Get to know the 5 Types of Malay Traditional Houses in Indonesia

Malay Traditional Houses – The Malays are an Austronesian ethnic group who inhabit the Malay Peninsula, the coast of the island of Sumatra starting from Jambi, Bangka Belitung, Riau, Riau Islands, North Sumatra and South Sumatra. In addition, the Malays cover the southern part of Thailand, the island of Singapore, the southern coast of Burma, the coast of Borneo, the southern Philippines, and also the small islands around it. Many Malay tribes in Indonesia inhabit the east coast of Sumatra Island and the west coast of Kalimantan Island.

The Malay traditional house is a wooden house or village house in ancient times as a place to live for the Malay people. Nowadays, not many Malay children know the characteristics of a traditional wooden house. Malay traditional houses are no less unique than today’s modern house buildings.

With the main material of wood, the house has its own characteristics with various shapes. The following is a complete explanation of the Malay traditional house and its uniqueness.

The Origins of Malay Traditional Houses

Long before the existence of external influences and modern concepts, the Malay population and indigenous people in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra as well as other Bumiputera or Indigenous people in Kalimantan and other parts of the Malay world already had housing systems that were sophisticated, beautiful, and also in accordance with lifestyles and their environment.

For Malays as well as indigenous people on the Peninsula, Sumatra and other islands, it is common to build one house that is inhabited by one large family. Some tribes in Kalimantan prefer the concept of a long house that can accommodate an entire village.

In ancient times, each family would live in apartment-like sections that were lined up side by side, with an open front porch or what is commonly known as a “ruai” in the Sarawak language, which connected all the units into one long building.

Malay Traditional House Structure

The building materials used will be taken from renewable natural resources, namely various types of wood and bamboo as well as rattan to fronds. The frame or structure of the house uses a punch-through system and also pegs that don’t require nails. That means, the construction of Malay plank houses is actually a ready-made system.

Therefore, the house can also be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere. In addition, the construction method without using nails also makes the house more flexible. So that it can be lifted and moved by mutual cooperation by the local community.

Even though traditional houses are built without using any nails, it is acknowledged that for more modern wooden houses, there are non-structural elements such as additional walls using nails. In terms of design, Malay traditional houses can be said to be very sophisticated and contain architectural features. In addition, it is also in accordance with a comfortable lifestyle and according to custom and nature.

Advantages and Weaknesses of Malay Traditional Houses

The Malay traditional house is indeed a cultural heritage that we must preserve, especially with its uniqueness. To see what are the advantages and disadvantages of Malay traditional houses, the following is an explanation.


  1. Because the house is in the form of stilts and has pillars underneath, this house is very adaptive to the conditions in areas prone to flooding. This house can prevent flood water from entering the room.
  2. Floors and walls made of woven wood or rattan make it easier for hot air to escape from the house. So that the air ventilation in the Malay traditional house is very smooth.
  3. Then the shape of the roof of the house makes it easier for rainwater to fall to the ground more quickly, so there are no standing water around the roof.
  4. Buildings that can be disassembled make it easy to move houses or to be renovated.


Because the building is made of wood, this traditional house cannot last long if it is not cared for properly. Because, this house will be prone to being eaten by termites if not treated.

Existing Malay Traditional Houses in Indonesia

The Malay tribe has characteristics other than the style of speech, dance, and traditional houses. Most Malay traditional houses have different functions and models from one another. The following are some of the Malay traditional houses which are well known in Indonesia.

1. Twin Falls Selaso House

This Malay traditional house is very unique and magnificent. Selaso Falls Twins has been designated by the Riau Provincial Government as an official traditional house. The shape of the Twin Falls Selaso House is a stilt house. It is about 1.5 meters high and in ancient times was supported by a wooden pillar as a support. However, now many Selaso houses use concrete supports.

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The name Selaso Tutup Kembar is taken from the shape of the hall. Where this part is much wider than the living room and is the center of the residence. This Malay traditional house looks very luxurious and big. It is said that the higher the degree of a person in the community, the bigger the Twin Falls Selaso House will be.

The distinctive features of the Selaso Falling Twins Malay traditional house are:

  1. On the roof in the form of the letter A 2 levels. There is also a cross section on the roof which is usually called Sulo Bayung.
  2. There are also cross corners that are at the foot of the roof. Malay people usually call it Sayok Layangan. It is said that the cross area on this roof symbolizes closeness to God the Creator.
  3. At first glance, the Selaso Falls Twin House is almost similar to the Selaso Hall, but people must be able to distinguish between the two. Where the Selaso Falls Twin House is used for family residence, while the Selaso Hall is usually used for customary meetings. Rumah Selaso also has a distinctive feature of its shape that extends to the side.
  4. The Selaso Kembar house will generally be decorated with golden yellow ornaments, while the wooden walls are usually painted with dark brown varnish. The tile is usually maroon in color and tends to be dark. This color combination will make Selaso Kembar look very elegant and luxurious.

2. Lotik Roof House

The name of this house is taken from the very unique roof model. The Lotik Roof House comes from the Kampar Regency, Riau Province. Where this Malay traditional house is also often called Lancang or Pancalang. The name Pancalang here comes from the decorative ornaments on the front wall of the house.

