Couple Gives Up City Life To Live In Beautiful Malaysian Jungle Home

There's an 'outdoor cinema' too!

Cover image via La Hilir Tiny House

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Tired of living a mundane life, Allan and Irena decided to escape Kuala Lumpur with their family to build a beautiful home surrounded by nature

Wanting a simple yet more meaningful life, the couple, who previously lived in Petaling Jaya, decided to take the leap and move to Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan

Allan, who's from Manila, shares that he has been living in Malaysia for the past 16 years. Prior to moving to their current home, he worked with Tatler Malaysia's editorial and creative team for more than a decade, while his wife, Irena, is a freelance makeup artist who has worked with many clients, locally and abroad, including some VIPs.

With both of their well-established careers, Allan shares with SAYS that they're grateful to have experienced some of the best and most luxurious places and things.

However, they always felt trapped.

"Every weekend we'd go to our favourite mall and enjoy lunch or dinner and sometimes end up buying stuff we don't need, only with the false notion that it made us happy.

"We thought that our careers would bring us security and contentment, but as we rose through the ranks, so did our lifestyle, yet we were living from paycheck to paycheck," he adds.

"It's a vicious cycle. We wanted more but didn't realise that we're just filling a void in our lives."

Although they loved camping and would often head outdoors for a break, the couple found that it just didn't feel complete.

"We used to bring a bulky, heavy, two-room tent that fellow campers called a 'banglo'. It was painful, literally. We decided to be more mindful and pack only the vital stuff, at least I was able to see the car driving behind me! Guess what? We were no less happy than when we had all the fancy camping gear."

Miserable and needing a drastic change, they decided that it was time to live mindfully, not just minimally.

What truly makes their home unique is that, excluding the loft and outdoor decking area, it is only 300sqft!

But despite its size, there's not one moment where the family feels cramped living in it.

"We love tiny house designs but we're not doing this because of a trend. Our real motivation was the promise of a simple, back to basics lifestyle."

"There are five of us living in this tiny space and there are six separate spaces that each of us can utilise. There's a space for dining, praying, studying, watching TV, and relaxing and sleeping.

"There are two bedrooms each with a barn door for privacy and sleeping space in the loft for the boys. The loft is where we usually spend our time together as a family, especially at night when we hang out."

Another unique thing about the home is that it's an adaptation of a modern barn house, a concept that Allan shares is not widely seen in these parts of the world

"Although we are aware of the possible pitfalls of having this design, we still went for it and made adjustments to accommodate our tropical climate. Our roof and wall cladding repels heat efficiently. The fibreglass wool insulation together with ample windows circulate the air, which helps bring the temperature down especially in the afternoon."

The home is surrounded with lush greenery, but he explains that convenience was still one of their top priorities.

"Our place is just five minutes away from town and is close to shops, eateries, hospitals, grocers, and schools. We're blessed to have this location."

Living the 'modern kampung' life doesn't necessarily mean needing to sacrifice little joys.

The family set up a temporary 'outdoor cinema', using ropes to hang the screen and a tabletop for a projector.

So dreamy.

He explains that they designed the home themselves, which they refer to as 'La Hilir Tiny House', then hired external contractors to build it.

It took about six to eight weeks to complete it, costing them roughly RM85,000.

Naturally, building such a home came with its own set of challenges. Aside from trying to get contractors on the same page, material transportation was also a hassle, as there wasn't any proper road infrastructure at the time.

Thankfully, he shares that the location is not "too deep into the woods".

"Convincing the family [to move] wasn't easy, especially the kids. They feared they'd miss out on a lot and maybe lose friends eventually," he explains.

"Finances also play a big factor especially when a pandemic affects every decision you make. But we are all in this together as a family for the sake of learning and teaching our children to live mindfully, while hopefully inspiring and benefiting others in the process."

If you're planning to design or build a small home, Allan's advice is to pay close attention to the layout, colours, and furniture

"Consider how many people intend to live in the house and think about how they're going to use or live in each part of it. Traffic is a priority in small house design since there's not much room for everyone to move around, there's a potential that you'd be bumping against each other a few times a day."

He also suggests to pick a lightweight colour scheme, as this type of colour palette will give the small space an airy feel.

"Regarding furniture, you'd have to choose a minimalistic approach and only put in those that don't only look aesthetically pleasing but also add value to your life. And lastly, sparingly add plants! They can make your home feel cosy."

"Ultimately, La Hilir is not at all just about a unique house design or a pretty, natural surrounding. It offers you a glimpse of alternative living, which we fondly refer to as 'Modern Kampung Living'. 

"It's about appreciating the little blessings around you no matter how insignificant they may appear at the moment. La Hilir is about discovering a life that has full of potential."

The couple has also built a glamping site in the area for anyone who wants to camp in a comfortable and luxurious setup

They are currently working on a second site that will be up for rental and have plans for their home in the future as well.

"We'd love to redo the interior and go for a rustic elegant decor and maybe extend the outdoor decking in different places and multiple tiers, adjacent to the house. We're also currently gathering materials for the outdoor canopy using dried tree branches or trunks."

Allan encourages anyone to visit their glamping site when travelling is allowed again, adding that their "setup is very private and very suitable for families too".

To them, La Hilir isn't just a home. 

"[It's] a brand... and a symbol of our belief that one of the ways to happiness is through resisting the urge to accumulate unnecessary material possessions, living with what is only needed and within our means and 'learning' how to be happy and be contented with less."

You can follow the family's journey on Facebook and Instagram.

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