Magical Malay Design: Borneo Hospitality

My obsession with Eastern interior design grows with every new Asian trip. This time the beauty of the Malay culture comes into focus; a bonus on a long-delayed, Oriental itinerary through Singapore and Malaysia Borneo.

The subtle, sophisticated design scheme at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, north of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, brings local design elements to the fore, in a luxury setting. Culturally significant elements of the earth, sea and sky, are layered to form an aesthetic which reflects on the unique art, colours and nature of Malay tradition.

Sitting on the beautiful sandy beach of Pantai Dalit, the resort’s design theme takes its cues from the outstanding, natural surroundings. With a panoramic view of the South China Sea, its position proud of the sacred Mount Kinabalu, and nestled within acres of tropical rain-forest, the hotel’s aesthetic reflects the essence of the Sabahan cultures.

In the bedrooms of the hotel’s Ocean Wing, the warm, earthy design scheme consciously combines materials from earth, sea and sky. With a considered layout focused on the circulation of natural light, an abundance of beautiful carved wood screens, and colourful nods to marine life, the rooms are an elegant, comfortable retreat, a play on the “kampong”, an old Malaysian enclosure, with timeless beauty. The details tell a tale of the reinterpretation of traditional Malay design, with contemporary touches.

Of the Earth

Materials of the Earth are most prominent in the interior design scheme. Warm tones of beige, brown, avocado green and Indian yellow, create an understated, elegant palette. Russet red hued panelling and furniture, and intricately carved wood screens show artistic craftsmanship, with decorative wave and forest motifs.

Beautiful, silk effect wallpaper adorns the room. It carries a subtle golden glint which conjures the glistening ocean under the setting sun. The carpet has a soft, repeating pattern of leaves, and gently veined tiles are in creamy beige.

Textiles play a key feature in Malay design, with complimenting, piped weave, grasscloth and leather fabrics adding softness to furniture and window treatments.

Use of full height, decorative, double doors on joinery and in openings furthers the sense of spaciousness, and adds formality, an entrance to something as yet unknown.

Of the Sky

The most stunning vantage from the bedrooms, the panoramic view of the sky over the ocean, is framed through large sunburst glass panes. The sun light pours in, and the cut-through, decorative wooden screens allow for natural ventilation and light dispersion, in-line with the concept of traditional Malay architecture.

Backlit, protruding, bevelled mirrors bounce light. Hardware in brushed chrome and antique silver reflect against the wood and wallpaper, and a well considered, easily-operated lighting arrangement highlights key areas, as required, with subtle hue options creating ambience and shade.

Of the Sea

Tropical coral yellows, blues and greens of the sea are carried on artwork and decorative wall hangings, and they contrast with the muted, main palette. These gorgeous, mosaic-esque seascapes are abundant, and illuminate through colour, the importance and richness of the tranquil sea.

In all, the combination of these natural design elements, layered upon a spacious, well considered, guest focused layout, creates a comfortable, luxury and sophisticated space.

The beautiful interior of the Shangri-La Rasa Ria tells an indigenous tale of local beauty and Malay charm, and shows a dedication to sustaining this important heritage. A huge hotel chain, with over 100 properties worldwide, the family owners of Shangri-La have a proud Malaysian heritage, and the resort speaks volumes on the company’s focus on world-class, well considered, interior design.

The Eastern design journey continues, in design detail delight.

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D-tale is a series of interior design stories, the tales of splendid and fascinating places where history meets creativity. Follow me on Instagram.