Rami Kadri's love affair with Bali began seven years ago when the partner and lead designer of Dubai's Objects & Elements visited the island for the first time. "We landed at the airport at night. I put my backpack down, smoked a cigarette and went to sleep on the floor. My business partner Claudia Granberg looked at me and said: 'You're never going back to Dubai, are you?'"
Within a week, the 43-year-old Kadri had bought a 6,000-square- metre plot of land and began designing a home on the island. And while he did return to Dubai, his fondness for Bali continues to this day and has resulted in the creation of a property development company, a successful restaurant business and the global bag brand, Moochi.
In 2009, Kadri, Granberg and four others formed Three Petals, a private fund dedicated to designing and constructing villas in Bali. "We buy land, design houses, build them and sell them on," Kadri explains. "Three weeks after we put the first one on the market, it had been sold. We set our price and it wasn't negotiated. That encouraged us. So we bought more land and built another house."
Kadri has so far been responsible for designing eight villas in Bali. The latest, the four-bedroom Villa Maya, has recently been completed and is now for sale. Kadri attributes the success of Three Petals properties not only to Bali's burgeoning property market but also to their unique design.
"When I first went to Bali, a lot of the European and Balinese architects were 'going ethnic' and sticking with very Balinese designs because, a few years back, this is what investors wanted. They wanted to go to Bali and live the Bali way. But the trend changed. When I started designing, I tried to maintain an ethnic feel but with a very contemporary, let's say western, design. So the clients who are buying our houses are still living the Bali lifestyle but with all of today's modern conveniences."
Villa Maya is set on an 810-square metre plot in Canggu, which is four kilometres from the beach and 40 minutes' drive from the airport. "In Bali, you have two kinds of plots - ones with a view and ones without a view. Plots with a view are very expensive and don't make investment sense if you are looking to resell immediately. You have to be in a position to sit and wait a few years for appreciation. This particular piece of land was surrounded by local homes but I saw the potential of the area, which is set to grow. The value of the land has already doubled in value since we bought it two years ago."
Because there was no real view to work with, Kadri decided to build a perimeter wall and use it to introduce an element of surprise into the design. From the main gate, a walkway extends over a body of water flanked by glass panels. Water cascades down over the panels, immediately introducing water as one of the signature features of this property.
"There is a fingerprint to my properties in Bali, which is the way I use water bodies throughout the house. The positioning of the pool and the ponds and the way they are shaped is quite unique. The houses are all different but the water bodies are the common DNA, I suppose. Here, the pool starts outdoors and continues right through the house," Kadri explains.
The tunnel-like effect of the entrance means that the eye is drawn directly ahead, skimming over the swimming pool to rest on an oversized seating area that appears to float majestically over the water. Behind the seating area is a towering wall of dark, interwoven volcanic stone, which also doubles as a waterfall.
To the left of the pool is the master bedroom, while a large open-plan dining room and sunken living area are located to the right. A wooden bridge extends over the pool and connects the two.
Three additional, self-contained bedrooms are situated along the perimeter of the plot and each has been decorated in a different colour - peach, gold and green and white. In true Balinese style, the house comprises a series of open spaces, with very few doors and dividing walls - even in the bathrooms.
The villa took a total of nine months to build and would have been finished sooner had it not been for a monsoon. "Everything in Bali is done manually. So we dug the foundations and pool but then the monsoon season came and everything was covered in water so we had to do it all again," Kadri recalls.
This, he says, is one of the challenges of working in Bali. Another is the limited range of materials and furniture options available on the island. "That's why if you walk around Bali a lot of the houses look the same. You have very few choices to work with so you have to take those and be creative with them."
Kadri worked with the ubiquitous palette of rattan, limestone, volcanic stone and teak wood, but tried to be inventive. Natural stone was used for the floors in the living areas and teak was used in the bedrooms. "I had the wood stained white to give it an antique look. Because teak is readily available, people just lay it down as it is, so most houses have the same colour of wood; I gave it a whitewash."
Ceilings are made from handmade rattan but stand five metres high and are elegantly uplit at night. With Bali's high electricity costs in mind, Kadri used LED lighting wherever possible.
In the enormous master bathroom, which covers an area of 100 square metres, Kadri used a hand-carved piece of marble to create a sink for two. "Then you have the shower floor, which is made of a volcanic stone that I had cut by hand. There's also a Godzilla-size bathtub that measures 2.5m by 3m and it has its own waterfall next to it made out of volcanic stone."
Kadri designed a lot of the villa's furniture himself, including a dining table made of four oversized hands with their palms extended upwards. "I was looking at Buddha hands and thought, if I open them, I can create a table. Each hand measures 120kg and is made of sculpted concrete with a bronze finish," Kadri says.
For the finishing touches and accessories, Kadri enlisted the help of Granberg, who decorated the space using many of the items currently available in the Objects & Elements showroom. Dramatic artwork was introduced throughout the space, adding further flashes of visual interest and rounding off a perfect balancing act between traditional Balinese styling and contemporary design.
For more information about Villa Maya and Three Petals, visit www.thethreepetals.com
For further information about Objects & Elements Dubai, visit www.objectsandelementsgroup.com