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Tropical Dream Homes
change in the weather . . .
stealing away to some far-off land? You pack’n beach blankets or
snow skis? Will you need a crash course in Portuguese or just a brush
up on your Mandarin? When it comes to great escapes the options are
endless, there are nearly as many where, what, and whys as there are people
considering them. However, take a quick tour thru escapeartist.com
(as if you haven’t already) and you’ll notice a clear and obvious trend;
a strong tilt towards the tropics.
becoming reality as increasing numbers of North American and European baby-boomers
are taking up foreign residence along the world’s sun-belt. For me,
it’s no surprise that exotic warm-weather destinations have pull on those
searching for a change of lifestyle (change being the operative word, I
mean if you’re happy where you are, I doubt your reading this article or
planning to hop a freighter and give it a go as near-do-well in Bora Bora).
of these new part and full-time sun seeking expats are building or buying
homes in their adoptive country. In fact, considering population levels
and demographic trends, it stands to reason that today more homes-away-from-home
are being built in these foreign countries than at any time previous.
And I’m talking homes, not the luxury high-rises that are seemingly all
the rage in some locales (I for one don’t consider holing up in a stacked
shoebox much of an escape - save for in, perhaps, a major metro area),
real homes with all the trimmings; Tropical Dreamhomes. But in comparison
to all the popular “hot” spots - the Caribbean, South America, the Mediterranean,
Asia & Australia, no matter the location - I would argue from my perspective
as a designer/builder of custom homes that nowhere is the tropical dreamhome
more fully realized and integrated into the expatriate lifestyle than on
the island of Bali, where demand for such dreamhomes is more than matched
by the islands truly unique abundance of interesting building materials
and people skilled in the building arts. The island of the gods .
. . is a haven for creativity . . .
As a tourist
destination since the early 20th century Bali has earned itself world-wide
brand name recognition, and its incredibly rich culture and beauty, in
combination with the warmth and inviting nature of its people, has over
the years enticed many visitors from the west to make it their home.
it is arguably (I’m convinced already) Asia’s most glamorous tropical
island. And although home to some 4 million local inhabitants, Bali
is far from being your typical Asian melting pot; it is also the final
outpost of Indonesia’s ancient Hindu culture. As practiced by 90%
of the islands’ population, the Bali Hindu religion, and its attendant
culture, is one of great artistic expression. On Bali, artistic effort
is a celebrated and continued tradition, very much in evidence throughout
tradition includes prodigious building for their gods, their kings, and
themselves. Although I haven’t counted them all, I hear tell that
over 60,000 temples and 500,000 shrines are on the island - they are everywhere.
And what they do, they do well. Traditional Balinese architecture
is considered one of the world’s great art forms, not to mention skills
honed by a thousand years practice at working wood, stone, clay, and fiber.
Adding concrete, steel, and glass, island craftsmen are today keep just
as busy building grand hotels (temples of tourism) and fantasy homes for
Westerners. Here the “luxury villa” (as in a walled-in holiday home compound)
is a standard building type and, in fact, a none-too-small industry has
evolved to design, build, furnish, and service them.
Adding to the
those skills in the building arts is an equal compliment of local artists
and designers - producing fine paintings, sculpture, jewelry and metal
work, decorative fabrics, furniture, and furnishings. The island
produces many of these goods to supply international demand and entire
communities are now identified by their craft. Drive through the town of
Batubulan, for example, and you will pass countless stone sculptures, and
don’t worry if you don’t see just what you’re looking for - they’ll carve
anything you need. Additionally, over the years, many many Western
architects, artists, designers, & consultants have made the island
their home, if for only part-time. The result being that Bali boasts more
than its share of design talent and talented craftspeople. In volume
alone, the output of design related goods and services here is staggering.
congestion of talent has created an environment in which the local and
international design professionals working on the island have a clientele
base accustomed to design exploration. The benefit to Bali being
continued recognition as both a birth place and proving ground for definitive
Asian-inspired tropical architecture. Be they traditional (the
famed “Bali Style” features a spacious open-air floor plan under a dramatic
grass roof), colonial, modern, or fusion, the dreamhomes of Bali have
been celebrated in books and periodicals the world over. Design wise,
Bali is on the map. But don’t let the international design community
scare you off. If your idea of paradise includes a funky little beach
hut, no biggie - there are more than enough bamboo suppliers and fabricators
here to meet your needs.
resource here on Bali are the many, many (again countless) dealers of antique
and vintage household goods - furniture, furnishings, fabrics, ceramics,
tools, weapons, carvings, containers, house parts, houses, junk, just anything
they think will sell.
