Recently I was invited to Singapore for a business meeting to discuss the possibility of expanding my design studio into Asia. While planning my trip, I soon realized the flight from NY to Singapore was over 19 hours. That is a long flight to spend just a few days in a conference room, so Juan Carlos and I took advantage of being so far away to explore an island I had long dreamed about: Bali!
We arrived late morning and were quickly heading inland to our hotel, The Chedi Club, which is located in Ubud. Surrounded by rice fields, this “Balinese-style” hotel is actually a collection of small private villas that are beautifully located throughout the property. Driving from the airport you are distracted by traffic and hundreds of motorbikes that fill the narrow streets. I could not help but wonder, where is the Bali I had imagined? But as we pulled into the gates of The Chedi Club, we entered into a world that was so far removed from the busy streets that moments earlier had raised some doubts about our decision to make Bali our final stop.
Upon entering the property the lush layers of green surround you. Nature that has been both respected and manipulated to create an environment that projects total serenity. It was the first time I had ever seen a rice field, and these fields surrounded the property. Our timing for a visit was perfect because the rice plants were tall and the breeze created what at times appeared to be a vivid green ocean with waves rolling across the landscape.
The buildings that dot the property are elegant and gentle, yielding gracefully to the landscape. Sweeping rooflines of brown tile rest comfortably among the green surroundings. Our villa was beautifully appointed with a small private garden and pool. In the center of the rice fields was a large pavilion for dining that could be totally opened to the outdoors. If a restful retreat is what you are looking for, I cannot imagine a more perfect site.
For the next few days we explored Bali and many of the local artisans. I was amazed by how many talented artists have gone to Bali for vacation and never left. Most have set up modest studios, enjoying their art and the slow pace of the island. There are a few artisans we visited who work in remarkable studios. John Hardy, who is well known for his silver accessories and jewelry, has set up his workshop in Kapal Bamboo.
The workshop is charming and sits softly in the shadow of his gallery. The gallery is an amazing bamboo structure with a soaring silhouette that is a modern take on the traditional use of regional materials.
Gava was one of the many ceramic studios we visited. They have created an amazing workroom under a tent of what appears to be an enormous orange umbrella. Here they develop and create beautiful and unique techniques in pottery and tile. I was truly inspired by their creative use of organic materials. I would love to come back and work with them on new designs for my collection.
After three days inland we decided to leave the rice fields for a different experience along the coast. On the way to our new hotel we stopped at the popular Menega Café. Tables and chairs line the beach, and it is best to be seated just before sundown to take advantage of the amazing sunsets. How can you beat freshly grilled fish, creative cocktails and dining at the edge of the sea?
Just when I felt I had fulfilled my inspirational needs, we head for The Alila Uluwatu Villas where we will spent the next three days. It was late and as we approached the hidden entrance into the hotel, and I was struck by how black the night was. We were driving along the remote Bukit Peninsula and the only light came from the headlights of our car. Through a small opening along a huge wall of bamboo, the Alila presented itself. For a moment I felt I had arrived at design heaven. The white façade appears to be suspended in an infinite sea of black. I could not distinguish the sky from the watery pools that roam throughout the property and travel toward the sea. Set along the cliffs that line the ocean, this modern environment is brilliant.
Though a totally different experience from our peaceful moments at the Chedi where man yields to nature, this hotel offers its own serenity based on nature supporting man. Walking through the property in the daylight I had much more to discover. Beautiful gazebos line the cliffs and are connected to the landscape through a series of walkways and gardens.
The week here flew by too fast. I have to admit it was hard to leave Bali. It was an enormously inspiring week. The connection to organic materials and the infusion of tradition and modern ideas went far beyond my expectations.
Now that I am back home and recall my design experiences there is one aspect of Bali that made an even more profound impression on me. The people of Bali possess a uniquely spiritual quality. The serenity that I found as I traveled the island may be directly connected to the special perspective of the native people that is infused in every small detail of their lives and creativity.
Thomas Pheasant’s new Baker collection will launch this spring. Look for the inspiration from his travels in his new designs!
In the meantime you can browse his current collection on our website.