A Kaleidoscopic Pad

Published by Malaysia Tatler Home on 2012

by Rubini Kamalakaran Photography courtesy of Raewyn McBain

An explosion of colours could describe this home but it would do so poorly. There’s always a story behind a home and this one promised to be a good one. Of course, it initially brought about expressions that suffice to say, ranged from astonishment to bewilderment; it generally led to a lot of questions, in particular, “what were they thinking?” It’s a reaction Raewyn McBain, the owner and mastermind of this home we dubbed “the rainbow house”, is used to get a reaction out of people… this reaction: What on Earth? And it worked. Everyone who’s stepped into the condo has had their jaw drop and somehow you see the glimmer in their eyes as they’re feeling. May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m also selective as to who I invite home, so the combination works.”

It’s no novelty that one should understand its inhabitants to really “get” the home and while some homes are really the fusion of the homeowners and the designers, this one is clearly all McBain. It’s as if decades of life, travel, fixation with colours, collection together in this one home. Raewyn McBain who hails from New Zealand was living in Hong Kong for eight years when she and her husband John were on vacation in Penang one time and fell in love with the island. Living in Hong Kong had its plus points, however nothing beats the charm of Penang says McBain. “When we heard about this latest seafront development and the fact that a big local star – who was making waves in Hong Kong then – Dato’ Michelle Yeoh, too had a few units here… we were intrigued and the rest is history.” Even if they were not sold on it, the idea of a 6,500 sq ft space and the fact that they could redesign the condo’s floor space did the job.

It’s as if decades of life, travel, fixation with colours, collection of curios and Asian influence have all come together in this one home


The condo is a duplex consisting of lower and upper floors. The lower floor has the main entrance, dining and bar entertainment area, formal living area, kitchen, laundry room, maids’ quarters, two guestrooms with en-suite bathrooms, an office, a library and three balconies. Whereas the upper floor houses the master suite comprising a spacious master bedroom with en-suite bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi and rain shower, a secret pantry, dressing room, master living room with additional entry from the outside, sky meditation garden and two more balconies.

When McBain embarked on designing her new home, which she undertook herself, she was clear on what she wanted – to produce a playground with creative ideas. “The descriptions that come to mind are maximalist, drama, and bold colour. I wanted to include my eclectic mix of furnishing and fabrics with antiques, furniture, artwork and accessories that I have collected during my travels – memorabilia of a certain time in my life and artwork by people close to me. I wanted it to be a creative space and yet be a home where I can relax, be me and be contented.”

Most interestingly, she wanted each room in her home to tell a story. Each room or space gets its name or can be identified from the colour of it. The Green Room is the master living room and was inspired by the sky meditation garden complete with a Buddha fountain. “It was only natural to go green. I love Chinese furniture which always looks stunning against lime green walls – an east meets west fusion.” This is where you’ll find her most precious memories in the form of paintings, antiques and trinkets that she collected on her travels, including a beautiful painting of Giorgio Armani (her Persian car of 13 years) who died two years ago that she commissioned in Hong Kong.

A self-proclaimed fashionista (her other Persian cat is called Prada and miniature schnauzer goes by the name of Porche). McBain let her “fantasy run wild” in designing her dressing room. “I wanted it to have a boutique feel so I can go “shopping” daily in my own home.” What will immediately catch one’s eyes is the unique floor design. The reinforced glass squares was a real challenge to implement but nevertheless they managed to pull it off. “It looks like something out of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean music video, only without the lights. Instead they each hold a coloured fake fur square of fabric with one of my favourite designer shopping bags that I have collected around the world under the glass. One of my sins is chocolate so I also have chocolate bars under one of the glass squares for fun.” The dressing room is within the Red Room, which is the master bedroom. Red being a passionate colour, she decided on red heavily embossed palm leaf wallpaper because she wanted to bring in the tropics and some texture. A qualified feng shui practitioner, McBain adhered to its doctrines when designing and the large black satin canopy over the bed is said to bring in the water element, adding a soothing effect to the large bedroom. There’s a nice surprise in this room in the form of a secret pantry complete with a fridge and microwave for late night snacks.

“The descriptions that come to mind are maximalist, drama and bold colour. I wanted it to be a creative space and yet be a home where I can relax, be me and be contented.”


Pink seems to be the running theme through the home. “I love how bold yet fun the colour is and how is can be feminine but also very strong”

The Orange Room or guest room was encouraged by her fascination with monks and their orange robes. “The main theme is Tibetan, it has a number of Tibetan paintings and ornaments.” Funnily, a lot of the furniture in this room was sourced in Malaysia – the antique four-poster wrought iron bed with rose engraving was sourced in KL while the Tibetan scroll coffee table, Tibetan mirror and cabinet were sourced from Tanjung Bungah, Penang. The Purple Room, the other guest room was influenced by French lavender fields that she used to gaze upon when she was on driving holidays in France. The furniture was sourced from a local teak manufacturer and painstakingly spray painted a pale shade of pink by her husband. “One guest commented that she felt she was a little girl again after waking up in the morning in that room.” smiles McBain.

Pink seems to be the running theme through the home and McBain admits it is her favourite colour. Though now she sports purple hair, the founder of Pink Tiger Media, an effective full service strategy marketing and public relations agency, usually has pink hair. “I’m crazy about pink,” she shares. “I love how bold yet fun the colour is and how it can be feminine but also very strong. I wanted the lower entertainment area to be bold and in your face, hence the ht pink with black and silver rose wallpaper achieved the mixed contemporary / maximalist look.”

If ever there were a room in the entire home that deserved to be called an art piece, it would be the mosaic bathroom. Open the door, turn on the lights and you are greeted by a glass floor with pink lights underneath, crazy tiled walls and a mirrored ceiling. McBain designed the wall herself with few sticks of chalk to indicate the segments of colour. The contractors then had a hell of a time painfully breaking the tiles and putting it up according to her template specifications. “Brightly coloured tiles don’t come easily so a lot of work was put into sourcing them. A little romantic touch was added by the presence of crosses and circles to indicate kisses hugs. To keep things local, I had Indian children’s bracelets set into the concrete amongst the tile work.”

The only room that appears “bare” is the office. She took inspiration from her days in the banking sector and replicated this into the office. “Yes, it’s black and white but at the same time, the wall of photographs taken on my travels remind me of the reason why I do what I do and work as hard as I do. So it’s a subtle way of keeping a disciplined practice, yet not forgetting to have fun in everything.”

With the amount of work that went into the home, sometimes pushing her to the limits that she would call her husband in Hong Kong to tell him that she was moving back, it’s surprising to hear that she considers her home a work in progress.” It will be as long as I’m alive as I always find something extra that can be done and some other addition to go here and there.” But the decision to go colourful was a very easy one, she says. “I’ve always loved colours and always will and have always done things differently and over the edge. Be bold, be different.”