Adventurer and travel vlogger Susan, aka Gypsy in Sneakers, recently took a long term lease on a villa in Pererenan. She renovated it for about 5 months and then sat down with us to describe her experience, including what happens when your your contractor stops turning up!
When did you take over the villa in Pererenan and when did you start your renovation?
S – I think it’s about March 2022, and we started about April/May with the renovation.
How long did your Bali villa renovation take?
It took a while! It took about 5 months in total. I expected a little less but we changed contractor halfway through, so that created some extra delays. And we also had a leak in the roof so that added some time too. I thought it’d be about 3 months, but it ended up about 5.
It sounds like your first contractor was not everything that you had hoped for. What happened?
Well, he’s good at some things. He’s super artistic. He’s one of the best contractors in Bali. But he’s knows this so he took on a lot of projects simultaneously. The problem was that he was over-committed. He always promised that he would do the thing I requested this week, but he didn’t come.
I had given him a long list of what needed to be done. He always said “Tomorrow, I’ll send workers”. So I waited at the villa for the workers, but they didn’t come. Nobody came! That lasted for 3 or 4 weeks and I was sick of it.
Had you paid him for the whole job, from start to finish?
I paid him in stages and then he did the work, so I hadn’t paid the full amount up front.
So we were able to change contractor without suffering too much financially. But changing is annoying! You have to meet other contractors and check their work etc.
How did you find the second contractor?
I found him through a lovely lady who I call my Bali Mum! She does so much for me. We have a great connection! I trust her so much and she recommended this guy. She said he was reliable and super precise, so I was happy to hire him. He took over after about 3 months.
What was the experience finishing your Bali villa with him?
It was much better because he had his workers coming all the time. His quality was a little worse in comparison because the first contractor had such good quality, but I needed to be able to rely on someone. He said he would come, and he came! Reliability is key, and sadly it doesn’t always happen here, so I was glad to find a contractor I could trust.
I totally agree. When we built our house, we had super reliable chief worker who was amazing. Unofficially, he ran the site and the other workers looked up to him. When our contractor suddenly left us before our build (see more about this adventure HERE), we asked this amazing man to stay on. After we finished our villa, he kept him on full-time to do maintenance because he can do plumbing, electrical, welding, carpentry. He’s our MacGyver! He’s incredible, and super honest and reliable. We are so lucky to have found him.
That such a good find! He’s worth millions!
Could you describe the style of your Bali villa?
It’s a mix of simple, modern and cosy. I really wanted a “homey” house! It’s simple and full of beiges and whites.
Did you make any big changes as you built?
Yes, we made some huge ones! We decided to make some furniture out of concrete and build it straight into the villa, for example the couch in the kitchen, the beds, the closets.
We even changed the exposed ceiling here, which had been painted in a dark colour. I didn’t plan it, but during the build I knew we had to change the colour. In fact, the owners didn’t recognise the villa when they visited!
I was super lucky with how it turned out because I didn’t even have a plan written down. My friend Jill and I discussed it but we were very inexperienced so it was a real learning experience. We had no idea!
How were your emotions as you renovated your Bali villa?
I always felt very optimistic! That really helped me through it because I was only seeing the good in everything! I was never down. Even if they made a big mistake, I just said “No problem, just change it. It’ll be fine next time”. I loved the process because it was part of my Bali life and I love living here.
My emotion were stable until the very end. Basically, I was fine until we had to furnish it, because at that point everything is really on your own shoulders! You have to do all the work. So that’s when I felt very stressed.
Finding the right things was very difficult! The problem was that there was no up front plan. I just knew I wanted everything to be light! But I didn’t really know what to get. I would walk into a homewares shops and not really know what I wanted. That was chaotic!
Then, getting things here was hard because sometimes they delivered the wrong pieces! When they delivered the fridge, they put it over the door and damaged the door. They damaged plants. It was a bit crazy. That created a lot of stress. So the last month was the hardest for me. It wasn’t the building or the renovating, it was the furnishing that was hardest.
Also by that stage, I was feeling tired after the whole process so I couldn’t handle things as well as I could before.
What are your favourite features in your home?
I like the white! It’s so serene and calming. The thing that I love the most is that we have the sunset over the pool and the light shines onto the ripples of the pool and makes this living room shimmer. I love that!
Did you stay on budget?
I went 50% over because we were doing a lot of additional things that we hadn’t originally planned to do. Plus we had a leak in the roof so that had to be fixed properly so that it won’t happen again. What I found is that once we started, I thought “well, if I’m renovating now, I might as well do this and this now, rather than do it later”.
For example, when we saw how beautiful the polished concrete was, I thought “let’s just do the bathroom in this too”. And, of course, changing the contractor cost some time and money.
What advice do you have for other people who want to renovate a villa in Bali. Would you do anything differently?
Oh yes! Firstly, I would make sure I had the plans of what I wanted already complete and ready. Having everything mapped out would have made it much easier. Also, having some mood boards would have helped, especially when I was looking for furniture and homewares.
Plus being on site every single day is important, so that I can communicate my vision to the contractor and make sure he knows and understands the plan. In addition, I also needed to be a more tough with them. I was too kind and accepting, maybe because we didn’t really know what we were doing. I wanted to be sweet and nice because they were building my home for me. But, in retrospect, I would be more tough!
Would you build in Bali again?
Yes! Actually, I’m viewing land now in a few places towards Pantai Lima. I love it there! It’s getting so busy now in Canggu. I need some peace and quiet!
Follow Susan’s build journey at Casa Gypsy
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