Imagine you find the perfect plot of land, and start building your dream family home. 6 months in, the whole world shuts down due to the-thing-that-shall-not-be-named, and you have to stop your build for 2 whole years. This is exactly the problem that Justine and Andy experienced while building in Bali over the last few years. Fortunately, they were able to navigate this chaos successfully. Read on to find out how they did it!
Where are you from and what do you do?
(Justine) We’re both from Cronulla in Sydney’s south. I’d say we’re semi-retired at the moment, which gives us the opportunity to do this build in Bali! Andrew was previously in finance. When he finished doing that, he moved into horticulture
(Andy) I started studying landscape design as a hoppy. I tried to get people to landscape our place and I was never happy with it. So I went down that rabbit hole!
Was it fun to think about the landscaping here in your home in Bali?
(A) Yeah, really fun! There are so many resources available. I love tropical gardens and it’s a real wonderland here. I’ve been to every nursery within 5 kms of here and I just can’t wait to get stuck into it!
I’m holding back a little for the moment. I’ve already put the big trees in but I’ll wait till the builders are finished and then do the rest.
What brought you to Bali originally?
(J) Andrew is a very keen surfer. He surfs a couple of times a day. And it was a very easy place for us to bring our kids. We were always really relaxed and had a great time.
At first we came here every second year. So every other year we’d go somewhere else, but we always thought “Wel, that was nice, but I think we still like Bali more”. So then we started coming every year. Then it became twice a year. We just love Bali! We love the people here.
Did you always stay here in Berawa?
(A) No, never here! We stayed all over the place. We often stayed in Seminyak. And I would come on my motorbike every morning and go surfing here.
Why did you decide to build a home rather than stay in different holiday accommodation?
(A) We figured we’d be staying here twice a year. And it’s a different experience to stay in your own holiday home. It has all the bits and pieces that you like and help you to have the best holiday.
Also, we’re not really hotel people! We don’t like staying in the big hotels. We prefer our own space.
How did you find this land?
(A) We looked everywhere! We looked around the island. When we came to Berawa, we felt like it was a luxury suburb. Here there were only rice paddies and luxury homes.
We had 2 agents who were showing us vilas that were already built. We were riding around on the bike checking it all out. That didn’t go very well! We felt like the prices that the agents were quoting were a lot higher than the real price.
(J) But we knew we had found the area. We liked this part of Berawa.
(A) We had come for a 6 day trip to look for houses. It was the last day, and we had about an hour left before we needed to leave to go to the airport.
I passed a friend of mine who was coming out of the surf and he asked how the search was going. We told him we hadn’t found anything and he said “Have you tried the shop on the corner? Talk to him”
So we went to the little shop and talked to the guy sitting out front. We said “Have you got any land for sale?”. He said “No problem”. He got on his push bike and rode up here and said “You can this one, or that one, or that one!”. His family had 20 blocks!
We showed which one we liked and almost agreed on a price in 5 minutes. I came back 2 weeks later to sign the documents for a 34 year lease! That was in early 2018.
How did you find your builder?
(A) The builder had a pretty decent website so we could see what he could do. We’d contacted 5 builders. Some didn’t get back to us. Some gave us quotes.
We already had most of the design done at that stage. We’d used a Bali-based architect.
When did you start building?
(A) We got the land in early 2018. The architect probably had about 9 or 10 months of drawing and preparing. So we found the builder in 2019 and started building in mid 2019.
And then of course, the world shut down in early 2020.
(A) Yes, that’s right, so in March 2020 we started to think about what was going to happen. Initially the governments were talking about shutting down for a month or 2, so we were not worried.
(J) We were visiting our build regularly before Covid which was always exciting to see the progress.
(A) There was lots going on. Once they had 32 little cement trucks lined up.
Then it became obvious that the global shutdown was going to be much longer, so we needed to stop the build. We shut it down in April 2020. We put a fence around it and had a security guard.