The roof of this house is similar to the traditional Minangkabau house, where the roof is shaped like a boat. We can see the shape of the roof which is similar to the crescent moon. Then in the middle it is curved sharply and the 2 ends are towering. This traditional house is also made with a stage model, where the pole height can reach 1.5 to 2 meters.

For wood used as a pole must be strong and durable. What’s more, many of these traditional houses were built in peat areas. The pillars of this traditional house are quite a lot. So, the larger the roof of the Lotik house, the more poles used. Meanwhile, at the front of the house there are wide steps and a fairly small terrace.

3. Rumah Limas Slash

This traditional house is often found in Riau Province. In general, this Rumah Limas Slash is made entirely of wood and the construction is in the form of stilts. The people of Riau in ancient times lived in harmony with nature. They prefer to live beside forests and also by rivers. Therefore, the house they build must also be in accordance with the environment around it.

Houses built in areas around swamps or close to forests are the most suitable for stilt designs. Because, this design can prevent the house from damage due to flooding. In addition, the occupants of the house also don’t need to be afraid of wild animal attacks when they are staying alone in this stilt house. Houses on stilts can also minimize the entry of mosquitoes into the room.

The following are some of the characteristics of the Limas Cutting House, including:

  1. Limas Cut houses generally stand with a 1.5 meter high pillar. The pole itself is made of hardwood.
  2. The walls are made of white painted wooden planks.
  3. This one house also has a roof shape that is different from houses in other Sumatran areas. As the name implies, the roof of this traditional house is in the form of a pyramid with a truncated top.

If we go to the interior of Riau, we can find this model of house. There are still some people who build houses using the Cut Limas model. The shape itself is quite simple with a size that is not too big. The Limas Simpang House has also been heavily modified with the use of concrete pillars.

We can also see various sizes and ornaments in this traditional house. The bigger the house, this indicates that the economic status of the family is high.

  1. Wealthy people’s homes generally tended to have more elaborate ornamentation. There will be many ornate carvings placed in various parts of the house.
  2. For the middle to lower economic class, we can see they live in a simple house in Limas Tutup. In fact, sometimes the walls of the wooden boards are not painted in any color, the roof can also use low-quality types of tiles or wooden planks.
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4. Balaso House Falls

Besides being used for housing, the Malay tribe also has a special traditional house that is used for gathering. This house is shared property. If in modern times its function is more similar to a village hall, the Sumatran Malays call it Balai Salaso.

However, many people also call it the Fallen Balaso or Fallen Salaso. At first glance, this traditional house is similar to the Salaso Kembar traditional house. This traditional house has its own uniqueness, where we can see a stilt house building with the following characteristics:

  1. Has a support pole of about 1.5 meters.
  2. This house is surrounded by a hallway on the front and sides.
  3. The floor in the front room is generally lower than the living room. Because one of the functions of this house is used for tribal members’ meetings, it is certain that the hall and front room are wider.
  4. We can see that the roof of the house is made in a terraced form, the roof consists of 4 levels. If you pay attention, the proportion of the building’s height is lower than the roof.
  5. This one house is also equipped with a staircase in the middle that is wide enough.
  6. Generally, the roof will be covered with bright red tiles, while at the edges it is always given a wooden border that crosses at the ends.
  7. There are two meeting roofs that cross each other on the front. This dividing wood will be painted in a color that contrasts with the roofing material.

The Salaso traditional house is deliberately made with a large and magnificent shape. In fact, this house became the central point and pride of the tribe. So that the Salaso Falls house can be more magnificent and beautiful, people usually decorate it with various kinds of carvings. On the walls and fences of the hall, for example, we can see various kinds of typical Malay ornaments.

Balai Salaso was also built by many Malays in Riau. This traditional Malay house has been used for generations for deliberations related to custom. Tribe chiefs generally hold a kind of meeting and decide on various matters at Balai Salaso. It can be said that Balaso Fell became the center of activity for all members of the tribe, while the houses of the residents stood around it.

5. Traditional Malay Fold Kajang House

There is another Malay traditional house that we can find in Riau, the name is the Fold Kajang traditional house. The shape itself is quite unique, especially on the roof. The name fold here indicates a folded roof, while the kajang itself means a bend, which can be a road or a river. In this traditional house, the folds are located on the roof. The following are some of the uniqueness of this traditional house, including:

  1. The traditional folding kajang house has a roof shape that resembles a boat. The two ends turn sharply upwards. The Malays usually call this type of roof the term jerambah which comes from the Palembang area.
  2. The kajang folding house has a construction in the form of a stilt house, but at the base of the house it is also used as a room.
  3. The floors and walls of this traditional house are completely made of wood.
  4. The Kajang Folding House is also decorated using carved ornaments.
  5. Then, on the edge of the roof, we will see wooden ornaments that are wavy.
  6. The front and side of this traditional house are filled with wide windows.
  7. At the front there is a passage which is slightly lower than the living room.

But unfortunately, we will not be able to find people who still use houses like this. Now, whether in urban or rural areas, there are already many people who have switched to more modern forms of housing.

If we are in the Riau region, don’t miss cultural tourism. Because, we can go around to see the uniqueness of Malay traditional house architecture. The combination of culture from mainland Malays as well as native Indonesian culture makes this traditional house very unique and diverse.

This is an explanation of the Malay traditional house and its types and uniqueness. For Sinaumed’s who want to know more about traditional houses in Indonesia, you can read related books by visiting .

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Author: Umm