We first interviewed content creators and photographers Siobhan and Joe over a year ago. After living in Bali for about 3 years, they had just found a simple local home and decided to take the plunge and renovate it. They liked the layout and bones of the local house but knew they could turn it into their Bali dream home.
And what a change they have made! Not only is their home, Casa Blooms, a stunning place to live, they also use it for photoshoots. We also loved it so much, we even did a A Peek in Paradise video tour! Now that they’ve finished their home, we sat down again to discuss their experience.
When did you start and finish your Bali renovation?
Siobhan (S) We took it in November 2021 and started renovating in December 2021 .
Joe (J) We finished in October 2022, because we stopped and started.
Why did you stop and start?
(S) After we had finished for the first time, we decided we wanted to make it into a photoshoot villa, so we needed to invest more money into it. We wanted to make a wider variety of spaces in the villa.
We also realised that we hadn’t made good decisions previously, so we needed to fix or change some things.
(J) Yes there were some decisions we’d made at the start that we regretted. Originally, we had sand outside, and then it was eventually turned into terrazzo. That was a terrible decision! So first we went to little pebbles. But that wasn’t working for us! We’d picked a colour that was too strong. So then it became terrazzo! It was a process but we got there in the end!
Can you describe the build itself?
(S) Well, we kept all the bones of the original structure. We didn’t need to build any new buildings! We also kept all the original walls. We reshaped the doorways to create more arches and we closed off what had been an open kitchen so now it’s indoors.
Now it’s a 2 bedroom villa that is Mediterranean with a little hint of Morocco.
(J) – and we added a small pool! We’ve always thought that Bali swimming pools are excessively big. Too small to do laps but overall too big. We wanted a pool but just a small one was fine.
Tell me about all the little nooks and different spaces.
(S) We wanted to have a variety of spaces for Bali photoshoots, plus we needed an outdoor living and eating area because we didn’t have one inside. We thought that we wouldn’t have space outside for a table and chairs so we built them into the walls. And they also serve a purpose for photoshoots.
During your Bali villa renovation, did you make any big changes?
(S) We made the mistake at the beginning of not raising the exterior walls.
(J) That was a big mistake. And it’s a lot more complicated to do later after all the finishing has been done.
(S) I think it’s quite common for a local house that the walls are not high enough. We wanted privacy and security, and also needed larger walls for the photoshoots. It feels more luxurious now too!
(J) They were about 2.5 metres high originally and we have doubled them.
(S) Our mistake was thinking that using wood would be an affordable way to raise the walls and give us privacy. It ended up costing the same as raising the wall! Then we had to redo it later.
We used similar wood in our own pergola and love how it looks. How were your emotions during the renovation?
(J) I am a very calm guy by nature but my wife was…..
(S) What’s that quote? It’s something like “the impossible is possible, but the possible is impossible”. That’s how it felt. While we could do amazing thing, sometimes simple things felt very difficult and the language barrier made things harder!
(J) We also had to learn to trust ourselves, and trust our gut feeling. We didn’t know anything about constructions so it’s easy to believe everything the expert tells you. Even though you see something and you think it doesn’t look right, you want to trust the expert. But actually you need to trust yourself.
Then a couple of hours later, you wish that you had said something!
How often were you on site?
(S) At the start we weren’t on site that often. Maybe because we were living in Berawa. Then we moved in and were living onsite but even then we still missed mistakes that our team were making. We needed to be on site and be vigilant too!
We also had to think “What are they going to do next?” so we could prepare for that too.
Did you find that your builder was responsive when you wanted him to fix or change something?
(S) If I’m being honest, not really. He’s super creative and artistic but the finishing wasn’t always at the standard we wanted. However, it was his artistic flair that created some of the spaces that we most like.
(J) He was great at bringing our ideas to life and he also took them up another level. Artistically brilliant! But the implementation wasn’t perfect.
I know there were some issues with your pergola. Can you take us through the saga?
(S) It was collapsing!
(J) It kind of collapsed! I reckon it was going to collapse within the next hour. You could see it. Siobhan saw the bend in the wood and you could hear it cracking!
Our original contractor helped a little but he mainly pointed us to someone else to do it. He said that he only had the same guy to redo it who had done it originally. Obviously we didn’t want that. We didn’t trust the original guy!
(S) He didn’t refund us the money for it either!
What are you favourite features?
(S) The arch for the outside pergola for me. It was inspired by Azulik in Tulum. It was suggested by this lovely guy who very generously came over to our home and gave us lots of brilliant ideas. He literally sat down down for about 15 or 20 mins and took it all in. And then he gave us his ideas. He looked at the space and he said “it needs this”.
(J) When the bougainvilleas are out, my favourite is the little area that is close to the pool and the front gate. There’s a particular angle that I just love.
I know that you worked with Annie G for your interiors. Did you enjoy that experience?
(S) She was brilliant! We had no experience about anything home related when we started. I could say “I like this or I like that” but that’s about it. Annie was so helpful because she kept us on course with an actual concept.
So as much as I was drawn to Morocco, she kept us focussed.
(J) She said “Just a touch, just a hint”. She made sure we had the feeling without overdoing it.
(S) She ensured that our villa had a concept that worked well together. So that as a whole it works, rather than looking space by space. And we really appreciated that!
(J) She made sure that the vision as that this villa would be our home, and true to us, not just a Bali photoshoot villa.
(S) She was incredibly valuable for us and really helped us.
Did you stay on budget?
(S) No we didn’t! But that’s not entirely our fault. In the end we were over but we had done a lot more than we had originally budgeted for. Our original concept was quite different. Once we finished the main project, and we were over by about 20 or 30 million, then we signed on for a new project and ended up doing a lot more. And that wasn’t in the original budget.
(J) We did lots of extra like changing the floors to terrazzo or raising the walls, as well as redoing the pergola. So it just kept on evolving.
The house itself, internally, we were happy with the original project, but we chose to do a lot of extra work on the exteriors.
What advice would you give someone who wants to renovate a Bali home?
(S) Make sure your contract is strong. We originally signed a very weak one and had to redo it. Our villa owner didn’t know either so he was happy to redo it. He wasn’t trying to take advantage of us. Get a real contract done by a reputable notaris here in Bali.
(J) Our guys was very honest and fair so we were lucky.
Also, during the build, make sure you are available to be on site. I know a lot of people who want to do what we did, but want to do it from overseas. That’s really risky, so many things can go wrong. Or, make sure you have someone who can stand in for you and be on site!
(S) Do very thorough vetting of your contractor. Follow up and check on what work he has completed previously. Talk to other people about his work. Does it hold up after a year or 2?
Would you do it again?
(J) Oh yes!
(S) Definitely, I really want to!
(J) It’s one of our goals for the new year. Find another building to renovate, or even just a piece of land and build!
Photos by Bali Interiors and A Girl Who Blooms
Watch our video tour of their home HERE
Follow Casa Blooms on IG
If you are building in Bali (or have just finished) and would like to be featured in our Build Diary, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org