Build Diary 6 – Bring in an expert!

Designing my villa!


Our rectangular piece of land slopes down towards an adjoining rice field that is currently designated ‘green belt” (i.e. environmentally protected and not to be built on). It makes sense to take advantage of that and have the villa face the rice field. I’ve been brainstorming, changing, revising and adapting. I’ve made a basic design for the villa and decided to bring in an expert to help me.

Our home


The villa will consist of 2 buildings. The first one, which is closer to the main road, is single story and houses a large photography studio (I couldn’t resist!) and a big office, as well as a storage room and staffroom. After this is a large courtyard that leads onto a 2 level building with a kitchen/living/dining and TV room downstairs and 3 bedrooms upstairs.

I’ve planned it so that some of the rooms can be turned into guest bedrooms for when friends and family visit. On the other side of this building are the garden and pool which overlook a rice field.

Our Bali house - top view
Our Bali house - side view

Insider knowledge – airflow, airflow, airflow!


One of the advantages of having lived in Bali for some time now is that I know some features that I absolutely need. It’s no surprise that Bali is hot…..all the time! Expert tip – airflow is super important.

Our current home doesn’t have good airflow, so ensuring our next home does is a priority. We plan to utilise massive windows and doors on both sides of the main building that can open up onto the courtyard on one side and the garden on the other. We spend most family time in that living and kitchen area, so we’ll need some airflow to make it as comfy as possible.

Some people prefer to have an open-to-the-elements living space but that has never worked for us in the past. It’s an exotic change during a quick tropical holiday, but I don’t like it long-term. Too many bugs and smoke from burning rice fields mean it’s a necessity to be able to block off the outside world!



Not to mention that our kids often wake up early and are now usually able to make their way downstairs to play without waking us up. A living area that be securely enclosed is an absolute must as we don’t want any snakes or other creepy crawlies waiting for them downstairs.

Our Bali living room

This is the living room in our current home. It looks great from this angle…… but there are no windows on the other side of the room so there’s no airflow which is big no no in the tropics! We won’t make this mistake again!

Choosing my architect


Building a house is daunting at the best of times, particularly in a different country where the laws and regulations are as clear as mud! Normally, if I had to choose an architect, I would make a list of architects I admired, meet them, discuss my ideas, see their completed works, get quotes, review etc.

Fortunately, we could skip that time-consuming process because I was already friends with a fantastic architect, Silvia from Argentina, who has over 30 years’ experience. I am already very familiar with her work. Read about my family connection with her here. She’s closer to my mum’s age but we have so much in common – we really are kindred spirits! It was time to bring in an expert!

My Bali architect

As well as designing the house and garden, Silvia will also manage the construction. I had already seen projects she has done and I know that she is amazing. Just as importantly, we have a strong emotional connection – we simply get each other. Like me, she knows and loves great design.

But as an architect, she has a wealth of knowledge that I don’t have. We can bounce ideas off each other and she knows the right questions to ask me so I can better define the home I want.

Each week, I’ve been trawling through Instagram, pinning boards on Pinterest, and sending messages to Silvia. I’m lucky to visit a lot of gorgeous villas for Bali Interiors, so inspiration is not hard to find! I am starting to visualise what our villa will look like. Sometimes she comes over to my home in Canggu and stays overnight so we can work uninterrupted for hours.

Some of my design inspiration porn!

Locals vs foreigners? 


Before we build, we need official permission. Many locals feel comfortable building on their own land without getting the required permits from the government (in fact most local residential buildings don’t have a building permit!). However, it would be foolhardy for a foreigner to do this as you could be forced to tear down your villa or be blackmailed into paying hush money. Here is why we’d already decided to rent land long-term rather than buy (hint – it’s a safer bet!).

Bali build diary - getting an IMB
Bali build diary - getting an IMB

An IMB, which looks like a licence plate, is put outside the front door and shows that the building has been officially approved.  

Red tape


As with much of Bali’s bureaucracy, the rules regarding building are opaque. Ask the same question to 5 different experts and you’ll get 5 different answers. Working through the system can be annoying. For example, having our land rezoned must be done electronically. The username and password we needed was also used to apply for our neighbour’s construction. But we couldn’t get that log in info, and it couldn’t be re-issued!

So we needed to contact the neighbour….who put us in touch with his architect….who gave us the builder’s number. He referred us to their consultant….who eventually gave us the lawyer’s contact number. He was reluctant to give us the log in info! Eventually we got it, but it was frustrating to say the least!

Similar frustrations were felt when researching possible designs for our home. As we’ve got more land than we expected, we have the opportunity to build a home office for Bali Interiors (yay!) as well as a photographic studio (double yay!) for me to work out of. Super exciting!

We’re changing our zoning to allow a home + office construction, so that means there a whole new bunch of regulations we need to abide by. Lots of WhatsApp conversations between us, Silvia our architect, her local assistant architect, our consultant Lily, and her assistant. We’re often discussing the details in English, Indonesian and Spanish, so we need to double check everything to make sure nothing is lost in translation!

After months and months we have our land, a general layout of what the build will look like, and now an expert to help me design my home.




  1. Isadora Noble October 31, 2021

    Hello, Wow! How beautiful all of your designs and homes are. I am wondering if you could help recommend cabinetry makers in Bali or a contact that manufactures in Indonesia. We are regular visitors to Bali and want some cabinetry manufactured in Bali that we can ship to Perth Australia. We have the designs completed already. Would you be kind enough to share me on a few contacts?

    1. baliinteriors November 28, 2021

      Unfortunately, none spring to mind. We’ve had mixed experiences with many cabinetry makers here. Basically, you need to be on-site regularly to check the quality. If not, standards often fall.


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