Bali Travel for the Design Obsessed

 

Bali remains one of the most inspiring places in the world for design and decor enthusiasts.  Even with hordes of visitors each year (normal non 2020/2021 years!) - it manages to keep its reputation as a mecca for those seeking unparalleled beauty.  While there are many things that the rampant overdevelopment of certain parts of the island has sullied, the shining spirit of the island remains uneclipsed.  

An arching penjor made from bamboo and palm leaves - these line the streets during the holidays of Galungan and Kuningan.

One of the best things, not surprisingly, about owning an import furniture store is buying trips, and Bali remains our family's favorite destination year after year.  Tierra Del Lagarto opened in the spring of 1991 - (yes, we are almost 30 years old!!)  but the anniversary of starting our international buying trips is the summer of 1995 - that very first trip that took us to Bali.  My mother, Linda, and I embarked on a two week journey there when I was a kooky, unfocused college student, and she was an enterprising new shop owner looking to expand into direct importing.

 

Shopping at one of our favorite wholesaler's lots.  Taking deep dives into all the antique architectural elements gathered from all over Indonesia is one of my favorite pastimes.  

We had been buying from US based importers that kept warehouses in LA and Santa Fe, and from small vendors that showed their wares at wholesale gift shows for years leading up to that first trip.  Talking with the import business owners we befriended, we realized the leap to travelling and bringing in containers of our own was an actual possibility.  It would be a risk financially, but one that would, at the very least, be an adventure we could take together. 

A serene lava stone Dewi Sri statue surrounded by blooming vines.  We love to bring in these beautiful stone garden pieces, they hold up so well even in our harsh desert environment.  If only we could get the lush jungle to grow here as well! 

From that very first year, staying in $30 a night home-stay type bungalows, sharing a twin room with my mom, to the bamboo palaces and house compounds we share with friends and family on complex trips that I painstakingly plan for months each year now - we have continually been in awe of the creative design evident in every accomodation we have ever stayed.  

The incredible entry to the bamboo fairy castle that is Sharma Springs.
Sharma Springs is an architectural marvel created almost entirely out of bamboo.  The five story structure is open to the jungle all around with glorious views from every room.  Light streams in at sundown and the entire structure glows like a lantern.  I made a video tour of this amazing home and saved it to our Highlights on Instagram - take a peek by clicking this link!

One of the most delightful things about Bali is the bewildering amount of incredible villas one can rent while visiting the island.  If you can gather a few friends, or a family or two to come along, a magical home can be yours quite affordably for a week or more when you split up the nightly costs.  

Me looking out a the treetops below.  Photo by Douglas Blum (my dear husband!)

We love to divide our stays into weeks where we have just our immediate family - my husband and I and our three kids, plus my mom - to focus on work and enjoying each other's company - with weeks where we have lots of friends and extended family join us.  

Above - Puri Burung in Canggu - a simple A frame home where we have stayed many times.  Below - our younger son on the swing that hangs from one of the high up beams.
Below is a huge villa compound we rented in the Canggu area with a group of 16 friends one year with amazing grounds - I love that even cactus can find a home in Balinese gardens!

Our trips are also split between beach time and staying up in the hills outside of Ubud.  Seaside stays are tricky since it's lovely to be near all the amazing restaurants in busy Canggu and Seminyak - but it's not so lovely to be near all the chaos and traffic. 

Down the beach from Canggu is the still quiet village of Seseh.  We rented the beautiful, but rustic Eco Gypsy House for a few days and loved the all white, boho-chic environment.  I also filmed a tour of this property - take a peek here! 

We love the area around Seseh beach, which is a good 25 plus minute walk to Canggu proper, or closer in there is a quieter stretch of sand at Nelayan Beach where we've happily stayed. 

Creative rooms like this are almost normal in Bali - a pair of decorative urns become tha base for a whimsical bathroom vanity - lanterns and mirrors hang from the ceiling.  Always - a place for offerings at the ready. 

Amazing what warmth a pair of rattan pendants can bring to a room - one of the beds at one of the houses near Nelayan Beach we have stayed.

The best beach getaway, however is to hightail it out of the busy south.  We have been renting the same house in Candi Dasa for years and love the quiet and calm on the east side of the island.  Having dinner at Vincent's on Thursday nights for the live jazz is worth the 3 hour drive alone - but our favorite beach is on that side of the island as well, Pantai Putih which means White Sand Beach.

