The word “beauty” is often easy to say, but it is hard to describe. For award winning designer and interior decorator, Zohra Boukhari, “beauty” is exposed by something as plain, simple and real as sight. The combination of uniqueness and creativity in DaLa Spa and Petani Restaurant at Alaya Resort Ubud produces a remarkable beauty. In this interview Zohra tells the story behind her inspiring ‘design in harmony’ to Anton Adianto of Indonesia Design.
DaLa Spa and Petani Restaurant at Alaya Resort Ubud have been expertly designed by you. What magical touches did you add in both places?
As always, I put all my soul, my love, my passion and... a lot of work. Indonesia has a strong cultural heritage and amazing craftsmen. I believe culture is one of the prior motivations to visit Bali and Ubud in particular. The owner, Michelle, and I were both on the same line: We wanted to make a restaurant and a spa that were a tribute to the local culture by showcasing the talents of the artisans, creating an atmosphere that was praising the heritage but adding something to it at the same time. This goal was also achieved by Michelle’s spa treatments that are age-old beauty treatments and rituals that embodied unprecedented sophistication.
Alaya Resort Ubud’s tagline is “Style and Harmony”. What specific design and materials have you used to support the theme?
Warm colors, wallpaper, lots of drapés, carpets, fine-fabric upholstery. I also love to give a patina to my wooden furniture. It gives character, charm and a sense of timelessness. I don’t use the same color throughout the interior but prefer to work with a palette rather than just a single color. I like to give accents by adding tons of curios, chandeliers and antiques. Those accents bring a feminine touch and a lot of refinement.
What difficulties did you face when designing the interior of DaLa Spa and Petani Restaurant?
The biggest difficulty I encountered was to match Petani restaurant with the hotel lobby. The difficulty being that I was not in charge of the décor of the hotel lobby. At the same time, my style is my signature, so I could not do something that is not “me”. In the end I had to find some elements to make the transition between the two spaces towards unity.
You are known as a famous designer who is also a successful businessman and the villa and restaurant owner. How do you manage your time to do all of it so professionally?
First of all, I am a hardworking person. Never been afraid to work long hours and on weekends. I don’t think too much, I just do what I have to do. I am in the action. I work very instinctively which makes things almost natural. Yes, I do get tired but my passion for my work always takes over. The satisfaction of a job well-done wipes away all the tiredness.
What made you fall in love with Bali for the first time when you were working on your first project in Bali, almost 20 years ago?
Bali and its people gave me a lot. And I hope I gave them back. I fell in love with Bali because I could accomplish my dreams. I found the craftsmen that could make my ideas come true. I know that sounds silly, but most craftsmen in Europe or in the States cannot work with their hands anymore, they can only use machines. My designs, my patinas, almost everything I do involve handcrafts that can easily be found in Indonesia and barely found in Europe. I would have been frustrated if I could not have had my ideas translated into actual artifacts. Minimalism is only the result of a lack of hand craftsmen in Europe and advent of machinery production.
You have been doing a lot of projects. How do you maintain your design to remain unique, authentic and different from your previous designs?
Every space has a soul. Balinese are after all animist. I probably got that from them. Every owner has his/her own personality. So if you take account that my style is influence by the atmosphere, the soul of a place and by the personality of its owner, then, obviously the outcome is always different even though, my style is recognizable. I think The Bistrot is very different from Balique, which is very different from Kenanga, etc. Like children, a son can be so different from his sister but you can still see that they have the same mother. My projects have all in common the same DNA but they are all different, have a different story and something else to say.
Are there fundamental differences when designing the interior of the restaurant, spa or villas besides its dissimilar function?
After all, no, the differences come from their functions but they are all made for being enjoyed by the same people, especially true when the restaurant, the spa and the villas are all on the same resort. So the unity is the resort and the guests that will visit it. Then, the functions of each space will dictate the differences that have to be brought. But yes, you need harmony between them.