Most of it
by definition primitive and nearly all brought over from neighbouring islands,
it evidently being a source of foreign money for those areas not blessed
with Bali’s large tourist trade.
oh yea, if tacky tourist trinkets are your thing, you too won’t be disappointed.
Enough of the history lessons . . . let’s build a home . . .
As in most
developing nations the dollar tends to go a long way and comparatively
the cost of building in Bali is low. Despite a falling dollar and
the impact of rocketing full prices to the cost of building materials (30%
increases from July ’05 to July ’06), labour rates here are low and there
is little reason to expect that will change much in the future.
Costs are relative
of course but in broad terms one would expect to spend from $20 to $60
per square foot to construct a beautiful Bali home, and believe me that
upper end $60 is very upper end. Long term ex-pats with connections
can do better and of course location is an issue.
employing high profile architects or big-name building contractors will
have the obvious consequence.
am half way through the construction of a house that would be 4 to 5 times
as costly back in the States – that’s assuming a local building department
Gestapo would permit it - which, of course, they wouldn’t.
I have the benefit of many years building experience and save 20-30% as
I’m the general contractor (I employ locals as project manager and personal
assistant), and I have a knack for networking in the trade.
are high, however, with respect to the building standards and craftsmanship.
dollars by utilizing, almost exclusively, local (as in Indonesian) materials
and suppliers (much imported goods available here) but I’m a stickler for
quality goods and services, and build to international standards and that
costs a premium.
But what can
you get for the money? Plenty! When complete my project will
consist of a 3 bedroom, 31/2 bath home, covered parking, and small staff
quarters – 3700 sq. ft. under roof – a large pool, fish ponds, paved motor
court, 10’ solid masonry perimeter wall, elaborate entry gate, and full
landscaping – on a 3rd of an acre.
are premium versions of the typical - all hardwood doors and windows, an
incredible exposed frame hardwood & bamboo alang-alang (thatch) roof,
en-suite bath rooms w/ private gardens, custom hardwood cabinetry w/ granite
tops, floors of stone and terracotta … and, oh yea, Italian appliances
- and I’m building on a difficult (as in costly) site and had to put in
a challenging 350’ access road. Price tag - $110,000, excluding land costs
but including all salaries, design, permits, bribes ?, and typical first-time
building ‘round here mistakes , you name it. You do the math and
that comes to slightly less than $32 a square foot and had I made any number
of lesser choices concerning specs, materials, processes, or whatever,
I would have put a serious dent in that figure. I have friends who as recently
as a year ago paid $15 a foot, but you get what you pay for.
Not so surprising
is that the cost of exiting new or “vintage” villas on the island
sell for between 50 and 100 percent of what you would get by buying land
and building yourself, that’s the payback for the time (7-12 months), the
stress (7-12 months ?), finance (no homebuilder loans here), and the expertise.
And FYI when I say ownership I should mention that for most non-Indonesians
the title is by a nominee or as a long-term renewable lease.
are in . . .
Early on in
this article I made mention of these dreamhomes being a part of the ex-pat
lifestyle and they are - a big part. The leisurely enjoyment of a
spacious and exotic tropical hide-a-way is half the reason many people
make camp here, and on any of the other trendy island hotspots in the region.
And who can blame them? The tropical island fantasy is usually just
that, a fantasy, but you can buy or build (ain’t money grand) a part of
that fantasy, and here in Bali people doing just that is happening in a
big way. Adding to the existing multitude of island villas, and fuelled
by ex-pats-in-waiting and a boom time Asia, homes under construction are
a common sight (to be honest most are tucked away out of sight) and sound.
It’s big business here and a common topic of barroom banter, which of course
means realtors, realtors, realtors. It’s all good though.
and so . .
Well, my hat’s
off to all the brave souls willing to make the jump (or hop the plane)
to new lands as there is always a required reality check when stepping
foot on foreign soil, particularly if that soil is still in development,
as is typical for the majority of warm-weather expatriate destinations.
For the masses, and when compared to the United States for example, general
living conditions in developing nations include a long list of possible
negatives concerning matters of health, corruption, crime & security,
and pollution - and those conditions effect in some manner all who reside
there. As for ex-pats, you can throw in the potential for culture
shock, feelings of isolation or loneliness, and, god forbid, feelings of
regret. All-in-all it’s a lot to consider . Clearly, however, ex-pats are
a hardy bunch that somehow manage to confront all manner of headline grabbing
peril - there they go now, dodging bullets and dead chickens - or
maybe they really are lazing by the shore, cold drink in hand, and singing
with the birds as the sun makes another flawless landing.
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