Redesigning the Glamorous ‘First European Settlers’ Era in Bali

Photography By Moch Sulthonn

The opening of Capella Ubud in Bali has been a hot topic amongst the hospitality industry in Southeast Asia. As a young luxury hotel brand, the Capella Hotel Group takes its time in growing their properties, but when they do, they do so with great attention to details and of course, magnificent design concept. Marking their fifth establishment, Capella Ubud, Bali takes a concept of a forest retreat that is inspired from the glamorous first European settlers era in Bali. Indonesia Design is thrilled to be the first Indonesian media to get a first-hand experience of this amazing camp.

As the hotel business competition is very high in Bali, one should really come with great original concept and details to stand out from the rest. Understanding this mindset, the Capella Hotel worked with one of the hottest hotel designers in the industry. Bangkok-based designer Bill Bensley is a household name when it comes to designing luxury hotels and resorts around the world. Known for having no boundaries in his design approach, Bill returns to Bali to envision the new Capella in Ubud.

In the past, we have seen, experienced and wrote about Bill’s hotels and resorts from around the world. There are always those eccentric elements create a bold statement in his design, and making it original. The new Capella Ubud also carries this design DNA of his, but in a more refined and unique way. The idea of taking inspiration from the first European settlers’ way-of-living in Bali and adding the glamour into the whole concept is not only brave, but challenging in the sense that it needs a serious balance between design, history, and modernity principals in implementing it.

The inspiration of the first European settlers who arrived in Bali in the early 1800s is encapsulated at this camp into a compound of luxury tented retreats as a tribute to their spirit of adventure. Bill’s design scheme for this jungle sanctuary takes its cue from the colonial decor brought to Bali by the European settlers, combining that aesthetic with traditional Balinese architectural elements, including antique bed frames (in some of the retreats), carved wooden doors and entrance gates, suspension bridges and Balinese poleng and ikat linens.

This original design that has nuances of a bygone era appears in each of the 22 one-bedroom tented retreats and the two-bedroom lodge featuring saltwater pools, large outdoor decks and indoor and outdoor bathrooms. Each tent interior carries a bespoke design theme based on the characters and professions of the early settlers, such as captain, naturalist, cartographer, translator, toy maker and story teller, among others – in order to bring the authentic feel of Bali’s exotic past life.

The tent itself is specially made from a highly durable and dimensionally stable material called Soltis Proof 502 (previously named Precontraint 502 Satin). Produced from a company called Serge Ferrari, based in La Tour du Pin, France, this waterproof material protects against bad weather and UV rays, and offers exceptional dirt and mould resistance due to its PVDF surface treatment.

It is very impressive to see how Bill concealed the modernity inside the tent to keep the original vintage look of his interior design. The air conditioning, for example, comes from one side of the wooden floor, and is not only smartly hidden but also sophisticatedly done. All the other modern devices such as the coffee machine, and the mini bar fridge and wine cooler are all placed inside the beautifully constructed wooden chest that becomes a cohesive part of the entire interior. The electric sockets and USB slots are available by the bed, hidden behind a wooden lid. Even the toilet is hidden inside a gigantic wooden frame chair, only revealing itself when the seat is lifted.

Everywhere around this beautiful resort, from the tented retreats, the lodge, to some of the public areas are adorned with valuable antique art objects and furniture, some of which are from the owner’s treasured private collection. Furthermore, the design also respects the surrounding nature; not a single tree was cut during the construction of the camp.

In terms of their public facilities, the Capella Ubud has two culinary tents featuring an all-day dining called Mads Lange – a semi-alfresco tent with a ceiling adorned by Balinese wayang paintings from the owner’s collection; and Api Jiwa that features Asian street food barbecue degustation. We were also impressed by The Officer’s Tent, the camp’s living room and library exclusively reserved for camp residents to recall the bygone era of the officer’s mess done in Bill Bensley’s style and choice of furniture.

Talking about design in Capella Ubud can be endless as there are so many great things done in such details, including how this resort is fully committed to Bill Bensley’s concept. Travelling and staying in the first European settlers style has never been so exciting!

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.
Moch Sulthonn