In this Build Diary we meet Alex. After studying Metals and Jewellery at university, as well as having a successful corporate career in New York, Alex moved to Bali to work at John Hardy in Ubud. Now she’s branching out and has her own US-based jewellery business, but most of her time these days is devoted to building her Bali home. As an experienced jewellery designer, Alex has used her design skills to design her own home in 3D!
Where are you from and what do you do?
I’m from the East Coast of the US and I am a jewelry artist and designer. I recently quit my corporate job as Design Director at John Hardy this past May in order to pursue my own jewelry brand, which I have been building for just over 10 years now. It feels great being able to focus on my jewellery full-time now, though building my home here in Bali has proven to be a full-time job itself!
What brought you to Bali?
Ten years ago, right after I finished college, I went backpacking with a friend and Bali was one of the places we visited and truly loved. It really stuck with me over the years, even after moving to New York and building a career working for Tiffany’s and Tory Burch. I’ve always wanted to use my career to not only learn and build my savings, but also to travel. So I vowed that one day I would live and work in Bali, somehow.
During my tenure in New York I learned of a fine jewellery company in Bali called John Hardy. Through my connections, determination, and a series of events that I like to call fate, I was recommended for the role of Design Director for John Hardy! The rest is history, and I’ve been in Bali for about four years now.
What do you love about Bali?
I love the energy. Coming from NY, I also love the energy there, but it’s day and night compared to Bali. I really needed to slow down, so that was one of the reasons I wanted to come here. You really learn to appreciate life, and just enjoy living.
And of course, I love the culture and the people! I believe that Bali has something for everyone.
Why did you decide to build your Bali dream home?
I’ve always had a vision of building my own home. The idea of being able to customise and build a dream home in a beautiful place like Bali is fantastic! You have so much design freedom here compared to the West. I’m so used to building small scale for my jewellery, it’s been so much fun working in large scale as well.
I designed my entire house using a program called Rhinoceros, which is the same program I use for jewellery design. Now the architect and builders are able to bring my house to life according to my 3D model. Where else would I have that opportunity? I have really loved it!
Can you describe the build?
It’s a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom villa on 4 are of land. The idea is that the downstairs will be my studio, and it can be converted into a bedroom when required. At the base of the land is a small temple with a river flowing past. I love hearing the sound of rushing water, which really makes me feel like I am in the jungle. I’ve actually designed a second (small) house on the land as well, but this will come later.
What research did you do?
There are a few websites I looked at – Mr. Fix It and your Build Diary,as examples. I also listened to friends’ advice who have built before.
How did you find your land in Bali?
Well, I saw a house that was for sale and I went and met the owner. It was on Green Zone though, so I didn’t want it. However, the owner said he had some other land, and I went to see it. When he showed it to me I thought “Wow, this is home! This is different from everything I’ve seen”. I just had a really good feeling. Even though I looked at a few more plots, I just loved this land. I feel like I got really lucky, and that this land was meant for me.
Did you hire a designer for your Bali dream home?
No, I actually designed it myself! I feel like it’s easier to design when you have parameters, and there are two large jackfruit trees on the land that helped dictate the design of the house. I got a topography scan so I could see exactly where the trees were on the land, and what they ended up giving me was a 3D file. So I thought “this is perfect” because I was able to import the land topography into my 3D program and start designing the house from that. I had so much fun doing it!
One of the benefits of working in 3D is that I am able to pass my architect and builder all of the information they need. It has been amazing, but also a lot of work! I really love owning all parts of the design of my Bali dream home.
How did you find your builder and architect to build in Bali?
I think I got lucky. I didn’t really interview a ton of builders. I have a really good friend here. Her partner has built a lot in Indonesia and he uses a specific project manager/architect regularly. His workers have also been with him for 15 years. Long-term work relationships are a good sign, and I decided to work with him. He was able to take my 3D design and turn it into working drawings that meet local building requirements and submit them for a building permit.
Now, as we are building, whenever they have a question I just pull out my computer and put it into 3D so they can see exactly what I want. And if they have a different idea, or we are considering changing something, I just throw it into the 3D so we all can look at it together. I can tell them if I like it, or let’s look for another way.
When did you start building in Bali and how long do you think it will take?
We started in June this year and they said I could likely move in around May/June of 2022. It’s a slow build and I’m OK with that.
The land required a lot of structural adjustments at the beginning because it is quite undulating and steep in some areas. At the bottom and side, it needed a strong retaining wall. It took about a month or so just to build the walls and prepare the land.
What emotions do you feel towards your build?
It’s exciting to build my Bali dream home, and a little scary, particularly if I don’t know if something is going wrong. I’m terrified of rising damp. My biggest regret is that I didn’t know enough about it to ensure they put down enough plastic to stop rising damp. Other than that, I’m thrilled with the progress and I can’t wait to see it finished.
See how Alex’s home turned out in Part 2 HERE!
Follow Alex’s build journey at Villa Coopie.
If you are building in Bali (or have just finished) and would like to be featured in our Build Diary, please contact us at email@example.com