Heaven is a place on Earth

by SUZANNE MIAO on Jul 2, 2010 in Architecture , Interiors , Lifestyle
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In Bali, three Aman properties demonstrate that true luxury is about space, discretion and easy living

They call them ‘Amanjunkies’ – the people for whom a single visit to an Amanresorts property is not enough. These repeat guests, loyal fans of the Aman brand, return for a very simple reason: everything about an Aman property epitomises the height of luxury in design, from grand, sweeping, open lobbies and spacious villas to exquisitely conceived landscapes and interiors which are quietly, gloriously elegant.

It takes someone of extraordinary vision to look at an empty plot of land and imagine its possibilities and potential; Amanresorts founder Adrian Zecha, now well into his 70s, is such a person. It all began back in 1988, when Zecha chanced upon a coconut plantation in Phuket which was to become Amanpuri, the first of the now 30-plus Amanresorts dotted around the world.

A year later, Zecha saw the launch of the first Aman property in Bali: Amandari. Three years later, Amanusa and Amankila threw open their doors in the island paradise. Each is unique in its own right, but there are elements of design which carry through from one to another: the use of natural woods and local stone; the emphasis on traditional Balinese design in architecture and interior furnishings, and the focus on being as eco-friendly as possible, right down to the use of woven baskets, trays and mats – and, occasionally, even serving dishes and plates artfully crafted out of folded banana leaves or bamboo strips.

At each property, it’s all about understatement: the main restaurant is simply called ‘The Restaurant’, the bar is ‘The Bar’ and the more casual dining area ‘The Terrace’. There are no fancy names, gold taps or unnecessary chandeliers; Aman knows it has no need to boast, to preen or to parade. There is no flashy extravagance, just quiet, deeply ingrained luxury.

Amandari: ‘Peaceful spirits’

Designed as a Balinese village, the eight-acre Amandari overlooks the Ayung River gorge from its location in Kedewatan, Ubud. Amandari was designed by Australian architect Peter Muller, along with his anthropologist wife Carole and landscape architect Mechail White – also known as Made Wijaya.

Craftsmanship played a key role, with master artisans teaching local villagers how to cut bamboo in the traditional fashion, thatch roofs and piece together the palm-post and teak-beam pavilions with straps and joints instead of nails or bolts.

The open-air lobby features towering posts of coconut wood on a honey – toned floor sectioned in smooth Javanese marble and volcanic stone; it is designed after a wantilan, or village meeting place. Local teak and coconut wood are used throughout Amandari and, true to local village design, the resort has river-stone walkways linking the thatched-roofed suites, each fronted with a Balinese-style gateway.

Amanusa: ‘Peaceful isle’

Amanusa commands a garden hillside, its design influenced by ancient Hindu poetry. Enclosed as a secluded self-contained retreat within the Bali Golf & Country Club, the resort’s airy, expansive rooms are decorated in a soothing palette of browns, beige, cream and honey. All 35 thatched-roof suites have wooden four-poster beds, cavernous bathrooms featuring sunken baths, an outdoor shower built into a high paras-stone wall, walled garden courtyards and an outdoor terrace with a daybed beneath a protective canopy.

The open-air Terrace restaurant sits high above the main swimming pool, offering sweeping views over the Badung Straits. At the Beach Club, which lies just a few minutes away by jeep or bicycle, traditional-style bales offer shaded nooks tucked away between the coconut trees – again, the signature Aman style is in evidence in the use of natural wood and locallysourced materials for both construction and soft furnishings. Amanusa’s principal design architect was Kerry Hill Associates, with interiors by Dale Keller Associates and landscape design by Karl Princic.

Amankila: ‘Peaceful hill’

From its cliff-side perch in the Karangasem regency of east Bali, Amankila’s 34 free-standing suites feature alang alang roof thatching, fashioned as beach houses with a twist.

Amankila’s architect, Ed Tuttle, drew upon the classical beauty of the water palaces of Ujung for inspiration in creating the lines and flow of the suites, which are connected to the reception and restaurant area by stepped walkways. The Kilasari Suite, which takes its name from Amankila’s main temple, is perched high on the hillside, with views overlooking the sea and its own 12m infinity pool. Inside, the bathroom is divided, with a window-side divan, a soaking tub and separate shower and toilet rooms which give way to coconut-shell dressing areas and double terrazzo vanities. The suite’s outdoor terrace is furnished with a daybed, coconut-shell table and rattan chairs. The F&B areas all feature the signature Aman style: roofs made of natural wood, bamboo and woven thatching, relaxed furnishings and careful attention to detail in accessories and soft furnishings.