Build Diary 5 – An enchanted pizza oven?

After buying the overgrown land, it was time to have a much better look at it. We hired a team of workers to hack their way in and remove all the plants. When they were cut away, we found a pizza oven!

Unexpected gold! 


The slash and burn process of removing the overgrown plants resulted in finding a large old-school brick pizza oven. It was next to a strange small round building made with stone and large pieces of glass and containing a bathtub!

There is a lot of great Italian food in Bali: this is one of my favourites, but I wasn’t expecting to find a pizza oven on the land! On the other side of our plot, there were also foundations for a very large building!

So it seems that my original impression that the land had simply been rice fields was totally wrong! Looks like it was a rice field before someone started building but didn’t finish. Abandoned, it became overgrown jungle.

The good news is that there was no irrigation for use as a rice field for a long time. We won’t need to dry it out before we can dig deep foundations.

Finally, we can see our land!

Good news!


Finally, we got some good news…..our re-zoning application was approved! Next, we need to get permission from 3 (yes 3!) different local government organisations to include as part of our building permit application. So, we collect more documents, pay more fees, obtain more signatures , and the process continues.

Thankfully, our consultant will arrange this for us! Most local homes in Bali don’t even have an official building permit, but as foreigners we couldn’t take that risk! We’ve already got the signatures of the landowner and our neighbours but there are always more that are needed.


What to build?


Throughout our extended contract negotiations, I have been brainstorming the type of house I want. While the cost of labour and materials is lower here, we’re planning on building something big. We’ll have to stretch to afford the build. No doubt we’ll also need to have some emergency cash to cover the almost inevitable extras and changes that will occur.

Another factor that influences our design is that we want a design and materials that our Balinese workers will be familiar with. Most villas are build using either steel-reinforced concrete or wood (the well-known Javanese joglo). Wood looks great and is nice for a short beach holiday. But when living in the tropics, I need walls that keep the bugs out and the AC in! It was a pretty easy decision to go with concrete. It makes sense to design an easy-to-build home.


A blessing in disguise?


Initially, we were aiming to get a piece of land between 4-6 are (400-600 square metres). However, the landowner would not budge from a minimum of 8 are (800 square metres) so that’s the size we settled on. This has allowed us to plan a building that’s a bit larger than we may have normally done.

While our kids are small now (4 and 7 years old), this won’t always be the case. If we end up staying longer in Bali, then we’ll need a home that accommodates teenagers (and all the drama they will bring!). We had already thought about different designs that could work, but each one suited different land sizes and outlooks.

The most common villa design is an L shaped building wrapped round a rectangular pool. 3 bedrooms on one side and a living/ kitchen on the other. However, I want to be more adventurous that that!

A building surprise in Bali. Our cleared land!
A building surprise in Bali. Our cleared land!

Our cleared land!

Designing the dream


In retrospect, looking at so many pieces of land, and thinking about what sort of building design would best fit each size and shape has been beneficial. It really forced me to try out lots of designs in my head, and narrow down what I want.

When inspiration strikes, I’ve been scribbling building notes on napkins and random bits of paper to create a basic plan of what I wanted. Now that my husband and I have our land, we’d often get inspired with an idea at strange times and put it to the other person. When hubby saw the pizza oven, he decided it was a sign from the heavens that we should built one too.

Night-time Netflix sessions were punctuated with discussions on where to put the staircase or what sort of covering suited the terrace. Hubby is the sort of guy who is content with “a beanbag, milk crate and flat screen tv” (and now a pizza oven!).

So many different factors to consider, it’s making my head spin. I need to bring in an expert who I can bounce ideas off.




  1. Pat October 25, 2019

    Hi Sheila…. I have build 4 houses on Bali. Would love to share with you my experiences if you are open to it.

  2. Carolyn Townsend October 30, 2019

    Hi there! I’m enjoying your blog. I’m curious to understand, however, what happens after the 25 years? Who owns what?

    1. baliinteriors October 30, 2019

      Hi Carolyn, at the end of the 25 years, the land and anything on it generally revert back to the landowner (depending on what the parties agreed to). The building, unless it is removable (such as a joglo), is now the landowner’s. However, anything in the building can be removed. After speaking with many people who have been in a similar situation, it seems very common to take second lease (e.g. years 26-50) during the first lease. In fact, often the landowner asks the tenant to extend! It took me a while to get my head around it, but this seems to be the safest way to obtain land and build. We deliberately did our numbers presuming we wouldn’t be able to extend, and it still worked out very favourably. If we can extend, it will be an added bonus.

  3. Matt November 23, 2019

    Hi,I am interested in building my own pizza oven here on Bali.
    I am wondering if you ever get any further info on the structure and who built it can you send it on to me?

    Good luck and many thanks.

    1. baliinteriors November 24, 2019

      Hi Matt, Sadly, it remains a mystery! Interestingly, my husband has also been researching wood-fired pizza ovens here in Bali. He suggests 2 options. (1) Look around at the pizza joints that have a good-looking and great-tasting old school pizza oven in the part of Bali you live in. Enquire at that restaurant about who built it so you can contact them. (2) Do some googling to find a set of detailed plans you like online (lots on youtube and various websites), print them out, take them to a trusted handyman and watch him make it – i.e. make sure the handyman follows every single step! Good luck!


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