old-school charm is your thing, you might want to consider borrowing a bit of Malay house architecture for your modern home. To get this look, let’s look at the basics of traditional Malaysian house design for some stylistic inspiration!

A Quick Background on Traditional Malaysian House Design

Stilts for elevation are a common feature in traditional Malaysian house design

Drawing inspiration from Asian and Islamic architecture styles, traditional Malay house design has a lot to offer. What’s more, Malay house architecture is a testament to the open-house culture, or kampung spirit, that presides over many Malaysian communities. 

Kampung houses, as they are known, typically follow an open-floor layout where most of the rooms are elongated, to promote the free flow of air. At the same time, these big rooms and expansive open layouts allow homeowners to host more guests during festival seasons.

Well-designed overhangs protect the home from harsh sun rays through the full-size windows

Traditional Malay house interior design also includes raised floors where the entire home is elevated by stilts. This protects the home from wild animals and flooding, as well as taps into higher-velocity air currents that are only accessible at a height. The elevated height also ensures proper ventilation across the home when combined with the open layout and full-size windows. 

Just one glance at a traditional Malay house interior can confirm one important thing: that these homes are sustainably built. Most kampung houses make use of natural, renewable materials such as timber, palm fronds and bamboo. Metal and other modern materials are hard to come by in traditional Malaysian house design. Therefore, the lack thereof makes these homes a stunning all-natural marvel.

Common Elements in Malay House Architecture

Charming Malaysian motifs dress up traditional kampung houses
  • Gabled roofs made with palm fronds (attap) or singgora tiles 
  • Interwoven bamboo walls 
  • Large windows shaded by overhangs to protect the interiors from the sun’s rays 
  • An elevated foundation typically raised by stilts 
  • An open-floor layout for maximum ventilation, along with partitioned rooms 
  • Elongated interiors that support get-togethers and the open-house culture of Malaysia 
  • Wide use of timber and bamboo to fortify design 
  • Intricate woodwork featuring Malaysian motifs on side wall panels 
  • The use of sustainable materials with a low thermal capacity that keeps the home cool 

Fun Fact!

Did you know that traditional Malaysian house design does not include the use of nails during construction? Houses are solely built by fitting two segments together that slot into each other like puzzle pieces. Moreover, this style of building does not include modern technology or metal fixings. Similarly, traditional Malay houses across the country also vary according to the region in terms of design and style.

Here’s What Modern Homes Can Borrow from Traditional Malay House Design

We’ve covered the many elements and materials that go into traditional Malay house interior design but how will these elements look in a modern setup? If you’re curious about how you can infuse some traditional Malay house design charm into your city home, this list is for you! Here are 5 simple ways you can incorporate the look and feel of Malay house architecture in a modern home:

#1: Make Use of Detailed Tile-Work That Can Lend a Dash of Traditional Charm

Peranakan and Melaka tiles are great for adding character to your home in a unique way

It’s a known fact that the right kind of tiles can transform your space almost instantly. Tiles help add a bit of character to your space with different designs and styles to choose from. Traditional Malay house interior design also makes use of specific tiles to give the home more personality. Some such tiles you may notice are the patterned Melaka tiles or Majolica tiles. These tiles originate from European culture and are glazed with art-nouveau themes on their surface.  

Use these tiles in a common area, balcony or for the kitchen backsplash to bring some antique charm to your new-age traditional Malay house design. You can also consider using Peranakan tiles and wooden panelling with traditional Malay motifs for extra visual interest.

#2: Recreate Malay House Architecture with Wood-Like Flooring Options

Bring in the essence of the idyllic outdoors with wooden embellishments and flooring

The most common material you’ll find across traditional Malay house interior design is the use of timber and bamboo. In other words, wood is a frequently used material for both exteriors and interiors in kampung houses. To get a similar look, consider using wood wherever possible in your home’s design. Go for wooden flooring, wooden wall panelling or even wooden furniture and accents to play up the theme of traditional Malay house design. 

However, not all types of wood are ideal for tropical climates where humidity and high temperatures dominate the weather reading. Though some types of wood are good to use in tropical locations, they can also be fairly expensive to invest in. Instead, you can also consider using wood lookalike materials for a budget traditional Malay house interior. Check out How to Select the Best Types of Tiles for Your Malaysian Home for more details.

#3: Embrace an Open-Floor Layout To Boost Cross-Ventilation

An unobstructed floor plan is key to ensuring the steady flow of air throughout the home

Traditional Malay house design focuses on an open layout that promotes cross-ventilation throughout the rooms. Even if you are not looking for traditional Malay house interior design for your home, good ventilation is always nice to have. 

So, while designing your home or renovating it, try to keep the layout as open as possible to promote airflow. To maintain some privacy across this open layout, you can consider using bamboo partitions where necessary.

#4: Large Windows Can Help Keep Your Home Cool in Tropical Climates

Floor-to-ceiling windows are a great addition to an open floor plan for added ventilation

One thing you’re bound to notice across traditional Malay house design are the tall windows, typically at floor-to-ceiling height. These elongated windows help usher in high-velocity winds that can cool down the interiors even during peak heat hours. 

A similar way to introduce this aspect of traditional Malay house interior design in your space is to embrace bay windows or full-length windows. Longer windows can bring more air circulation into your home as opposed to smaller entry points. What’s more, you can also style this space as a look-out alcove or a breezy seating area for evening snacks and beverages.

Also read: 6 Best Balcony Ideas for Homes in Malaysia That Are Practically Useful

#5: Like Traditional Kampung Houses, Welcome Nature by Introducing Botanicals around the House

Natural materials are a great addition to any home that wants to recreate the outdoors indoors

Most traditional Malay homes are commonly found in areas that have high vegetation and are surrounded by lush greenery and nature. However, post-urbanisation, homes that follow traditional Malay house design are harder to find in the heart of cities and highly developed areas. Since there’s a shortage of scenic greenery in urban areas, an easy way to bring in this element is to add a touch of nature to your home. 

You can do this with the inclusion of different types of botanicals in your traditional Malay house interior design. Go for plants with bigger-sized leaves to recreate the look of tropical palms or embrace something smaller if you lack space. Even though this might not immediately transport you back to the days of old, it’s sure to bring in a refreshing edge to your space. For more ideas, check out these 10 Smart Ways To Grow House Plants Even If You Don’t Have a Garden.

How Can Livspace Help You?

We hope this article has given you some insight on traditional Malay house design and how you can create an inspired look for your home. If you’re looking for stunning interiors as seen in the images above, Livspace can help you. All you have to do is book an online consultation

Prefer meeting in person? No problem! You can also find Livspace designers at the IKEA Damansara store. Hurry up and get quality home interiors from the best in the industry.