Sanctuary of peace and quiet
by Vimala Seneviratne
New Straits Times
Friday, 19 March 2010
Feng Shui expert and author Lillian Too’s home in a neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur offers a sense of calm and serenity, writes VIMALA SENEVIRATNE
FROM the outside, it looks like any other house in the high-end neighbourhood — massive iron gate, complete with walls painted white. The gate swings open, and as I set foot inside the premises, I am awestruck by the quiet beauty of Lillian Too’s abode and the features that almost instantly engage the aural and visual senses. There’s the gurgling of water from the fountain by the swimming pool, the rustle of leaves from the numerous shady trees and lush green plants as a gentle breeze brushes past you, and a well-manicured sprawling lawn, all lending a sense of peace and quiet. Feng shui expert and author Too flashes a warm inviting smile that puts a sparkle in her eyes. The casually dressed Too, who recently authored and published Living with Good Feng shui, is chatty, happy to show off her living space shared with family members, five dogs, as well as the birds and squirrels that have a free run of her garden.
Her spacious living hall is bright and airy. As I sink into the plush cream-coloured sofa, my eyes make a sweeping glance at the beautiful artifacts in every corner of that space. It is obvious that she does not believe in minimalism. Although there are hundreds of items all over the house, they do not look cluttered. “I love the feeling of abundance, a house filled with lots of things,” she beams. All the artifacts engage the senses — the round crystal balls of various sizes placed on table in the living room, various animal figurines intricately carved out of wood, jade or brass stand on table tops or on the floor, and tapestries as well as paintings. Most of them were either purchased for specific purpose, gifts from close friends or students, or bought because they are simply beautiful.
Some tapestries and paintings with Buddhist mantras and icons were specially commissioned by her. “Everyone of them are meaningful possessions, sentimental displays, every corner reminding me of a story.” The 65-year-old wife, mother and grandmother is happy to show off her family photos and portraits that hang on the walls at the landing of the stairways leading to the rooms upstairs. More importantly, she’s in a mood to give us the privilege of viewing her very private domain — her bright and spacious bedroom. “Nothing special, just a simple private space.” The walls are pristine white, her favourite colour, and on a side table sits an elegant table lamp — a 40 to 50cm tall pastel-coloured figurine of a lady with flowing peacock feathers draped on shoulders. “I got that from Italy a long time ago. It’s ceramic and I just love that flowing feathers, a symbol of success.” There is a large comfy looking dark brown sofa on which sits two small soft toys — a pig and a teddy bear.
The health-conscious grandmother of two boys spends at least 30 minutes a day working out on the exercise equipment — a bicycle for cardiovascular workout and a machine to tone the arms and the legs — placed in a corner of the room. Further on is her bathroom, also painted white. Neatly arranged on the dressing table are rows of high-end facial creams, dozens of bottles of predominantly French perfumes and make up accessories — compact powders and blushers — and a drawer full of lipsticks. “A whole lot of brands but all are red in colour, my favourite shade.” Every three or four months, she spring cleans her make up accessories, mindful of the expiry date of the items.
And what of her shoes and handbags? She willingly obliges. “I’m into ostrich leather handbags now and I’ve also got some of my favourite ones here,” she says, opening a cupboard full of this accessory. “Running out of space here, so I keep them all over the place as well,” she continues as she leads us to another section. Placed neatly on the floor are dozens of branded leather shoes — flats and heels of various sizes. She gives a sheepish smile as she opens yet another cupboard. More court shoes. Is she competing with Imelda Marcos, you begin to wonder. She laughs. “Just a couple of dozens. Of course, I have some favourites but I do wear the others.” In another corner, sheer white curtains separate her room from a place where she spends quiet time. “It’s one of my favourite areas, a place where I can meditate peacefully, commune with Him.” She walks us down to the sprawling garden, an important part of her living space. A keen gardener, she has lots of greens — trees (bo, willows, banana), shrubs and flowering plants. And she enjoys walking barefooted on the grass. This is also a place where she plays, in the evenings, with her two American Golden Retrievers that are also her guard dogs. She also has two golden cocker spaniels whom she fondly refers to as her “doorbell dogs” since they alert her with barks whenever the doorbell rings. Her latest addition is a Shi Tzu puppy.