Bali is a shopping mecca for furniture and interior decor. There is design inspiration everywhere - from impressive hotels, dramatic restaurants and unique private homes, to boutiques showcasing the creations of talented independent designers from around the world, local arts and crafts from Bali and other neighboring Indonesian provinces, and exotic antiques.
Bali has a long history accomplished of craftsmanship, with skills being passed on within families through the generations. Certain villages and communities specialize in specific trades, like textile printing or basket weaving, rattan furniture making or wood carving. Over the decade or more we’ve been coming to Bali, we’ve visited some of these communities to see the artisans at work and collect some treasures.
I think it’s a combination of this history, along with the beautiful local materials available to designers and artisans, that has made Bali such a melting pot of artistry and creativity.
Prices here are also a fraction of what they would be for similar objects found in North, America, Europe or Australia. So you’re getting high quality products, made with unique materials, for around a third of the price. It really is a paradise for designers and shoppers alike.
Since buying our new home in France, we are in the market for quite a lot of furniture...
Many of the pieces from our home in San Francisco aren't suited to the French countryside. We're not going to waste anything, so we're storing these pieces to use in the other projects we're working on in Berlin and Lisbon, which will have a more contemporary vibe. In the meantime, we have a very empty house and a limited budget with which to furnish it.
So, we have decided to make the most of our time in Bali and fill a shipping container with furniture, which we will then send to France.
Even when we take into account the cost of the shipping container, storage in Bali, and French import duties, the cost of each piece of furniture will end up being less than half the price of an equivalent piece purchased in Europe or America.
My plan is to have key furniture pieces custom made (like the formal dining table and chairs, and a four poster king bed) and to source smaller, more decorative pieces retail.
We have 5 weeks left in Bali to finalize the design of each piece of furniture, identify who we would like to manufacture them, choose the materials, and place the orders. Unlike in the US where you might use Yelp to read reviews of different service providers, there’s not much information online about suppliers in Bali. Things are a little more old school here and my research is being done by driving around scouting, visiting lots and lots of shops, and asking lots of questions.
However, there are a variety of things that could go wrong with this project, so I have been chatting with anyone I can find who has experience exporting furniture for personal or commercial use. Other than the obvious issue of poor craftsmanship or incorrect dimensions, the biggest problem I have heard about is the wood cracking when it arrives in Europe.
Throughout its life, wood expands and contracts in response to humidity. Indonesia is a very humid climate, and hardwoods that are grown in this tropical climate contain a lot of moisture. France has a much dryer climate, and this change in humidity can cause a lot of stress on the wood, which often results in the wood cracking.
It would be such a shame to go to all of this effort and expense to export a beautiful dining table that cracks down the middle shortly after being placed in its new home.
When I learned this, I set about trying to understand how we would mitigate this issue. Then at one of the furniture factories I met a Englishman who lives in Dubai (a country even dryer than France) who has been successfully importing furniture from Bali to Dubai for the last decade.
He explained to me that they key is to make sure the wood is dried to the right moisture content before being turned into furniture. This is done by baking the wood in a kiln, and measuring the moisture content with an electronic device. The wood will continue to expand and contract after it has been turned into furniture, which is OK so long as it had the right moisture content at the time the furniture was built. Apparently wood going to France needs to be baked to a moisture content of 10-12%.
We will also need to be careful that we design all of the furniture sympathetically with the era and style of the house. Of course it's OK for the interior to be a little eclectic, with some decorative pieces here and there that we have collected on our travels, but we want to make sure the overall vibe is appropriate for a house in the French countryside.
NOTE: I'll be posting an update with all of the best interior decor shops and furniture manufacturers that I have found, in a few weeks time. I don't want to recommend anything yet, until I've completed all of my research. Stay tuned!