Text by: Jan Yong Photography courtesy of: La Hilir Tiny House
A family of five starts a new trend of jungle living – in a tiny house the father designed.
In a quiet little ‘café’ by a stream right in the middle of a jungle, I am having delicious smoked beef prepared fresh
onsite. The birds are chirping, the air is crisp and breezy, and I have in front of me my laptop. Welcome to the world of remote working or in this instance, ‘work from jungle’, as Allan Casal, the concept creator says.
The idea came about as a result of Allan and wife, Irena’s, long familiarity with the tiny house concept in America. “We were watching a television show about tiny houses many years ago and promptly fell in love with the concept,”
When Allan’s father-in-law decided to bequeath land to his children, they decided to put in action this long-time dream of theirs – to stay in a jungle environment, yet close enough to town. Giant supermarket is just ten
minutes’ drive away in Kuala Pilah town in Negeri Sembilan.
Affectionately named ‘La Hilir’ (literally translated from Malay as ‘The Downstream’), the name came about due to his mother-in-law who stays upstream referring to the place as ‘downstream’ (or ‘sebelah hilir’ in Malay). The ‘La’ spelling adds a European flavour to it, hence ‘La Hilir’.
“We love to wake up to the jungle surrounding us, serenaded by birds and insects; and having greens all around us. We want our kids to grow up in this kind of environment,” explains Allan who used to have a highflying job in the publishing industry.
The family used to camp at Sungai Pauh in Cameron Highlands, where the kids loved the cool air. “Living in the tiny house is like camping everyday for us,” Allan says in jest.
The multitalented Allan designed the house himself and sourced for special materials such as made-to-order corrugated metal sheets used for the roofing and wall cladding of the tiny house. The house, which took about six weeks to build feels as cosy as any comfortable family home.
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The design allows for optimal air circulation due to the strategic locations of the windows and doors; at all times, the airflow is moving and if the air-conditioner is switched on,the ceiling fan helps circulate the cool air from the air-conditioner to the rest of the house, thus cooling the house during hot weather. There are two air-conditioners to ensure the internal climate is cool and refreshing enough.
Few tiny houses have a loft, yet La Hilir prides itself in having two, one at each end of the house! Both interconnecting lofts are utilized as bedrooms for the boys, with the bigger one doubling up as the family TV room as well.
Meanwhile, their teenage daughter gets a whole room to herself on the ground floor. Privacy is ensured through the use of barn doors separating the room from common areas. Barn doors are used to optimise the use of space and can be locked using a simple latch system. Another barn door doubles up as the bathtub and bedroom doors. For the toilet, there is a curtain for added privacy.
Ventilation is traditional – through a window. Similarly, the bathtub which is next to the master bedroom is well ventilated and occupies a comfortable space.
Big’ tiny home
The space within never feels cramped or even … tiny. Glass windows and doors make it feel like the jungle is an extension of the room, especially the master bedroom which has a glass sliding door. It opens up to the jungle thus making it feel as if the entire jungle is part of the room!
This ‘seamless’ connectivity to nature outside is what makes this ‘tiny’ home feels so ‘big’. The glass windows and doors allow sunlight in while at the same time allowing a perpetual view of the jungle. “This is like ‘living outdoors’, exactly what we wanted,” says Allan.
The living ‘room’ area is located outside of the house, forming an outside extension which is covered by a huge sun shade. The wooden flooring further lends it a natural setting effect.
The dining area is located just next to the kitchen which has all the latest modern conveniences like washer/dryer, refrigerator, oven/cooker, and even a dishwasher.
By any standard, it’s a brilliant design for a tiny house – thanks to Allan’s familiarity with design.
The La Hilir family has also achieved the next-to-impossible task of getting rid of all their clutter – you won’t find it anywhere except a few books at the end of their tiny corridor near the staircases leading up to the loft. “There’s only one closet for the entire family – “That’s all the clothes for all five of us,” smiles Allan as he points towards a small
open closet outside the bathtub.
lifestyle. There are concrete plans to set up glamping sites on the land. Scheduled to open on 1st January 2021, there are already paid bookings for the RM300-a-night stay. Guests who have booked the UK-imported glamping tent can also bring along their own tents and set them up at an additional cost.
“What you get is an exclusive toilet and shower, and private bonfire,” explains Allan.
“We are also in the process of building micro-houses based on La
Hilir but on a smaller scale of about 100-sq-ft each to cater to longerterm guests especially those who can work from home. As we get very strong wifi signal here, this is the perfect spot for companies to allow their staff to work from the jungle!”
Food-wise, the couple plans to set up a small café with offerings ranging from local dishes to western favourites and of course, the famed La Hilir Tiny House specialty, smoked beef.
Allan has indeed caught the wave of a new trend of jungle living, started because people wanted to get out of their house and be around nature after months of lockdown due to Covid-19.
For La Hilir, it was really the convergence of right timing, right location, and right mindset that set the wheels in motion for this new kind of living. Eventually, the La Hilir family hopes to rear their own chicken for meat and eggs,
and plant vegetables for their own consumption. Meanwhile, Allan continues to improve on the infrastructure on the land on a Do-It-Yourself basis, for example, the washroom for the glamping tents and the sun shade over the living area which doubles up as a communal cafe.
“You will be surprised at how busy we are on a daily basis,” smiles Allan, as he clears the plates and cutlery from the table. I have just been served freshly smoked beef and it’s pleasantly different from other similar fare I have had tasted. I hope this concept catches on as this is the best alternative lifestyle or young (and not-so-young) Malaysians who love nature and are on a tight housing budget.