When we last visited jewellery-designer Alex, she was halfway through her build in Tumbak Bayuh. As Canggu continues to grow in popularity, surrounding areas, such as Tumbak Bayuh and Cepaka are becoming increasingly attractive. The area is still close to modern amenities and conveniences, but retains a unique Bali flavour.
In our first meeting, I was amazed to learn that Alex designed her villa herself using the same 3D program that she uses to design her own jewellery. It was an extremely impressive feat, especially when I returned to explore her gorgeous home.
When did you start your Bali build?
We had started in June 2021 and I was hoping to finish in about June 2022.
It went a little longer but I think a lot of that is my own fault. The initial timeline didn’t include the pool or other things, like changing some of the materials I used.
Did you make any changes from your original villa design?
The deck got a little bit bigger but not too much changed.
I remember that you used your own 3D program, which you use for jewellery design, to design your home. Did you or your builder need to use any other programs?
I think they took my CAD and then put it into sketch up. Most things translated when I gave them a cleaned up file. I always told them that they could make little adjustments where it was needed architecturally. But most of what I had done is what they used! Even the measurements were pretty close!
I had planned very carefully. Before we started I got all the information I needed. Even the little things, for example the wall thicknesses. When I did the door specs, I found out how much space I needed to leave for the silicon. I had my hand in every detail and I passed on the specs for the team to use.
I’d planned it for about 8 months before we started the build. I had the land by then, but I was still working. However, I could design in my free time.
When did you finish?
In July 2022, so only about a month after I had planned!
What were your emotions like during the build?
I think I was pretty confident the whole time because I was so involved. I was on site every day, and in the last 6 months sometimes 2 or 3 times a day! The workers didn’t speak any English but my Indonesian was enough for us to communicate effectively.
Being there so much meant that I could see any issues as they were happening. Sometimes there were a few mistakes, but it was more things that didn’t match what I had envisioned. I never really worried too much. Also, I really trusted my team!
What are your favourite features in your Bali home?
I love the kitchen, even though I don’t cook! And I love the stairwell too! And the bedroom is growing on me. I love the Ulin ironwood. I love the little details.
The wood is stunning. Where did you find it?
It was actually my builder. They have a woodwork shop which is simply insane! All the wood is from them. So I got really lucky because I was looking around and getting wood from different places but they had basically everything I needed. I found what I liked in their woodwork shop. I chose the big pieces, and then they had to cut and adjust to match my dimensions.
Did your build stay on budget?
Absolutely not! Well, it’s a bit more complicated because with my initial budget I had only intended to have a tiny house. My first plan was a little box with a loft, maybe a tiny plunge pool. All on 1are. So I budgeted for that.
But then I fell in love with this plot of land and the minimum they would sell was 4are. Suddenly I’ve got all this extra land and I might as well use it! So my plans developed beyond the initial concept. Things spiralled out of control pretty quickly!
Then I designed it and started investing all my time and energy. I though “you might as well go big or go home!”. I wanted to make something that I love, something that I am proud of. And as a result, my budget was tripled!
Compared to buying and building in the USA, it’s still a fantastic deal. For me, it’s definitely worth it. I feel at home. I really love it. The only downside is that you need all the money up front!
Another reason I went over budget is that I used some higher quality materials than I had anticipated. My builder brought in some specialists to do particular features, such as the polished concrete floors, or the walls.
He would give me an option. For the walls, he showed me what his team could do, or I could bring in a specialist. Obviously, there were price differences but also, the quality was different, so I could choose what I wanted. This impacted the overall budget!
Were there any problems during your Bali build?
It was always little things that I caught so soon that they didn’t turn into something big. At the beginning, when they were first building walls, I saw that they were building somewhere there should not be a wall! But because I was there, it was easy to see and stop!
I think the roof took a little longer than I expected but I also decided that I wanted to paint the tiles so that was kind my fault! But mostly things went smoothly.
I think that I had an upper hand because I had been so involved in the design that I knew every space very well. I could easily see if things were being built as I had planned.
Overall I was super happy! I have no big complaints.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to build their dream villa in Bali?
I think that being involved so much was the biggest thing. I’ve had management experience in Indonesia before so I understood how that dynamic works. As a small woman, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know if I would be respected.
However, the company I went with is owned by a good friend, so I I was quite lucky. The whole team was very respectful of me, and I was very respectful of them too.
I think it helps if you can find your own materials and products before you build. So you are not relying on your builder to show you what is available. It’s great when you can show him what you want.
What is your next project?
Well, as I have extra land on this site that I didn’t use, I’m going to build a tiny house on it for friends and family when they come and visit! I was really happy with my builder so I’ll use him again to build it. It’ll be similar but slightly different. I’m still quite obsessed with tiny houses so I want to have one here too!
Explore Alex’s home here
Words and Photos by Bali Interiors
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Who is the builder for this property?
Alex designed it herself and gave detailed 3D plans to her local builder who followed her instructions. However, I am not sure who the builder was. You may wish to contact her via the links in the article.