Tegel House by The Lennon Project

It’s been nearly two decades since the Swedish owners of this home first fell in love with Bali, drawn in particular to Canggu and the vibrant vibe that defines this lively hotspot — a potent combination of good food, good surf and good yoga. During their time as regular, devoted visitors, the couple dreamed of building their perfect holiday home in this cosmopolitan paradise, to provide them with an escape from the harsh European winter while they indulge their passion for the aforementioned good stuff.

TOP Sam says the construction of this home is typical for Bali — a predominantly reinforced-concrete structure, but refined and slimmed down where needed using steel. Although the villa looks modern, it recedes into the landscape thanks to its darker colour and the well-considered use of vegetation. MIDDLE “[The couple] originally wanted a jungle out here, but there wasn’t really room, so we stripped it back to a selection of architectural plants,” says Sam of the water-feature entry garden. ABOVE A pedestrian entrance guides you from the street to the front door, past a cobblestone zone that continues inside the garage, blurring the line between indoors and out. Glass bricks slotted into the wall here glow at night.
Guided by a clear vision, the pair enlisted the services of Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland-based architecture and interior design studio The Lennon Project to take the helm from New Zealand. Their neighbours had previous engaged the studio run by Sam Lennon for their property, and the couple were impressed with the result and glowing recommendation.

ABOVE Layered bricks combine with timber finished with various stains to create a laidback feel. The bricks have no mortar lines between them and beautiful natural variation. “They’re all made by hand, pressed into moulds and dried in a courtyard — with everyone working in bare feet, in the typical Bali scenario,” says Sam. “They were made and dried in batches, so waiting for them to be finished was a constant part of the building process.”

In a project dubbed the Tegel House, ‘tegel’ being Swedish for ‘brick’, the design for the villa — including all the ‘hard’ interior elements, such as the kitchen and shelving — materialised during Zoom meetings between Aotearoa and Europe, while in Bali, a team of local and expat professionals were also hard at work. Utara Indonesia Architect was hired to undertake documentation alongside The Lennon Project as well as manage the site, SKS Construction took on the build, Studio Nimmersatt the lighting, Kalpa Taru the woodwork and Bali Landscape Company the landscaping, while interior designer Chelsey McPhedran of Somewhere Concepts sourced materials, fittings and soft finishes, and handled the build and install of the cabinetry.

TOP Pictured below one of the three paintings by Ricky Lee Gordon, a concrete ledge runs around the living space to join the steps between here and the entryway. In addition to sourcing materials locally whenever possible, the team commissioned or had made much of the fittings, furniture and art. Employing local artisans made this project highly inclusive of the local design and trade community, while keeping waste and the carbon footprint to a minimum. “In Bali, if you can’t find it, you can make it,” says Sam.

The homeowners wanted the villa to be low-maintenance with a ‘modern tropical’ feel, and prominently feature the bricks seen in Balinese temples, so the team has some custom-made to be more linear and contemporary, and laid them in captivating patterns for visual intrigue that extends from the outside in. Upstairs, the cladding takes the form of black-stained timber screens made using battens of random widths.

ABOVE Standing on basalt flooring, the granite kitchen island has waterfall edges on three sides and is extended by a wrap-around bench that drops down to provide extra seating. The Merbau dining table is by Kalpataru, who also crafted the villa’s cabinetry, mostly from reclaimed teak.

The interior draws inspiration from eclectic references, including mid-century and other eras past, enriched with touches of Bali’s heritage through the use of cultural artefacts and locally sourced materials for the furnishings, many of which were crafted by local makers. Functionality was of paramount importance, and the architecture expertly maximises space to ensure every aspect of daily living — work, entertainment, sleeping, storage — is planned for. With level changes that mimic the property’s previous life as terraced rice paddies, the villa includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study and an open-plan kitchen/dining/living area that overlooks the pool and the rice terraces beyond. A spacious laundry and a garage for cars and scooters add convenience to the design.

