The penthouse with private balcony and a life-size Totoro bed-cum-chair.
Added penthouse that’s equipped with a bathroom and private balcony. Pictures by Andrew Wong
Andrew Wong, host and co-owner of 758 Residence.

758 Residence is minimalist in decor but dotted around the house are quirky little frills that give it much colour, writes Sulyn Chong

A SNOOPY neighbour’s pet starts barking as soon as we open the gate to 758 Residence. Though startled, I’m a little relieved to know that at least there’s another pair of eyes for security. As I emerge from the car and am greeted by my host and co-owner of the residence, Andrew Wong, I can’t help being impressed by the simplicity of the home, the well-kept surrounding, and the serenity of the neighbourhood.

The clean porch, white walls, wooden deck and grey stone tiles that lead to a perfectly trimmed garden will not look out of place in a landscape magazine. The only decor that seem a little peculiar are the CDs dangling beside the electricity meters. “That’s a simple trick to scare away birds so they won’t perch on my meters and shit all over them,” explains Wong, as he beckons me to enter his guesthouse.

The calming scent of wood wafts to my nose as the glass door is slid open. Although minimalist in decor concept, the quirky wall stickers placed at strategic areas in the house lend the space a whimsical charm. There are also a few well-known anime characters scattered around, such as Wong’s trusty Yoci the monkey sitting on a side table fronting the door greeting guests with a broad smile. Meanwhile, a life-size Totoro lays languidly in the penthouse upstairs, serving as an extra bed or seating.

FAMILY HOME

This single-storey turned double-storey house used to be Wong’s former family home. “When we shifted, this house was left empty. So, my brother and I decided to renovate it, and turn it into a guesthouse,” he shares.

The affable Sarawakian is also quick to add that he doesn’t really see it as a form of business that brings profit but more of a pastime that allows him to make new friends from different parts of the world and to share his love for the small town, where he grew up.

“It’s Miri, it’s not exactly a happening place like Kuala Lumpur. It can get quite monotonous at times, for locals like myself. This guesthouse gives me an opportunity to meet different and interesting people,” confides Wong.

This humble little abode is tucked in a quiet neighbourhood called Hilltop Garden in Miri, Sarawak. Centrally located, it is 10 minutes from the airport and a five-minute drive to the town centre where a myriad of delicious food awaits.

Granted the quiet and secluded location does mean that finding public transport can be a hassle. It takes 15 minutes to walk out to the main road where buses and taxis can be found. There’s no Grab or Uber in this area, in case you’re wondering.

Fortunately, the next door neighbour is a taxi driver and he’s up for daily hire. For a more convenient mode of transport, you can always rent a car instead. For about RM90 to RM100 a day, it’ll get you an Axia or a Myvi. Just notify Wong and he’ll be happy to help make arrangements.

HANDY KNOWLEDGE

Being an architecture graduate, Wong is equipped with the necessary know-how in designing and renovating the house thus, he’s able to make full use of the limited space available.

The main structure has remained intact but the layout inside has been renovated to fit three bedrooms (one children’s room) on the ground floor, a common living room in the middle, kitchen that looks out to the front, and a penthouse, complete with a private balcony, added above.

“I shifted the kitchen to the front so that you can see who’s at the gate while cooking. And having the living room in the middle allows guests equal access to it while separating the rooms for more privacy,” explains Wong.

He shares that the penthouse and the balcony hold a special place in his heart. “When we were kids, we used to climb the roof to look at the stars or just stare out to the horizon across all the roofs. My father would always scold us but we’d still do it. So, adding the balcony and the penthouse satisfied my childhood fantasies.”

A student in Scotland during his university days, Wong confides that it gave him plenty of travel opportunities, which came in handy towards understanding what facilities would make for a comfortable stay for guests. “Everyone likes privacy, especially when it comes to using bathrooms. That’s why each room here, including the penthouse upstairs, has attached bathrooms,” he explains.

In addition, there’s also a communal washing machine for guests’ convenience, a well-equipped kitchen and bathroom, a television that comes fixed with Astro, free WiFi usage and a garden big enough for parties.

As I prepare to leave the enterprising Wong for another appointment, I notice a box filled with strands of light bulbs by the garden. He smiles when I query him about it. “The next set of guests is going to have a birthday party here and there are no lights. I actually built this star-shaped light structure so it won’t be so dark during the night.” Well, how’s that for perfect guest service!

Details at www.facebook.com/

758residence.