Treasured woods of teak, ironwood, and mahogany have been carefully harvested over the centuries, embellished with intricate carvings by Indonesian craftsmen and used in temples, homes and warehouses in Bali and beyond. As older buildings are replaced with newer structures, materials are salvaged, given new purpose and function. These reclaimed materials are being crafted into architectural features, accents, furniture and even homes and have found their way into Caribbean décor. Innovative details such as garden doors, day beds, gazebos and even car ports have given intoxicatingly peaceful appearances to dozens of West Indian residences.
The ways of the Balinese are as great a fascination to world travellers as the fertile and lush island of Bali. The cultures of Asia have touched one another through wars, marriages and migrations and in Bali they have metamorphosed into a peaceful population whose core beliefs centre around temple and family. Each member of the community uses his or her individual skills to honour the gods and thereby provide for their family. Men of great skill in wood and stone carving are common and the result is a landscape of beautiful structures in the most simple of buildings: even the rice granary is festooned with detail that honours its purpose.
Manufacture is not just a matter of building things; it is a process of spirit, skill, and respect for the materials and the craftsman. Creators of these pieces consider the personality of the wood, and in many ways, ask the wood just what it would be. Often scented by decades of use, rafters, columns and support beams find new life as luxurious tables, beds, chairs and even structural works of art. Decorators and buyers are often drawn to pieces fashioned through this inspired method of creation: a manifestation of function and design that just feels warm and wonderful and right.
As in other areas of enterprise, there are knock-offs and copies and buyers must be intelligent in making their selection. In Bali there are shops whose signs boast: “Antiques Made to Order.” Buyers are well advised to remember the Indian expression: “Buy something expensive—cry once. Buy something cheap—cry every time you use it.” Legitimate shops and dealers rarely have posh showrooms, but rather dusty collections of forgotten furniture where serious buyers delight in the hunt through the heaps.
The rewards are wonderful as one can uncover 500-year-old Chinese wedding beds, or 100 linear feet of carved temple wall panels. Some finds are so inspiring, one dreams of designing a room or a building around a single piece. Enthused by the gentle beauty of the Balinese style, decorators have drawn details for Caribbean residences and incorporated pieces and features into homes from traditional colonial to modern.
Airy day beds provide delightful poolside sanctuaries. Entrances are enhanced with highly decorated doors that entice as well as require thoughtful entry through ornate reduced thresholds. Guest cottages populate gardens with romantic breezy bedrooms carved with dreamy detail. Tranquil stone carvings watch over lush tropical gardens. The Balinese people and the land that sustains them live in a harmonious state, where old is not useless, where discarded is not trash. How old is old? In the Caribbean, 500 years is unthinkable; in Asia that is just used furniture. The Caribbean style is young by comparison, but has benefited by the infusion of new branches of style, as the Balinese becomes West Indian.