The Heritage of Splendour

Photography By Bagus Tri Laksono

The design of a house can sometimes look ordinary from the facade. Some architects like to build with a functional architectural look that gives no outward clues to the actual intricacy of the design. The Suharnoko family house in Menteng is one of those houses where the heritage of splendour will reveal itself once you enter inside.

Built in the 1930s during the Dutch Colonial era, the architectural style of this house followed the customs of that time which was derived from neoclassicism and became known as the New Indies Style. A modern architectural design style that was popular between the late 19th century and pre-World War II in the 20th century, the New Indies Style combined early modern (western) architecture with local architectural elements - such as wide eaves or a prominent roof – to deal with the tropical climate of Indonesia.

The New Indies Style was similar to Dutch Rationalism with its use of Romanesque-inspired arches while keeping the regularity of the traditional Classicist form. The style took on a functional approach with buildings finished in white-wash. It also employed the ‘double facade’ concept which created a covered gallery. The covered gallery was used not only on the ground level but also on the first floor - protecting the facade from heavy rainfall and strong sunlight. Extensive openings in the form of multiple doors or high windows were included to allow cross ventilation to cool the interior.

When the Suharnoko family took over this two-storey house in 1975, they did some renovation including the extension of the living and dining area in the lower main building. The house was previously used as the Romanian Embassy before it was acquired by the family. The head of the family, the late Suharnoko Harbani was a hero of the Indonesian air force and, in later life, was Indonesia’s Ambassador to Cambodia. With his late spouse, Maemunah Supardi Suharnoko Harbani, the couple took part in many organisations and charities, with most of the monthly gatherings taking place in their house.

Aside from its historical interest, the house also stands out for the way the family have decorated and furnished throughout. A stunning collection of antique artworks that have been collected over many decades make the house’s interior design one of the most unique that we have witnessed. The layout of the house follows European design principals where each room is connected in a way that creates a spacious ambiance. The ground floor is divided into a few sitting areas (with some larger than others), the main dining room, and the family living area that looks out over the lush back garden. The bedrooms are located on the upper floor and at the back of the main house.

The family’s amazing antique collection covers a range of styles from antique Balinese paintings, Chinese and Japanese ceramics, to European and Asian furniture that was acquired and collected during their extensive travels. It was fascinating to hear the stories behind each piece and to appreciate how they contributed to the overall interior design. Like the renovation process, the interior design was done by the family’s own interior design firm, PT AdiGaya Budaya, which was also the art consultant for Bank Indonesia in 1990. This house offers an impeccable example of a classic and elegant interior splendour that is now increasingly rare to find.

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.
Bagus Tri Laksono

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