Asia Travel

Building a dream villa in Bali: We chat to an expat who’s been through the buy-and-build process


Many of us dream of having our own tropical island villa for either personal or commercial use, but it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. One expat who’s been through the buy-and-build process is Nikki Newman, who now owns the ultimate seafront villa in Bali.

Where in Bali is Jagaditha villa? How do you get there from Hong Kong?
It’s at Cemagi Beach, 30 minutes north of Seminyak. You can fly direct from Hong Kong to Denpasar in around four-and-a-half hours.

Tell us a bit about the area.
The villa overlooks the beach and is on the outskirts of a charming village called Mengening, surrounded by paddy fields. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak, but only 30 minutes’ drive if you fancy shopping, dining or clubbing. The villa has membership at the nearby Canggu Club and is about 10 minutes from the world-class Nirwana Golf Club. The historical and popular Tanah Lot temple is about 15 minutes away, and Ubud can be reached in approximately one hour.

When did you buy this property? Was it an existing villa, or did you build from scratch?
We bought the land five years ago and started building the villa in January 2009. It was finished in mid-2010.

How personally involved were you in the construction?
We were very hands-on! We had a great architect who listened to everything we wanted and did her best to make it a reality, and we ultimately managed to assemble a great team including a Bali-based lighting consultant, landscape designer (who created the fabulous infinity pool) and project manager – a great mix of Indonesian, Australian and British talent.

My husband or I would travel to Bali for a day or two every couple of months, to sit in on meetings and check on the progress. We used a company called Sourcing Bali to drive us around the island to their tried-and-trusted contacts for furniture, which saved us a huge amount of time.

What were some of the enjoyable and some of the more frustrating aspects of the construction process?
The pool was the biggest headache and caused the most delay. One thing we wouldn’t budge or compromise on was the infinity edge. Our landscape designer moved heaven and an awful lot of earth to make it work, due to privacy issues, but once the retaining wall was built, the village chief decided it was too close to the villa boundary. We had to knock it all down and move it back just one metre, which changed the whole dynamics so it was back to the drawing board.

One of the best bits was watching the big palms and huge, ancient frangipani tree going in because, almost immediately, the birds flew in. It was wonderful to watch nature coming back to our muddy paddy field.

Were there any complications with land ownership?
Foreigners can’t own land in Bali, so we had to find a nominee to purchase the land on our behalf, and a reputable solicitor to draw up a contract between us. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, as who knows what the situation will be in the future, but we’re happy we took the plunge.

Tell us about the design of the villa and the interiors.
Jagaditha’s design is based on the traditional Balinese way of life. Two or three generations each live in their own room, surrounding a communal living and dining area. We wanted something modern and clean that still retained the character of Bali, which we think our architect managed very well, using whitewashed exterior walls, and Balinese materials: ironwood shingle on the roofs and local stone.

For us, Bali holidays are all about being outdoors and enjoying the wide, open space. We wanted that aspect to take precedence and didn’t want the décor to compete with the villa’s beautiful garden and ocean surrounds.

In addition, knowing that we would have to rent out the villa, we felt we could never hope to cater for every visitor’s taste, and so the absence of artwork was a very conscious decision. Having said that, my husband loves nothing more than poking around in dusty antique shops, and he found all the artefacts you’ll see dotted around the villa, all sourced locally in Bali.

The interiors were intended to be simple and unobtrusive, but good quality and as comfortable as possible. Hopefully we’ve achieved that.

Give us a brief “walk-through” of the villa.
Having young children, we weren’t comfortable having them sleep in a separate building from us, and knew our friends and family wouldn’t be, either. So our brief was to create bedrooms with adjoining children’s rooms.

As a result, two of the buildings are double-storey, where parents have the king-size room upstairs and a great ocean view, knowing their children are safe in the room below. Both children’s bedrooms have twin four-poster, super-single beds and two trundle beds, and their own en suite bathroom. In addition to these double-storey bedrooms, there are two more king-size bedrooms with an en suite, each one a single bungalow in its own right. All the bathrooms are semi-outdoor – de rigueur in Bali.

The buildings surround a large pond. Again, we always had child safety at the forefront of any design concept we considered, while also trying to achieve something a little different. The pond is very shallow and is surrounded by tall plants, huge rocks and pebble borders, a sort of psychological barrier. Two of the bedrooms have fences on their verandahs for extra peace of mind. The swimming pool has a very wide and shallow ledge which sweeps the whole width of the pool and was designed with toddlers in mind as a supervised paddling and play area.

Do you have a favourite room or area in the villa?
Naturally we love every corner of it, but it comes into its own when it’s full of families and the children are charging around the huge lawn, exercising lungs and limbs, or making a mini-tsunami in the pool.

The villa is a rental property, but do you ever stay there yourself?
Not as much as I’d like, but we try to get there three or four times a year.

Where do the renters generally come from? Do they stay short-term or long-term?
We’ve had guests from all over the world, staying for anything from three nights up to two weeks.

How much does it cost to stay at the villa and what does the price include?
Depending on the season, our rates are between US$2,000 and US$2,500 per night. This is for six bedrooms, which could comfortably accommodate up to 12 adults and four children. Guests have a seven-seater car with driver, chef, butler, housekeepers, gardeners and security personnel at their disposal, plus complimentary membership of nearby Canggu Club and all its facilities.

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