When commissioned to design a patio for a two-story residence on 4,840 acres in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, architect Brian Chien of A-Design Architects, Sdn. Bhd. was faced with a difficult challenge. The design needed to be appropriate for the grandeur of the space, yet be comfortable enough for casual outdoor gatherings. The end result was a thoughtful combination of two varieties of Brazilian slate met both design objectives.

In considering materials for the home - which is located in an exclusive area on the island of Borneo, Malaysia - Chien had very specific considerations. He looked for stones that could provide the right accents to the patio and make it stand out without overwhelming the other materials and overall features of the residence. After considering materials such as marble, granite, quartzite and sandstone, he finally settled on slate. And to determine which variety of slate would be most appropriate, he met with various local suppliers in Malaysia to sample materials from around the world.

Eventually, a meeting with stone supplier, Umehika (M) Sdn. Bhd. of Kuching, led him to green and purple slate varieties quarried and fabricated in Brazil by Micapel. But while Chien was pleased with the aesthetic values of the stone, he also needed to verify the practical qualities of the materials. The architect wanted to ensure that both stones met all the technical requirements of absorption, modulus of rupture, abrasion, resistance, and also that they had the aesthetic capacity to withstand the daily cleaning and wear and tear common to a patio application. After reviewing the test results and project references, the stones were deemed suitable for the project. "The kind of beauty and practicality coupled with toughness called for were there," Chien said, adding that the stones were also approved by the house owner, Dr. George Chan Hong Nam.

An order was placed for a total of 1,300 square feet of the two stones - 650 square feet of each - originating from Brazil. Installation started with a mock-up of the patio floor to ensure that the pieces forming the design pattern would fit properly. The tiles had come from the Brazilian fabricator and exporter in standard sizes of 24 x 24 inches. The design of the floor pattern also required special cuts, which were made by the installer at the job site. Included were geometric shapes such as squares, oblongs, and triangles that integrated both the red and green slate varieties. Once the installers confirmed that the custom-cut pieces and standard pieces would fit properly, the actual setting commenced. And with the slate in place, the design thoughtfully blended the slate with complementary furniture and fixtures to create a balanced and suave decor.