The character of a private villa in terms of design is definitely a key aspect that dictates the vacation experience of guests. And by combining distinct traditional features with the comforts of modern luxuries, Bali’s lavish home rentals offer an authentic Balinese experience that each visitor to the “Island of the gods” wishes to have.
Aside from the conveniences brought by modern technology, the architectural identity of Bali’s present-day luxury homes has significantly remained unchanged for centuries. In fact, Balinese architecture is considered by many designers as a hallmark of Asian tropical architecture and is replicated in many contemporary designs throughout the world. In this article, we shall see how this cultural treasure is embedded in Bali’s luxury villas to create heavenly oases for their fortunate guests.
Features of Traditional Balinese Houses
1. Gated compounds
Instead of a singular structure, a traditional house in Bali is composed of several bungalows laid out within a walled compound or “pakarangan”. Gates are considered one of the most symbolic parts of a Balinese house and are often constructed in a highly ornate fashion. The aesthetic quality of their gates is also a status symbol among the community with wealthier families posing more extravagant displays.
The masterful orchestration of interior spaces and open areas is still a distinct character found in many of Bali’s private villas. This building layout enables occupants to experience both the comforts of the villa’s interiors and the tranquility of the tropical outdoors.
Combining indoor and outdoors is not only achieved by their building layout; another defining feature of Bali’s luxury villas is the minimal use of walls. Curtains and ornamental plants give way to concrete and glass. Just like the past inhabitants of the island, present-day designers recognize that the true beauty of the island is not found indoors. And with such stunning locations, these properties present breathtaking views that occupants can enjoy in every section of the house.
Natural stone, water, and plant life -all incorporated in the garden landscape of Villa Bayad.
The idea of compounds also allows space for another key feature of a Balinese house: a garden. In their courtyards, families would plant on any available open space expect only those allocated for walking, creating their own little Bali within their compound. Their love for gardens also shows the people’s appreciation of being one with nature. They often landscape these spaces imitating the verdant sceneries of the island, making use of natural stones, native plants, and creating impressive water features. Villa Zellie in Canggu and Villa Bayad in Ubud is one fine example with its wonderous covering of tropical greenery.
Tropical vegetation conceals a stone-carved bathtub in one of Villa Kayu‘s bedrooms.
One popular feature among the villas in Bali are lovely outdoor baths set within their own private garden. Though there are plenty to choose from, some of the most impressive are those of Villa Ambar, Villa Beji, Villa Kayu, and Villa Kaba Kaba.
Be it in the form of water walls, fountains, reflection ponds, or spectacular infinity pools, every luxury villa in Bali is certain to come with a water feature. Aside from the joyous feeling of submerging into a crystal clear swimming pool, the sound of flowing water will soothe any unsettled soul.
Balinese-Hinduism regard water as an element of cleansing both physically and spiritually and most locals embrace this by incorporating it to their homes. Ponds are almost always part of a traditional Balinese abode. Covered by lotus plants and water lilies, they blend splendidly with the surrounding garden vegetation.
The relationship of the Balinese people with water also goes deep into their everyday life as rice farmers too. Their traditional irrigation system called “subaks” has been sustaining their rice terraces for more than a thousand years. This concept is adapted in some garden ponds, exhibiting the flow of water from one level to another.
5. Stoneworks and wood carvings
A row of stone figurines watches over the courtyard of Villa Samuan.
The Balinese people have a distinct artistic style that is manifested in their intricate stone and wood carvings. From gate and door jambs to statues and figurines, their houses are filled with fascinating works of art. Such articles are an expression of cultural beliefs and at the same time further establishes the personality of their homes.
A traditional bale offers a comfy lounging spot amidst the gardens of Villa Cliffland.
Just as the Thai have their “sala”, bales are also iconic to traditional Bali homes. They are quite similar in purpose, originally built by rice farmers as resting places while out on the fields. Bales, however, are usually simpler, built with flat and elevated flooring and without any benches. Its idyllic charm is still well-appreciated and is found in many luxury villas on the island.
7. Thatched Roofs
The neatly hand-crafted thatched roof of Villa Cliffland’s bedroom suite.
Thatched roofs may appear primitive to many but there is a good reason why it is still one of the most common roofing methods in the world. At the peak of the wet season, Bali receives up to 13.5 inches of rain per month and these economical building materials provide excellent protection from rainwater.
They give the structure a light and rustic appearance which complements the extensive use of structural wood material. It also creates an added vertical space to the interior. Some luxury villas, however, also adapt the iconic Javanese temple roof forms like Villa Ka, Villa Shambala, and Villa Kalua.
8. Organic Building Materials
In addition to thatched roofs, the rest of the building is extensively constructed entirely out of organic materials. Bamboo is particularly common and is used as poles, woven, and roof material. Other materials also include coconut lumber and dried leaves, teak wood, stones, bricks, and wood shingles which are applied as roof tiles. This impressive selection of building materials reflects the Balinese philosophy of building homes in harmony with nature.
9. Use of fabrics
The bedroom of Villa Nora with a contemporary Balinese design.
Light, simple fabrics are a key element to achieving a Balinese-inspired interior. With only a few walls, curtains are present in almost every room. Linens create a feel of breeziness to the interior and add a recognizable aesthetic touch to sofas, walls, and other furniture. Four poster beds with drapes are particularly iconic to contemporary Balinese interior design.
A notable characteristic of Balinese architecture is that the religious beliefs of the people influence their design and construction methods just as much as the practicalities of everyday living. For example, the concept behind having gated compounds was to ward off predators such as the tiger which were once abundant throughout the peninsula, but this particular feature also has a deep, religious significance as the “gateway between the dead and the living; the physical world and the spiritual world”.
Their methods of construction and planning of the building layout follow detailed guidelines as dictated by their religious principles. In addition, every house is built with its own family temple or “sanggah” and until now, Bali’s luxury homes still make space for spiritual icons and figures.
Despite the presence of the Dutch on Balinese lands which lasted for about a century, the architectural identity of the region remained intact. Though some luxury villas possess features that represent the plantation houses from the island’s colonial past such as Villa Tjitrap in Seminyak and Villa Tamarama in Uluwatu.
Despite staying true to the local design and architecture which gives a tropical island look, these properties are well-equipped with the opulence of modern living. Bali’s luxury villas feature flat-screen TVs, sound systems, state-of-the-art kitchens, sports facilities, lavish bathroom fixtures, and private chefs. But the beauty of Bali and the embrace of the environment provided by the villas are sure to stay with you even after you have left.
The Balinese people believed that each individual house possesses life or “udip”. And though we may not all share this ideology, it is a concept that seemingly transpires in luxury villa rentals. Bali’s holiday homes have their own unique character that guests are sure to recognize and personally appreciate during their stay.