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The New Beji Villa: A Timely Design

Published 01 October 2007   

David Trauts visits a recently opened rental villa, The Beji, in Canggu and finds an innovative, modern design that doesn’t lose touch with the classic Bali aesthetic.

The Beji is the new, contemporary cousin to the classic, godfather to Bali freestanding villas, Umah di Beji, in the Berawa beach area of Canggu. This new, spacious and modern version almost mirrors the neighbouring, older villa in lay-out aspects, but has a contemporary Balinese and Japanese styling that displays outstanding taste and modernity in its design. The Beji outshines many before it and strangely enough, all from a designer on his first, full-blown, architectural brief.

Richard North-Lewis, the designer of The Beji, is well known and well documented for his stone masonry and art direction on many projects here and around the world (including the 300+ meter stone relief at the newly opened Changi Airport, Terminal 3 in Singapore) but this was his first complete home design and construction. He explains, “This project was fantastic as the owners gave me carte blanche from the outset and the budget to match. In designing The Beji I was inspired by a book I had many years ago that was full of building sketches of Kyoto, Japan in 1860. The sketches were of these marvelous Japanese building designs, finely drawn in pencil by an American gentleman living there. I borrowed inspiration from it to create a Japanese influenced, finely tuned and low impact design that creates an abundance of space and privacy.” The design does offer an enormous amount of space both in the interiors and exterior. Bedrooms aren’t massive, but the bathrooms are. This probably reflects an age old theory according to North-Lewis that “the women, wives, girlfriends, all enjoy large, beautiful bathrooms.”

As one would imagine, stone does feature in all its enormity in this house design. White limestone from Java has been used by the veritable truck load throughout the construction, finely slotted, delicately honed and cemented in place to cover most of the exterior walls—and there’s many square meters of them—giving the design a rock solid aesthetic. Varying other stones are used in the bathroom areas to good effect and detail.

The interiors were aided in design by Susie Jo at Linea. Keeping with the Japanese influence, the interiors and furnishings are kept to simple lines, quality materials and excellent finishing. The extensive and exclusive use of teak wood throughout also adheres to the no-holds-barred approach in the search for the ultimate quality at The Beji. All six air-conditioned bedrooms feature their own flat screen TV’s, sound systems and have en-suite outdoor/indoor bathrooms and walk out balconies overlooking the gardens or swimming pool. The perfectly manicured lawns and gardens offer space for fun and games for the family while the 27 meter, three sectioned swimming pool is a magnificent focal point for the entire villa lay-out.

The 40 are (4000 m2) Beji villa is a modern extension to the classic Bali style of Umah di Beji and they complement each other with grace. It’s possible to rent both dwellings which are connected through a gate down by the river—Apple directors recently had a brainstorming session there, for example. Both villas have access to a new, beautifully finished tennis court. Both slope from the main dwelling and living areas down to the pool and the river behind creating a large amphitheatric space overlooked by the main living areas. Both villas represent a separate time and place in Bali’s architectural history.

But how does it feel to build a magnificent, modern Bali classic and then leave it behind I asked North-Lewis as we finished looking over The Beji. “It was difficult,” he said. “When the day came to pass over the keys, so to speak, I took a deep breath and moved on. That was a good year and a half of my life that went into that design.”

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