Bali may be known for its idyllic beaches, lavish resorts and partying backpackers, and yet, underneath the island’s natural beauties and storied lifestyle lies its greatest asset, a deep-seated spirituality, attested not just by the numerous temples that pepper the landscape along with the traditional ceremonies regularly performed by locals, but also by the magical sensation that certain places emanate. One such place is the location of Rumah Purnama, a 100-year-old Balinese wantilan home that Bali-based designer Maximilian Jencquel bought back to life two years ago, thoughtfully renovating and turning it into a holiday retreat. Known for its temple, Pura Gunung Lebah, Balinese Hindus consider the area an energy centre which has long been a source of inspiration for artists.
Born in Venezuela and trained in the USA and France, Jencquel moved to Ubud, the Bali’s cultural and artistic centre, establishing his boutique design practice Studio Jencquel in 2011 in pursuit of his passion for vernacular architecture and tropical landscapes. Tucked away amid lush vegetation, and blessed with spectacular views of the jungle, Gunung Agung, the holy volcano of Bali, and the rising moon – the latter informing the project’s name, Rumah Purnama, which in Bahasa Indonesian means “The House of the Full Moon” - the house epitomizes both Jencquel’s creative and personal pursuits.
Restored over a period of one year though an adaptive, sustainable design approach, the pagoda-like, two-storey house harmoniously blends in with its natural surroundings thanks to the use of natural materials such as tropical wood and cogongrass, locally known as alang-alang, which lines the thatched roofing. Adding to its mystical, Zen ambience, the house is ceremoniously reached through an overgrown traditional Balinese door that opens onto to a winding garden path leading to a sunken, bamboo-lined pebble garden.
The use of natural materials continues in the interior, where a subdued palette of natural hardwoods, earthen wall colouring, marble surfaces and off-white linens imbues the rooms with a soothing, grounded feeling. Complemented by a series of hand-crafted furniture, many of which have been designed for the project by Studio Jencquel, and an eclectic art collection that embraces earthy tones and natural motifs, including pieces by Jencquel himself, the house is paradigm of subdued elegance, authentic craftsmanship and laidback living.
Setting the tone, a pair of smiling, Giacometti-esque, ironwood statuettes sourced from the island of Kalimantan in Borneo greet guests upon entering the house. Next door, the open-plan living and dining area is awash in muted tones and clean lines, featuring a bespoke dining table that sits ten by Studio Jencquel whose contemporary design is softened by three rattan chandeliers and a Venezuelan hammock. Large windows and glazed doors offer expansive views of the jungle setting, including the island’s holy volcano, Gunung Agung, which looms on the horizon, and seamlessly connect the living room with the pool deck outside. Conceived as an all-day space to sunbathe and lounge, and bookended by ancient Balinese family temple structures, the decked terrace is the perfect place to view the moon rising over the coconut trees.
The property’s three bedrooms, one on the ground floor and two upstairs, take their names from three of the most prominent guests of acclaimed German painter and musician Walter Spies who lived nearby in the 1930s, the period that the house was originally constructed. Spies, whose artistic legacy influenced generations of Balinese artists and performers, hosted among other luminaries, American cultural anthropologist and author Margaret Mead, Swiss painter Theo Meier, and the legendary Charlie Chaplin, whom Jencquel has named the guest rooms after.
Indonesian hardwood floors, soft natural carpeting from Sumatra, and mosquito net bed canopies imbue the bedrooms with a soothing ambiance as well as harmoniously complement the verdant views courtesy of panoramic windows. But perhaps the best place in the house to take in the surrounding nature and tap into the soulfulness of the area are the open-air showers in the Mead and Chaplin guest rooms that offer amazing 360° views. From all the perks and comforts one could ask for in such a tropical location, this takes the cake, evocatively encapsulating the house’s inspirational power and enchanting allure.