QUEEN OF HEARTS
T2’s fragrant French Earl Grey iced tea kick-started a stimulating convo about blends and flavour complexity for Datin Meera Sen and I on an unexpectedly hot Thursday morning. As we moonwalked while rapping to Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” at her hidden enclave in Damansara Heights, I got up close and personal with the multifaceted Meera. Besides her full-time position as executive director of one of Malaysia’s largest ceramic tile companies, where she has honed her strong ideal of craftsmanship and focus on prints, Meera is also a part-time foodie (her latest recommendation is the German-inspired Restaurant Sühring in Bangkok), ballet dancer (she can en pointe in three … two … one!), design enthusiast (sequin cushions, anyone?), self-proclaimed feng shui master, and art collector. “I can’t live in a world where colour doesn’t exist!” she laughs.
True to her word, Meera was indeed the hostess with the mostest in a matchy Dolce & Gabbana ensemble, guiding me through the fascinating corners of her home, decked with the most interesting mix of antique treasures and modern art, featuring artists Azliza Ayob and Yusof Majid. The most recent art acquisition is an image of a woman’s neck by French artist Christian de Laubadère, who developed a strong fascination for the sophistication of women’s heads and necks after living in Shanghai for the past 17 years. “Christian combines his French heritage and understanding of Chinese culture, using charcoal as his medium to paint, before constructing dresses from antique fabrics and jewels to give each women their individual identity,” Meera explains. “The nape of a woman’s neck is, after all, the most enigmatic. It’s a typically hidden part of our body that we can never see ourselves. It truly is a powerful symbol of femininity and sensuality.”
One glance at Meera and one would be convinced that her good taste doesn’t end in the arts. A quick cruise through her walk-in closet reveals larger-than-life ball gowns from legendary designer Oscar de la Renta, luscious Fendi furs, tailored denim jackets, looks hot off the runway, and Crayola brights evident of her personality. Thinking of her former corporate career as a chartered accountant and corporate banker, one wonders how her style has evolved from cuffed shirts and black suits, to floral skirts and rainbow trainers, to which Meera attributes to her childhood days of watching her mother on the sewing machine. “My mother always focused on the cut and accentuated the details,” she says.
A life in London, coupled with years of travelling the world with sister Rekha von Bueren for trade shows and fashion buys, also led to an interest in fashion. “When I was working in London, you could only catch me looking like a serious banker—cufflinks and all. But once the sun set, I saw a chance to explore a different expression of myself, one that favoured a kaleidoscope of prints, monster furry bags, and fringe stockings—more is more!” she recalls fondly, before making a dramatic descent in her home elevator. The practical answer to her whimsical way of fashion experimentation is in the work that she does at the company she runs with her husband, Dato’ John Chua.
Kimgres Marketing specialises in contemporary tile designs and bespoke services, and its luxurious product offerings include vibrant ethnic prints, warm wood tones, and chic shades reminiscent of travertine stones from Ancient Greece. Kimgres’s strong foothold in Southeast Asia, Australia, Middle East, India, and New Zealand has also led to its recent expansion. Now supplying Johnson Tiles, Kimgres’s projects range from flooring the iconic Battersea Power Station luxury apartments to the redevelopment of the BBC Television Centre in London. Here in Malaysia, Meera’s work in progress includes synergistic collaborations with local fashion designers, whereby their designs and creativity are showcased through Kimgres’s bespoke tiles.
Design and architecture aside, Meera is also a firm believer in new-age feng shui. As if on cue, she whips out her luopan, a feng shui compass that she’s used to structure the layout of her residence to achieve better balance and harness positive energy. For someone who has no inkling of the study of feng shui, I have to hand it to Meera, as her artfully placed subtle touches fooled even my observant self. “Ceiling shapes in the figure ‘8’, slightly curved walls, and interior colours can all play a part in good feng shui,” she explains.
Meera’s definition of a perfect home is one that represents the owner’s creativity. For her, Brazilian jazz always has to be playing in the background, as she fills the space with bold interior pieces such as a hand-stitched leather stool in the shape of a pig, a giant turtle wooden bowl, and a silver chameleon wooden vase from Lotus Arts de Vivre. “Their fine jewellery and objets d’art are one of a kind, and handmade with natural materials, which suit the theme of our home,” she says, while referencing the illuminated bar countertop made of exotic stones. These eclectic items are then mixed with other antique collectibles such as blue-and-white Chinese porcelain and a pair of wooden horses, placed beneath a calligraphy painting, scored from an antique shop on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles.
When Meera isn’t doing sun salutations in her green backyard next to her koi pond, she is jet-setting all over the world: Paris, to admire French Baroque architecture, and to dream up a romantic boudoir set-up that could be incorporated into her home; other times, she is in London for Frieze and Frieze Masters, discovering the voice of feminism and radical politics among young female artists, enriching herself with thousands of years of art history presented in a modern context. “It has been a yearly affair for my designer friend Justin Oh and I,” she muses. “Some of the art projects here bring people together and create a dialogue in search of solutions for today’s current issues.”
Meera is happiest when she swaps out her heels for sneakers, and a full face of make-up for SPF protection, when she gets into soccer mum mode. Between her 10-year-old son Kayden’s six-days-a-week football schedule and Sarawak laksa dinner parties with friends, she also finds time to indulge in some fantasy fiction reading. Currently, she is hooked on Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor, who uses war orphan Lazlo Strange’s wild imagination to describe how a dream chooses the dreamer, and not the reverse.
Using a little imagination, Meera dreams of a greener neighbourhood and belonging to a free-spirited community. Her latest venture has her designing the exterior walls of her home, which is inspired by the lush rainforests of Sarawak. “I hope to recreate the magical feeling of tranquility where people can feel like they’re being transported out of the hustle and bustle of everyday living,” she says. True to what American activist Gloria Steinem once said, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”