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Sunday, December 3, 2023
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Brunei Town

Beyond walls

ANN/THE STAR – The sprawling and breezy condominium nestled atop a hill in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia exudes a rich tapestry of personality and narratives. Each captivating piece within the walls weaves a tale, echoing the journeys of its dwellers.

This was the cherished abode shared by Puan Sri Rathi Khoo and her late husband, historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim.

Rathi’s touch is most evident in the beautiful needlework that adorns their home but it’s also in the vibrant colour palette and the tasteful selection of furniture and ornaments.

“We had lived in Pantai Hills (Kuala Lumpur) for over 30 years and another decade in Section 12, Petaling Jaya. But as we grew older, we came to realise that it was time for us to find a more manageable home,” recalled Rathi.

After searching around, she and the late Prof decided to try condo living.

“Our present home consists of two condo units. The corner unit was available for sale but the next door unit wasn’t. So our property agent had to do some convincing before we managed to purchase the second unit!” shared Rathi.

The late Prof Khoo’s library occupies one part of the apartment. PHOTO: THE STAR
The walls are a gallery of Rathi’s quilts. PHOTO: THE STAR
ABOVE & BELOW: Rathi bought this Melaka swing 50 years ago and it has followed them to every home they have lived in; the living room is a gallery of Rathi’s exquisite handiwork; and Rathi’s favourite room in her home is where she spends time sewing and quilting. PHOTO: THE STAR

The corner unit stands at 214 square metres (m2) while the second unit was 149m2, so together their home is about 372m2, which was almost the size of their previous bungalow.

“That meant I was able to bring my furniture and I didn’t have to leave any behind. And we settled in very well,” said the 77-year-old teacher and mother of three.


The couple moved to their apartment in 2014 and it became a true sanctuary as they fell into a comfortable routine.

“It’s very peaceful and quiet here. You barely hear any noise, or your neighbours. The condo has an amazing view of Sunway and Subang Jaya. We have the best views during festive seasons when there are fireworks! We didn’t do much renovation except to break a couple of walls to connect the two units.”

The living room, with its pretty quilted furnishings and vintage pieces, speak of Rathi’s sense of nostalgia and the comforts of yesteryears.

“I love Chinese furniture and Prof was a Peranakan. Prof was never involved in the running of the home and left it to me to decorate and furnish the home.

“Many of the pieces you see here were bought during our 55 years together.”

The deep red and mahogany furniture in the home brings warmth to the interiors, including a handcrafted wooden swing in the middle of the living area. Made in Melaka, the 50-year-old swing acts as the focal point in the space.

“I liked the idea of having a swing in a home and we used to hang this on the patio of our previous homes,” said Rathi.

Another important area in the home is Rathi’s sewing room.

“I’m a quilter. It’s something that I love doing.

“I’ve made so many and even sold some in the past, but not anymore! For my quilts, I use American cotton and imported threads.”

The quilts you see in the home, from the table runner, throw cushions to the comforters are Rathi’s handmade creations, proudly displayed in every nook.

One section in the home is the late Prof Khoo’s library, a room in which he spent most of his time in. Meanwhile, in the adjoining home office, lies stacks of papers that Prof had written and that are now being carefully archived. On a wall in the office hangs a commanding photo of the late historian.

“I saw this banner featuring a photo of Prof hanging at the History Department (of Universiti Malaya) car park when they were celebrating the 60th anniversary of the department. It was such a beautiful banner with a beautiful shot of him. It really showed how he was. So I took it back and had it framed. It’s exactly how Prof was – always dreaming, always thinking of a better Malaysia,” said Rathi. – Rina Ahmad Sapiuddin


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