TOP & MIDDLE The downstairs powder room is easily accessible from the pool area and there’s an outdoor shower to one side of it, in which a sculpture by Maverick Lee acts as a shelf for toiletries. ABOVE The ceiling in the entryway is all black (the underside of the upper-storey ‘box’ on top), then as you move into the living areas, it transitions into teak as the height goes from 2.7 to 3.4m, opening and lightening up the space.

“Conceptually, the house is a black timber box resting on a series of solid brick walls,” says Sam. “The upper floor contains all the bedrooms, bathrooms and other places of retreat, while the lower floor contains all the social and living areas, and is focused on connecting with the landscape for a home that looks and feels as if it’s always been there.”

TOP “I was going for a bit of a Japanese vibe here, reduced to the essentials,” says Sam of the powder room, in which a teak-framed vanity is topped with a slab of basalt and a hand-glazed basin. MIDDLE Every second step of the double-height, double-width stadium staircase is infilled for a gallery-esque look, and on its left there are spots for objects to be displayed. An internal courtyard that can be opened and closed with large sliders lets light into this central zone of the home. ABOVE In the upstairs bathrooms, bluestone basins with distressed-edge profiles also sit atop basalt vanities with teak cupboards underneath.

Indeed, the Tegel House’s defining characteristic lies in its refusal to adhere to fleeting trends. Instead, the team opted for trustier details, resulting in an atmosphere that feels at once exceptional, inviting, earthy, refined, cosy, airy and wonderfully close to nature.
To establish a sense of flow and continuity, the colour palette was meticulously attended to throughout to ensure seamless transitions between spaces. Earthy hues and greens dominate the living areas, while blue and amber are the dominant shades in the couple’s suite.

ABOVE The aim was to hide and integrate whatever possible to visually simplify the kitchen, hence the fridges are concealed behind black-stained teak cabinets with custom, folded- brass handles to complement the custom rangehood.

Artistic expression is another big part of this home. On entry, a small courtyard with a stone water feature engenders a serene energy. Rock sculptures by Maverick Lee pop up in various locations — including in the entryway doubling as a bench, near the sun loungers by the pool and at the top of the stairs. Another drawcard are three artworks that expat South African painter Ricky Lee Gordon was commissioned to make.

TOP Maintaining the minimal aesthetic, everything in the main bedroom is built in — the bedside tables, the headboard and the bed itself. The flooring on this level of the house is polished concrete, with brass inlays to prevent cracking. ABOVE The owners often work from home while they’re here, so as do the bedrooms, the office features floor-to-ceiling louvre windows for good light and ventilation. Given the humid climate year-round in Bali, lots of consideration was put into achieving excellent passive ventilation and constant airflow. But although the house promotes a simple way of living and a connection to the environment, it also doesn’t skimp on modern appliances, all of which, including the air-conditioning units, are concealed out of sight within the cabinetry and the fabric of the building.

Outside, the landscaping has delivered enchanting outdoor spaces. Rising to the challenge of the tight, narrow site bordered by high walls, tall, thin palms were used to create a layered scheme that allows in natural light, while forest-floor plants requiring barely any upkeep contribute to the minimalist, tropical feel at their feet.
A generous budget and a collaborative spirit fostered an environment on this project in which creativity thrived. The team were given licence to source a diverse range of elements, from the most exquisite to the most humble — a freedom to explore that breathed life into the vision and resulted in a uniqueness that really sets the villa apart.

ABOVE Sam set a goal to include not so much as a single gib wall. In this guest room, the walls are finished with concrete plaster and a negative detail along the roofline hides a linear light (not pictured). Cantilevered bedside tables and a wardrobe concealed behind timber sliding doors are other highlights.

The happy couple and their adult children come to stay here as often as they can. A typical day begins with a refreshing morning swim in the pool, followed by a scooter ride to a yoga class or the beach for a surf. Afterwards, they’ll indulge in a leisurely breakfast or brunch, run errands, visit the markets or relax at a beach club with a good book. Evenings are for gathering with friends for delightful dinners, at which they savour the beauty of Bali living to its fullest.

Words & photography Sheila Man

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