Martha Tilaar, a guru of Indonesian traditional beauty, has created a tranquil oasis within Jakarta’s bustling business hub. Here, virtues are cultivated and wisdom is taught
Many houses are built to last forever. Martha Tilaar’s residence is one of them. The construction took two years to finish and for 25 years the building has stood the test of time. The house was built on 1,400 square meters of land in Patra Kuningan, an iconic residential neighborhood in South Jakarta that has been the home of notable Indonesian political leaders and high-ranking government officials. What once was a vacant land in a developing neighborhood has become one of Jakarta’s most beautiful homes.
Compared to its modern neighboring houses, Martha’s house is a unique sight to behold. Surrounding it is a carved stone wall with bas-reliefs and structures that remind you of Indonesian Hindu temples. Two large, solid wood gates with Limasan roof structure exude an old-world charm of royal splendor.
Dutch Colonial Influence
Past the gate stands a colonial Dutch house. There’s a moving story behind the chosen architectural style. Martha, whose group of companies was built from humble beginnings, experienced discrimination in her childhood that made her vow not to be a second-class citizen in her own country. A colonial-style house, which symbolizes foreign domination and a place where locals were not allowed to enter, is where Martha resides today. The house was designed by Jakarta’s top architecture firm, Hadiprana. The building is predominantly white and is accentuated with neo-classical columns, a spacious veranda, oversized doors and windows, Javanese traditional roofs and strong, concrete walls.
Rooms & Decor
The entryway is always one of the most daunting spaces to decorate, for it marks visitors’ first glimpse of your home. With her taste for aesthetics and art, Martha adorned her entrance hall with traditional Indonesian ornaments that speak of classic Javanese elegance.
The rather small entrance hall features a carved wooden mirror frame, blue ceramic vases which are her favorite mementos from an old acquaintance as well as an entryway table as a centerpiece, where wooden Javanese puppets and potted orchids are displayed.
On the left side of the hall is a door to the main dining room, where the silverware that was once used in the household of Indonesia’s very first President, Soekarno, is beautifully arrayed.
On the right side of the hall is a door leading to the main living room, where Martha Tilaar proves herself a worthy Martha Stewart disciple with her expertise in home decorating. Western-style furniture and ornaments including classic sofas, crystal chandeliers and vases of roses mix with exotic ornaments including carved wooden picture frames, an antique wooden table and credenza from Yogyakarta and Jepara, a couple of Nigerian clay sculptures and a Vietnamese silver-plated candelabra, among others. Built-in glass cabinets function as room dividers, showcasing Martha’s findings from every country she has visited. These small souvenirs are reminders of the many fascinating events Martha has encountered in her journeys abroad.
Between the swimming pool at the back of the house and the aforementioned main rooms, we found another living room next to the garden as well as a comfortable sunlit nook with floor-to-ceiling windows, an old piano and a round dining table. These are Martha’s favorite spaces. She invites her staff to come over twice a month for aerobics, tai-chi and mayonggo seto, a workout for women originated from Keraton Mangkunegaran in Solo. These are also used whenever there are open houses or other events where a large number of guests need to be accommodated.
With its lush tropical plants, a water feature and stone statues, the swimming pool is an especially soothing sight. Martha enjoys sitting in the sunlit nook overlooking this pool for some peaceful ‘Me’ time.
House of Roses
It is no secret that Martha Tilaar has a keen fascination with roses, however, not many people know the reason. “People are like roses,” she’d say. “They look beautiful but they have the ability to hurt others.” Roses have such a deep meaning for her that not only are they a prevalent decorative mandatory element, but the house itself is named ‘House of Roses’.
A house, from the perspective of Martha Tilaar, is one of the basic human needs. To make it a home for a family to grow, a house needs to be comfortable, which means things have to be neat and in order. The same rule applies to decorating. By focusing on the harmony of color, the artwork, wall color and the rest of the house, the overall color scheme should match. The next rule – surprise, surprise, is that there have to roses; and last but not least, home decorating should respect the dynamic aspects of art.