Jaya Ibrahim: Celebrating the Royal Modesty


The late Jaya Ibrahim was an Indonesian designer who marked his name as one of the most respected hospitality designers in the world, with a stunning array of impressive designs including his works at the boutique resort operator Aman Resorts. Having educated and worked abroad, Jaya took the opportunity to take pride in Indonesia as his motherland through his works of hospitality designs.

Jaya Ibrahim was born in Yogyakarta to Sumatran-Javanese parents, who had nurtured him with good wealth and raised him with honourable royal manner. Jaya was sent to the UK to study economics. During his college years, he met Anouska Hempel who was already settled her name as a distinguished interior designer by then. He started as her assistant and often set her table setting for her own personal lunches which caught her eyes on Jaya’s passion for details and having the utensils symmetrical and colour coordinated. Even though he completed his studies in economics, Jaya decided to continue to pursue his interior design career.

His first independent project was his parents’ house in the mid 1980s. “I was in England at that time, I was influenced with the Memphis movement and the celebration of the centennial of Sir Edwin Lutyens,” said Jaya in his last interview with Indonesia Design.

Adrian Zecha, the mind behind Aman Resorts visited this house once and praised him on his majestic proportion and volume. Jaya was then showered with Aman projects in China; from Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, Amanfayun in Hangzhou, and Amandayan in Lijiang. Each of Aman projects exhibit a sense of place, while having a warm and humble ambiance that highlights his Indonesian manners. “As a Javanese descendant, I am fully aware of the basic principles in building and designing a house, including what direction a room faces and what view the room opens to. In fact, the principles are similar to the way Europeans design their homes where we are taught how to use axis, and to place focal point inside a room,” he said during an interview in 2012.

His design is known for its well thought out circulation, a human scale and a good background. “The interior design of a building needs to help making the building livable. If the design cannot be used, then it is a bad design,” said Jaya in an interview with Indonesia Design in 2012.

Symmetrical and well-balanced composition can easily be seen in Jaya’s designs. For hotels, he considered that the guest would only stay for one or two days; therefore, he or she will not have a lot of time to digest elements of the design. Hence, visual impressions should be instantaneous. These two approaches created tranquility that makes the guests feel relaxed. “I want guests to instantly unwind when they get inside their rooms and enjoy their stay there, without moving any furniture to suit their needs,” he added.

Aside from Aman Resort, Jaya was also known for his exceptional works for The Dharmawangsa Jakarta, The Legian Bali, Conrad Bora Bora Nui in French Polynesia, Conrad Centennial Singapore, The Ritz-Carton in Sichuan, China, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in Maldives as well as Capella in Shanghai and Singapore.

Jaya once admitted that The Legian Bali was his most memorable project. “It was memorable because my first commercial project and its design is absolutely simple but it still dominates its surroundings and allows this energy to be a part of the interior. And it’s a masterpiece precisely because nothing was done to impress!” he shared.

When asked about the current trend in interior design, before he passed a way, Jaya regretted that it had lost the restriction dictated by the elite taste and sense of what is right and wrong. He thought that it was only a good thing when one immediately establishes a new discipline, otherwise it is just self-indulgence.

Although Jaya spent most of his time living outside the country, he died at his family home in Jakarta in 2015, less than a half year after his last interview with us and his first-ever public speaking at our 11th Anniversary event which was held at The Dharmawangsa Jakarta, one of his masterpieces. “While we are very heavy hearted with the loss, we shall also remember the wisdom he had shown and the beauty he had created, which will remain a legacy forever,” announced his firm Jaya International upon his death.

It is from him that we learnt the pride of Indonesian design doesn’t rely on its form, but more of the way of adapting our manners into the design. His works can still be enjoyed to date, and still be admired by people all over the world.

Like this story, share to your friends
Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.