The primary bedroom at our favorite villa in Candi Dasa, Villa Coco Maya, with its soaring teak joglo ceiling.  A joglo is a traditional house in Jave made with timbers that hold up an alang alang roof. 
The view of the sea and pool of our villa in Candi Dasa.

For our Ubud area time we always pick villas one can get to without having to actually drive through Ubud proper.  When we first started coming to Bali 26 years ago Ubud was a quiet hamlet with a few streets with small shops that didn't even have windows on them.  There was just a handful of yummy little restaurants that served nasi goring or campur and not much else.  Now it is a full fledged international tourism destination with hundreds of fancy boutiques, scores of gourmet gastropubs, packed tour buses, and way more traffic than its narrow lanes can handle.  One can literally get stuck in a car for over an hour on the two short kilometers of Jalan Raya Ubud midday.  But outside of town there are heavenly tiered rice fields, and quiet villages not quite overrun with the onslaught of foreign owned rental villas.  

Villa Kembang, a huge 7 bedroom villa we rented with lots of friends and family a couple years ago.  It was crazy amazing - nestled in the rice fields about a 20 minute motor bike ride from Ubud proper.  The way the property stepped down the hillside, just like the carefully tended rice terraces, was glorious.

One of the private pools at Villa Kembang
The stunningly gorgeous, minimal, but exemplary Rumah Hajan just a few minutes away from Ubud.  Quiet perfection.  

Shopping for Papua goods in Tegalalang outside of Ubud.  And at one of our favorite architectural dealers below.
Above and below:  up in the hills above Bali - a favorite garden at Villa Gajah, a lovely four bedroom home outside of Ubud.  The layers of color and texture in tropical gardens is miraculous to us desert dwellers.  The structure at the end of the path is a bale - or a free standing lounging pavillion set to take in the rice field views.   

Another wonderful way to get away from the chaos of touristed Bali is to escape to a villa tucked away in the still calm western villages.  Our friends opened a gorgeous small villa, Dharma Oasis,  in Tabanan surrounded by rice fields, where all one has to do is lie by the pool or take long walks where all one might see are beautiful Balinese cows.  The wonderful thing is, even though one is tucked away in the hills, the gorgeous black sand Balian Beach is only a 30 minute drive away.  

A stunning lunch at Dharma Oasis

 

Linda by the pool at Dharma Oasis

Balinese cows are the prettiest! 
Balian Beach
 
One of the iconic gypsy wagons at the sadly closed La Laguna Restaurant in Canggu 

No matter where you end up in Bali, inspiration is everywhere.  Restaurants, villas, hotels, and shops are artfully designed in wildly inventive ways, and new ones open seemingly daily. 

 

The amazing rattan light fixtures at the over the top Finn's Beach Club in Canggu

The true inspiration we find, however, lies in the traditional temples, villages, and offerings that the Balinese live with everyday.  

Traditional Balinese doorways welcome good spirits and are made to confuse and repel evil wishes.
Balinese dancers tell their complex tales largely through their incredibly expressive eyes and gestures - but the costumes and characters are amazing inspiration in their own right.  Photo by Douglas Blum  
Nothing inspires as much as the natural world.  Interacting with the lush beauty of the island is what we come back for year after year.

Visiting the Tirta Empul Temple's water garden with our kids and friends.

If only the hand carved doors we bring back on our ocean containers worked as portals that could whisk us back to our favorite place on earth - Bali.

 

While the vast majority of our goods we import from Bali is too big for us to list online - we do have a collection of treasures to shop on our website!  Take a peek here and check back often to see what new goodies have been posted!

A teak opium bed, root wood balls, and lava stone Buddhas we just received from Bali!

 

It is my dream to have a little Balinese home of our own someday.  Something modest and lovely like this charming place we walked by years ago....  it's good to dream!
 

Links to properties we have stayed in this post:

The Eco Gypsy House - Seseh Beach near Canggu

Villa Kembang - Outside of Ubud - Photos on their site do not do it justice!

Villa Coco Maya in Candi Dasa

Sharma Springs in Abiansemal outside of Ubud

Villa Gajah Ubud

Dharma Oasis - Tabanan 

A couple of other homes I photographed and showed here are no longer available, but there are infinite beautiful villas to find online.  We always try to stay somewhere new each year.  I could write dozens of these blog posts on Bali - let me know if you have any questions at all! 

And definitely follow Bali Interiors on Instagram for the best Bali inspo for Design!  Link here! 

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