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Personalising Your Home

by The Expatriate Lifestyle Editorial Team 3 Jun 2013
Personalising Your Home



Whether you’ve chosen to buy or rent property for your stay in Malaysia, your next consideration should be to start making that property feel like a home via the furnishings. Those that have bought property naturally have more options and freedom to personalise it, however, expats that have opted to rent should not be put off by the apparent restrictions placed on the property by the landlord.

Whilst temporary accommodation, even if it is for several years, typically means no painting the walls, no serious drilling, no restructuring and, often, no changes of major furniture items, some expatriates are lucky and find the rare landlord who agrees to some larger changes.

Most are forced to take such limitations into account when moving into rented homes, making personalising the property more difficult, but not impossible. With careful planning, a rented property can feel just like home, even if you don’t have the freedom to renovate and decorate that property owners do.

Irrespective of your situation, when furnishing your home, your first consideration should be for the five distinct areas of living: the sleeping, social, snacking, study and sanitation areas.

The Sleeping Area

The sleeping area is actually the area in which you’ll spend most time—nearly a third of the day. As such, it is of paramount importance that you feel comfortable in here. Expatriates that have bought property, of course, have the freedom to choose a bed, wardrobes, paint colour and flooring but those renting property also have a number of choices in this area.

For example, soft furnishings, lamps, chairs, dressers and mirrors can all usually be added without too many problems. Art work too is important to consider as it can personalise the space significantly.

The Social Area

The social areas of your home must be versatile. Here, you’ll be entertaining guests, perhaps watching the television or simply relaxing. As such, it must be able to accommodate these activities with ease; space is important and for buyers, the right sofa, coffee table or cabinet can be difficult but crucial choices.

Fortunately, Malaysia’s furniture market is both impressive and affordable so finding the right items shouldn’t cause too much stress. For expatriates renting property, personalisation can be found in cushions and throws to decorate sofas as well as in side tables, shelving and even bookcases. With a little consideration, the social area can be a homely place for buyers and renters alike.

The Snacking Area

When buying a property, expatriates will either find a pre-fitted kitchen already in place or an open kitchen space, ready for cabinets, cookers, sinks and tiles to be fitted. Such freedom brings about an overwhelming number of decisions, however, Malaysia is home to plenty of kitchen specialists who can advise, provide and fit the perfect snacking area.

Those renting property have fewer headaches when it comes to the kitchen but can still decide on the type of utensils, plates, glassware and cooking equipment.

The Study Area

It is important to feel comfortable and inspired in the study area of your home, whether you are buying or renting property. It is, after all, an area in which you are expecting to work, and a clean, uncluttered space is essential for productivity.

Buyers will have the choice of desks and storage whereas those renting will have to customize with inspiring artwork, practical shelving and perhaps a work-friendly chair.

The Sanitation Area

Probably the most difficult of areas to personalise for expatriates renting a property, the sanitation zones are important for your overall well being and attitude.

Like the kitchen, buyers will either be faced with pre-fitted bathrooms or will have the freedom to install their own. In the latter case, size and type of showers, number of sinks and layout are all necessary decisions whereas renters can choose their own soft furnishings, storage units and perhaps even shower heads.


The furniture market in Malaysia has a great selection and variety of items as well as competitive prices, meaning furnishing your home can be a delightful process. However, the last thing any expatriate wants to deal with is furniture that is cracking, falling apart, becoming discoloured or, worse still, being infested with termites.

To minimise furniture-related stress, there are a few key ways to tell if the piece is a quality item or not and how much you should pay for it. Many expatriates opt to buy furniture in Malaysia rather than having it shipped from their home country. Common designs tend to be cheaper because they are mass produced and are often made from lower grade material.

Better designs are often made from kiln dried timber, precision cutting and better finishing, but they tend to be slightly more expensive.

Always clean your furniture to maintain its quality. Wooden furniture can be maintained in optimum condition with regular polishing and waxing. With steel items, the gauge of the steel is very important—too thin and the piece will bend.

Cheaper furniture manufacturers will also use nails, whereas the real high-end pieces use wooden joints. When in the store, don’t be shy and remember to ask questions. Find out about the type of furniture, how to treat it and whether or not it is covered by a warranty.

The best decisions are informed decisions so ask the salesman for as many details as possible.
If you’re looking to buy outdoor or patio furniture, you’re in luck; Malaysia’s craft stores produce a wealth of unique, comfortable and affordable pieces. However, avoid reds and certainly blacks which attract heat.

On that note, if you try the wrought iron route, make sure any metals are covered as they can get extremely hot under the midday sun.

Furniture Rental

Rentals are risk-free and, more importantly, will save you money as you won’t be shouldering major expenses during your short stay in the country. Studios in Kuala Lumpur normally come furnished and bigger spaces usually have basic fittings: lights and kitchen units, for example.

However, if you’re not sure where your next job will take you and if you’re deterred by the idea of shipping furniture around from one destination to the next, renting furniture is not only an obvious solution, but also a great one as it saves you time.

Furniture rental companies are one-stop centres where just about every type of loose furniture can be acquired, and it’s a myth that the selection of rental pieces are normally outdated and unappealing.

Companies that specialise in this business are equipped to cater to different tastes. Delivery and installation charges are usually included in your rental package; maintenance and repair-work is covered; and, you’ll also be given insurance against theft and fire. Benefits don’t end there. Did you know that furniture rentals count as operating expenses? This means that they are tax deductible.

You also won’t have to worry about reselling the furniture when you’re relocating or simply looking to redecorate. Everything you rented goes back to the company and you won’t have to fret over packing it all up for the shipping containers.

Unless, of course, you decide to purchase your rental furniture. The option of purchasing is unbeknownst to most, but it’s an advantage that combines the best of renting and buying.

Adapted from an article by Rachel Jena, Expatriate Lifestyle, October 2010

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