Marie and Jake are entrepreneurs who we first spoke to in 2021. They decided to expand from the digital world into the real world and have just finished building their boutique hotel Maja Canggu! We sat down with Jake to discuss their experience doing a large commercial build in Bali.
When did you start and when did you finish?
We purchased the land in June 2020 and broke ground in Sept 2020. And we’re finishing up now – August 2022. Originally our timeline was 14 months, but we made a lot of additions along the way. We were supposed to be finished around October 2021
What additions did you make?
We added a fifth bedroom! After looking at the roof of our dining area and cimema, we thought that if we fortify the roof we can put something on top of it. We could have added a terrace, but we already have 4 terraces on the individual bedrooms. It was a bit of wasted space, so we decided to add a bedroom.
We had to put in a bit more support. The builders quoted us an additional 6 months for that, which would have had us finishing in April 2022, but then due to the realities of building in Bali, it got pushed out a few more months.
Overall, from the time we broke ground, it was 23 months. It was longer than expected but when you see the build, and you see all the details, it was definitely worth it. We’re super happy with it!
We also added 3 outdoor showers, and steps going up onto the walkway entrance on the roof. It’s perfect for fashion photo shoots. As Marie and I are photographers and work on Instagram, we understand how important these nooks, and arches and spaces are. We were careful to have some white spaces, and others with lines and textures, so that when you shoot in front of it, it creates a different vibe.
Going into the project, for every single corner, we thought “How is this going to look in photos?”, so we used our industry experience to assist us in the design process.
We had to trust our instinct. Sometimes the builders had already done something and we said “No. We have to break that down and do it differently” because we knew we could improve it. Credit to the developers because they never said no to us! But we knew that those details were important.
At the same time, we also had to think about how difficult it would be to maintain each of the materials. How will these materials age over 1 year or 5 years?
Our 3 poolside suites are similar but all different. One has features wall with lots of candles in the cut outs. Another has a stone wall etc. 2 have a marble floor, 1 has a polished concrete floor.
How was your experience with your builder? Did you retain the same builder?
Honestly, in the last month or so , we had to bring in a new builder. The time frame was getting blown out and the contractor that we had couldn’t cope with the amount of work that needed to be done in a short period of time. Things started to slip.
We got in a new contractor to finish everything up. We had to do a handover from one contractor to another, as no one wants to finish up someone else’s work. But we did a proper handover. It ended amicably. The first contractor had got us to where we were at but it needed an extra punch to finish on time.
How did you find the new contractor?
They had been recommended by our villa manager who we had brought on board 8 months before. He had run a few pre-launches, and had a big network on contractors and suppliers. It really gave Marie and I a lot more clarity. It was a relief to know we would be able to finish building before we opened.
We did not want to have any construction work going on after we opened. We knew the villas would wow our guests and we wanted them to fully enjoy staying with us.
How does it feel to be a hotelier now?
It feels really good! A lot of what we’ve done in the past has all been digital, nothing tangilble. So most of our family thought we didn’t actually have a job! And so to have a tangible property with a team of staff feels really good. We’re able to go from this digital world to the real world and build something really beautiful.
We so happy that our friends and family and supporters can come and stay and enjoy themselves.
Would you do anything different with the property?
Holding events or weddings or retreats would be interesting. We’re really open-minded about what it can be used for. We love Bali and have loved living here for the last 5 years. Our journey started here, being in love and free, being on this island, and loving the people and culture here. We want to share that with people who want to come and experience it.
How can people book to stay at Maja Canggu?
They can book through our website. That’s the only way, because we want to give our core community first access to share this experience with us. So it means that everyone who stays there will have something in common. We have such an intimate space, with only 5 suites, with a shared pool, dining and cinema, so we want like-minded people to enjoy it together.
Having stayed in all these beautiful hotels around the world, we’ve taken the bits and pieces that we love and brought it to the island that we love. We’ve built a space which we think is unique and special and now we want to share it!
If you could go back, what would you do differently?
#1 would be to know exactly what I am getting into, and not just rush in! I feel that we rushed in. We made so many changes later, especially with the plans. If we had taken more time to think about them, we would have found those issues in advance. But we didn’t, so we lost a lot of time and money and energy because we had to make changes later.
We jumped into the project with the original plans but we didn’t really think it out enough in advance. Having said that, I also wouldn’t sit around and procrastinate for too long! Because you end up overthinking it! So there’s a balance there.
The second thing I would change is the polished concrete. There are spaces where we didn’t need it. We could have done marble or even ceramic marble instead. It would have saved a lot of headache!
Also, understanding that things are going to go wrong is essential. It’s just part of the process! And the lessons that you learn are invaluable. Going into the next project, we will be able to save ourselves a lot of headache because those things went wrong on this project!
Would you build again?
Well, we have another project which is coming to completion very soon. It’s called Belajar, and it has 8 suites, and is about 50metres away. It has more of a tropical Bali feel that is mixed with Tulum. It also has a co-working space. While Maja is more Greek and luxury. We brought in our second builder to help us finish off Belajar too.
I feel like the next time we build will be even more enjoyable because we know what’s ahead!
We don’t want to jump into anything too quickly because we still need to learn the day to day realities of the operations and management of a hotel. We’ve done the building part, and that went well, not completely smooth but still well. Now we have to provide the experience that we imagined as well. Ensuring our guests are having a great time during their stay is the next step!
We were very careful with hiring our team. We did 45 interviews before we found our villa manager! 3 rounds of interviews! After doing a secret stay where he was currently working to check that his staff were doing an amazing job, it was clear that he was the one! And we felt it from the moment we checked it. He didn’t even know we were there. It was all done secretly! He was also looking for a new challenge so it was a perfect fit.
Now we have a team of 12. He brought in some people that we had working with previously. We also brought in some housekeepers who worked where we had stayed previously. Because they knew us and knew how we like things to be done! They are lovely people and we are thrilled that they wanted to join us.
When Belajar opens, we’ll be able to use the team over 2 properties as they are so close. We had planned this in advance. Originally, when we saw that both pieces of land were available and were so close together, we knew we could make it work!
Book your stay! at Marie and Jake’s hotel at Maja Canggu
Words by Bali Interiors
Photos by Bali Interiors + Marie and Jake
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