Falling Into (a) Place

Marie — France and Claude had never thought of buying land or building a house in Bali, but things just seemed to fall into place. The next thing they knew, they were starting to think about what their dream villa would look like, and, within just 10 months, Villa Kanti was finished.

French owners Marie-France Fontaine and Claude Cherki started visiting Bali in 1986 and, like many travelers before them, soon became infatuated with the Balinese people, culture and traditions as well as with the stunning landscape. “We spent our holidays in Ubud back 2005”, say Marie-France. “At that time we were renting a very nice private house in Lodtunduh overlooking the rice fields. Our two youngest children, like us, were so thrilled with the landscape surrounding the villa that none of us wanted to visit other places in Bali!”

Although these surrounds were dramatically different from their home in the centre of Paris, and from their second home on the Mediterranean seashore near Saint-Tropez, the couple decided. “Just for fun” to ask Putu Sukacapa, the villa manager, if he knew of any available land nearby. Although they hadn’t really been serious, the couple found themselves happily surprised when Putu said he did know of some. “It was the first and only land we looked at with the children,” Marie-France remembers. “And all of us immediately feel in love with it.”

It’s easy to understand why, Just 10 minutes south of Ubud in the village of Apuh, Villa Kanti is surrounded by 3,200 square meters of lush vegetation, panoramic views of rice fields and a little river. Villagers work in the fields, bath in stream and, excited to see visitors, smile genuinely as you pass down the small access road.

Given that the decision to buy had taken them by surprise, the couple now had to inquire about formalities, including legal requirements. Once that was sorted out, they started to draw up rough plans for the villa in October of 2005 with Balinese architect Gede Bagus Putra Jaya, from Denpasar, and Balinese landscape designer Ketut Hendrawan, friends of villa manager Putu. “We knew that if we to build a home it would need to respect the local architectural traditions, while fulfilling our own expectations in terms of space and interior design,” says Marie-France. “We thought from the beginning that a Balinese architect would be more appropriate in understanding and integrating our wishes.” Gede Agus turned out to be perfect fit — so perfect in fact that the couple didn’t even bother to look for an alternative. “He understood what we were looking for; he also added a lot to our vision.” Ketut also fit wonderfully and, after meeting with the couple to see if their aura fit with that of the spirits with which they would be sharing the land, he felt confident in going ahead. “The architect and landscaper had never worked together, but they respected one another’s point of view and got along perfectly well,” says Marie-France.

Villa Kanti comprises four pavilions, with the focus falling on the airy main living and dinning pavilion which is open to a 20m x 4m saltwater pool complemented by a hammam (steam room) of green stone and Jacuzzi backed by a large engraved sandstone tablet, fish ponds, water cascades and fully equipped kitchen. A media and entertainment room with 67-inch satellite TV, home theatre and entertainment library await a few steps away with a wrap-around couch with bright blue and green plush pillows waiting to swallow you. Upstairs, a library with PC and printer caters for those who need to stay in touch with the fast-paced world outside, although a few days in this villa could sweep those feelings right out the door. The three suite pavilions — Master Pavilion, Temple Pavilion and the Rice field Pavilion-lie strategically located around the main pavilion, taking advantage of the gently sloping land. “Gede Agus was very good at positioning the pavilions with respect to feng shui concepts,” says the owner, “allowing each to benefit from the different views.”

Paths of pebble-washed stepping stones wind throughout the villa grounds and past tinkling water features leading to a relaxation bale at the base of the villa, overlooking the stream below and affording a sense of privacy without detachment from others in your party. The three pavilions offer accommodation for up to 10 guests. Each is outfitted with objects collected during the owners’ travels and specially crafted furniture from a local studio based on the owners own designs and ideas, “From our many experiences traveling in tropical countries, we knew that it is seldom that you get complete darkness. And we were very strict about obtaining black-out curtains for the bedrooms.” Most rooms have their own en-suite and open-air bathroom either cloaked in overhanging palms or overlooking the landscape offering a sanctuary in itself. Black terrazzo soaking tubs, oversized rain showers and vanity counters sit atop pebbled flooring accented with tropical flora. “For us, Villa Kanti is the perfect expression of what we were dreaming of,” says Marie-France of the finished product. “We have been very privileged and lucky to find the right people, Putu in particular, and are amazed at their professionalism and good taste. All of our friends thought that our project was completely crazy, since it was so far away from home. With people we had just met and because we were dealing in a foreign language. Today they think that it would have been foolish not to have done it!”

The villa manager and landscape designer helped to name the villa, suggesting Kanti “Light”, in Sanskrit and “Place of friendship” in Balinese.

by Molly F. McGill
Tropical Homes Asia Pacific 
Vol. 5 No. 2 Apr - Jun 2008