(J) We wanted to be able to check on the construction and see what was happening. And with COVID, we couldn’t come to Bali anymore.
(A) We needed to see what they were doing because miscommunication is so easy if you’re not there, on-site, checking what they are doing. We didn’t want them to finish and we would not be happy because it was not exactly what we wanted.
Plus the builder would want to get paid after the sign off, but we could sign off if we couldn’t see it!
How long did you shut it down for?
(A) 2 full years. April 2020 to April 2022
How did you feel during the shut down?
It was very stressful! We were lucky that we didn’t have anything on site that could be stolen. The builder had a security guard here for 2 years to keep an eye on things.
How did the builder react when you said you wanted to shut down?
(A) He took it very well. Although I was worried that it might sour the relationship, or even worse, he might go broke while it was shut down. That was my biggest fear.
(J) Fortunately, there was no tension when we started it back up. We’d been worried about they would be going financially, but they got 2 new projects while we were away! So they were fine.
How did it go when they restarted this year?
(J)They’ve been doing great!
(A) But the next hiccup was with our interior decorator. By that point, we needed an interior decorator to do a lot of things. We had the plan for the interiors already done by an Australia. However, we needed someone on the ground here in Bali to make it happen.
(J) The Australian decorator had stepped in for the architect and she did all the interiors and the layout. She was excellent. She did all the concepts and the materials. However, we definitely needed someone to help us here in Bali.
(A) And we really struggled to find someone for a long time!
(J) Actually, that’s when I reached out to Bali Interiors! I sent you a message asking for advice! You suggested a couple of people and we really gelled with Annie!
Yes, we love Annie too! We’ve seen some of the incredible projects that she is doing! She’s a gem! She also co-hosted our A Peek In Paradise video tour of Casa Blooms! See it HERE
(J) She’s been great!
(A) She’s a dynamo! Her energy and style is fantastic!
(J) We’ve been very fortunate! We’ve been finding that some of what we had planned for the interiors when we were in Australia simply isn’t possible now that we are here in Bali. Annie is amazing at finding similar alternatives and making great suggestions.
Is your timeline to finish in February 2023?
(A) Yes, that’s the plan. Originally, we had hoped for Christmas, but now it looks like Feb. And that’s fine. We’d already waited through Covid so we are patient.
(J) It’s this last part that is almost the most important because this is what you can see, so we want them to do it properly. We don’t want them to rush it!
(A) This has been a busy week as we’ve ordered all the furniture, the curtains, the white goods, appliances, electronics. We’ve designed the kitchen! It’s been a great trip.
(J) We feel really confident because we have Annie on board. We know we can return to Australia and she will manage it all. We’ve spent the last 10 days in a row with her so we have a great understanding!
Apart from the COVID break, have there been any major issues?
(A) There have been some! Not with the builder, but with some of the contractors. For example the roof guy was supposed to lay down this premium asphalt. He did three quarters of it in one colour, and then the rest in another! Then they wanted us to pay more for them to fix it, even though we had a warranty! But they had run out of the original colour and the other colour! So we’ve got 2 roofs – there’s the original, plus another one on top!
What was it like to deal with problems when you were not in Bali at the time?
(A) Honestly, it’s pretty difficult. Face to face, communication with the builder is fine, but over the phone, or by message, it’s much, much harder. Sometimes there are miscommunications, and sometimes you are talking about completely different things! However, his offsider speaks perfect English. So we usually found a way to make it work.
It was difficult to do from overseas. I wouldn’t want to do that again!
(J) We always asked him to tell us when he needed us to be in Bali, so we could fly back to make a lot of important decisions. We were always happy to come back and check on the build.
Can you describe what your villa will look like?
It’s 5 bedrooms in total. There are 4 king size beds with one bunk room as well. It’s colonial style, which we love because it’s timeless. It makes you feel relaxed and allows you to settle into holiday mode very easily. But I think you’ll be surprised when you see the interiors because they are not going to be colonial!
Words and Photos by Bali Interiors
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