Javanese Touch to a Modern House

Published: Jakarta Post, 07/07/2013

Living Room in the Second Floor
A home is where every story begins. It is not just a place to stay, but where precious memories are made.

After dedicating himself to teaching and working on interior design for decades, one of the founders of Trisakti University, J. Pamudji Suptandar, has a simple way in building his dream house – by reinvigorating the Javanese style of his childhood memories.

The New York State University alumnus, who won The Best Pavilion Award at the Izmir International Fair in Turkey back in 1969, has decorated his house in a rustic style where art and antiques blend with modernity.

It is not difficult to find Padmuji’s house in the crowded neighborhood of Jl. Cikatomas, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. The house, which he built five years ago, has an eye-catching buffalo statue right out in front. 

An eye-catching buffalo in the front of the house
The entrance hall is not huge but very artistic, with a Balinese statue, paintings and a set of carvings of ducks on the table. The center of attention between the hall and the living room is a painting of Javanese folktales on the wall near the stairs. 

A  folktale-inspired painting
“It’s the story of Jaka Tarub and the Seven Fairies,” says the father of six children, who is also the member of the International Federation of Interior Architects in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


According to the folktale, seven fairies came from paradise to take a bath in the river. Jaka Tarub stole a scarf from incandescent with rage. Jaka Tarub begged forgiveness, but it was too late. The painting shows Nawangwulan flying to join her sisters in paradise, leaving Jaka Tarub behind.

“I have no secrets. Here’s my bedroom,” says Padmuji, who was born and grew up in Purwokerto, Central Java but once lived in Yogyakarta, as we move into the next room.

The bedroom is wide, colored in dark blue with a relaxing ambiance. There is also his working space, full of books.

For Pamudji, designing a house to make its owner feel at home is really important. That can be seen in the way he brings his childhood memories into his design.

The elegant house, with its rough edges, has special philosophy of Javanese tradition.

A folk-tale inspired painting (photo above).“A house should make people who live inside feel comfortable both physically and emotionally,” says the 81-year-old, who is the author of 11 interior design books.

By physically, he means that all the furniture and rooms should suit the owner. While emotionally means that the home design should bring happiness to the owner.

“This is what we call applied art,” says Padmuji.

He explains the difference between pure art and applied art. In pure art, the artist has a total freedom to express his feeling and creativity – doing whatever he wants to do. But in applied art, such as home design, the artist has to consider the consumer’s taste and the market demand.

After he graduated from ITB in 1963, Padmuji got scholarship to study interior architecture – as interior design known back then, at New York State University. He later worked in several places before teaching at Trisakti University.

He recalled that interior design was not a popular topic when he was young.

“Back in the 1960s, people still underestimated this field. They preferred architecture. But I was very optimistic. I believed there is a future for interior design,” he says.

Padmuji loves to collect crafts from all around the world, so did his late wife, Kustrini. Walking downstairs, one can find collections of ceramics from China and mini bells from all around the world -- all placed together with his wife’s portrait.
An eye-catching buffalo statue is placed in front of the house.
In the second floor, the Javanese ambiance is even richer.

Along the living room, there is a wall made from traditional woodcarving. The spiral patterns are combined in repeated squares. The endless spiral is the symbol of the eternity of God.

Although religiously influenced architecture is widespread, the most significant was developed in Java. It has Hinduism style from ancient Java, blended together with Islamic and European influences.

“In Javanese art, God can’t be described into the real form, we can only symbolize Him,” says Padmuji.

Even though Padmuji has been working in interior design for years, when it comes to builing a dream house, he knew that he had to discuss it with his wife.

In the end, he said the role of a house is to be a home for all the family members – it is a place to raise children and to treasure the memories.

As author Donna Hedges once said, having a place to go is home, having someone to love is family and having both is blessing.
Insider tips
Padmuji said there are several things that an interior designer should consider while designing house for client:

• Consider the owner’s personal taste and marital status while designing the house. A married person need more space for his family and children.

• The cultural background of the owner.

• In tropical country like Indonesia, is better to have the wide windows to let the sun light come to the house.

• The door should be designed and measured so that it will be appropriate with the owner height.

• The table sets, cupboards, chairs, sofas and spaces between them should be measured so that they will be appropriate to all family members.
— Photos by Sylvia Lim



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