Garden Paradise: Tropical greenery frames life in a traditional Bali villa redesigned to commune with nature

Renovating a large house comes with challenges but also exciting opportunities to allow creative transformation and maximise the potential of the space. This was the remit for the redesign of a Balinese villa compound by ZXC Studio, whose team crafted a plan to suit the needs of the homeowner, a filmmaker who lives with his girlfriend and four dogs.

The couple enjoys spending time at home, gardening, cooking and occasionally hosting friends for dinner. Their love of gardening is evident through landscaped courtyards and unique plants that can be viewed from inside the house. They also have a huge collection of books, vinyl, vintage film posters and art pieces that are displayed throughout the home, adding vibrancy to a clean, minimalist décor of neutral tones and natural materials.

The compound sprawls over 1,380 square metres, of which some 300 square metres comprise an existing built area that was renovated; a further 100 square metres were added to extend the interior space. The west-facing tiered landscape slopes over a stream and is surrounded by rice paddies and tall coconut trees, with Bali’s majestic central mountain, Batukaru, visible in the distance.

The living quarters is grouped into three single-storey buildings – living room, kitchen and dining room; guest bedroom and study; and master suite, respectively. Gardens and a handsome infinity pool drop-down to staff quarters and a parking area at the back of the lot.

Opening up the built area to create bigger and airier spaces was the priority for the architecture and interior design practice led by UK-educated, Bali-based Zhi Xiong Chan. The original configuration of the villa complex felt cramped – too many rooms and a lack of access to natural light and ventilation. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living area and bedrooms now allow scenic views and abundant sunlight to sweep indoors. A series of distinct courtyard gardens, defined by the selection and composition of different tropical plants and trees, was inserted between the bungalows to accentuate the natural grandeur of the estate.

Having made the decision to retain the villa’s characteristic rectangular terracotta hip-tiled roofs, the designers then selected additional complementary building materials. Natural teak and Bangkirai hardwood joined the original timber framing the roofs, walls and windows. The wood-grained texture of the board-formed concrete which was applied to certain walls reflects the horizontal tiers of the site and connects internal and external spaces.

Large fixed furniture pieces stand out within the now more spacious and open rooms. They were chosen according to their function and ability to consolidate storage, and their light oak veneer creates a pleasing contrast with the darker wood tones in the house.

Overlooking the garden and the pool deck, the living room and the open kitchen are seemingly an extension of the outdoors, separated only by a glass wall. Distinguished by a difference in floor level, the dining area runs the length of the space and requires an entry of sorts, up steps from the living area. The vernacular architecture of the showpiece ceiling delivers a unique blend of modernity and tradition. On the back wall, behind the dining table, a large picture window is flanked by tall bookcases. The view here is a mass of greenery from the tall plants growing outside – and together these elements combine to form an interestingly composed feature wall.

A sculptural garden separates the two other bungalows, which are reached via a covered walkway that skirts around a central garden. Bonnet-shaped roofs with internal wooden planks make the indoor areas look even larger and brighter than their generous dimensions. Light diffusing from an indoor courtyard sets a vibe of calm and relaxation.

The guest suite comprises a spacious bedroom and bathroom – separated by a dividing wall that serves as the bed headboard – as well as a large study with space for lounging. In the master suite, which opens into a private garden, an immense bathroom matches the scale of the bedroom. Long, narrow recesses in the headboard and huge walk-in shower are illuminated, casting a warm, welcoming glow that is matched by the backlit bathroom mirror.

The abundance of open space, mountain view and stepped construction of the compound contribute to a sense of unity between the house and the surrounding landscape, which can be felt indoors and out. The inner courtyards also help to connect the exterior to the interior in this home where nature, man and animals live in harmony.

Photos: ZXC Studio