Bali villas are perfect for a short getaway – for tuning out of all things school and work or spending quality time with family or friends, especially when you don’t get to see them as much as you’d like to! This impressive new villa in Canggu was designed with large family gatherings in mind. It’s primarily targeted towards expat families wanting to spend quality relaxing time together – with plenty of space!
Umbala The House is owned by Singapore expats Felicity and Mark Sainsbury, and has been beautifully styled by E&A Interiors.
If you’ve been wondering where to stay in Bali with the tribe, this gorgeous villa in Canggu can house up to two larger families, or three families of four. We talk to Felicity and Mark about the process of buying land in Bali and their building and interior design decisions. Plus, we find out what makes this beautiful Bali villa a home away from home for expats, and their take on what’s good to do in the area.
What made you start looking at Bali as a potential place to build a villa?
We’re a family of five with three young children – Harry, Finn and Willow. Being expats for the past six years in Singapore, and with family located in different countries, we dreamt of providing a home that was not only for us, but also a place we could share with close friends and family. We wanted a location that was accessible and where we could spend time at all year round. Most importantly, we wanted it to create memories for years to come, as a home away from home.
Felicity: Mark and I are from South Africa and Australia respectively. There was a strong desire to create a balance between living in Singapore and having access to some of the elements of our home countries that we really missed, such as the beach, the outdoors and authentic holiday activities for the children.
Mark: Even though Felicity and I had been to Bali many times before, it was during our first family holiday there – in March 2019 – when we fell in love with all the elements the island had to offer, and the people. We knew this was the place we wanted to realise our dream, as our journey of memories had already begun.
Which areas did you consider, and what made you decide on a villa in Canggu?
We only really considered Canggu in Bali, as we felt it still had a sense of space and presented a more relaxed family feel than Seminyak. The proximity to the airport played a part in our decision, and we needed to ensure there were plenty of activities to keep the children busy as well! Canggu is where we had most of our holidays and there was an instant attraction to the area. The cosmopolitan lifestyle, shopping and restaurant choices and homely feel resonated with us. There were also plenty of facilities that were appealing to the children, such as Finns Recreation Club, which offers Splash waterpark, Bounce Bali, tennis, bowling and the holiday camps.
Was the process of buying land in Bali complicated? Were there any pre-requisites?
No, this aspect was quite easy, though we did look at a number of blocks before deciding. We acquired a leasehold through a listed real estate agent. They were very thorough in explaining the process and settling on the purchase price. A leasehold was also less complicated than a freehold purchase which requires an Indonesian partner from the outset.
We were also put in touch with a very good notary and agent that processed our IMB (building permit). If you want to buy land in Bali I strongly recommend dealing with individuals that come with a reference. They should also understand what foreigners need to have in place for the build to complete without complications.
How did you go about getting architects and designers? Was it easy?
We searched online for architects and chose someone who was well known in the area and had built a number of villas in Bali for foreigners. Design-wise, we were seeking a combination of breezy Hamptons with contemporary – something chic and playful at times, with colour to create a sophisticated and homely feel.
From the moment we met Chlöe, Pony and Nindy from the very talented E&A Interiors team based in Singapore, we were very confident in their ability to deliver the interior design and style we were looking for. Following our initial consultations, we loved all their inspirations, from the bespoke-designed furniture through to the styling.
Who came up with the layout and general design of villa in Canggu?
An architect designed the building and floor plan while E&A completed the interior. We provided the key requirements that we were looking for, including open-plan living, the number of beds and baths, a toy room, a pool bar area and so on. The architect came up with the floor plan and structure. Our interior designer was extremely thorough in designing a custom finish to every room and space, ensuring a unique experience to guests who stay at Umbala The House.
All the furniture and fixed cabinetry was designed by E&A and custom-made in Bali. They were also responsible for making the necessary variations to ensure we achieved the connectivity and flow we were looking for. They were outstanding in their attention to detail, considering they couldn’t see the structure and layout in person during the pandemic.
What parts of the process were stressful, and what bits were enjoyable?
The building aspect was quite straightforward and our builder was amazing. We only had a few problems during the majority of the build. It was really exciting to watch the villa get constructed! However, as the house developed from a block of land to a completed structure over two years of COVID-19 restrictions, we were only guided by photos and video content. Understanding and visualising the spaces was quite difficult. We needed to make a number of structural variations with our builder, which he was always very accommodating of. But it was a stressful aspect for us, as it added to the timeline and decision-making process!
E&A were always alongside us on our journey too. We were always so excited to visit their office to see the next stage of the project. One very special moment was when they unveiled the feature wall in the dining room, which was a handmade selection of bespoke plates designed and created by Pony (@the_poshop). It was these special touches that made the experience so enjoyable.
In hindsight, the process was both easy and difficult in that it gave us motivation during the periods of being locked down in Singapore. The building process started one month after restrictions commenced, so it was stressful not knowing when we could return to Bali. That said, there wasn’t much going on in Bali, so our builder was able to focus on our project. Credit must go to him, as he was incredibly trustworthy and reliable throughout the process.
How did COVID-19 impact the process of building the villa in Canggu?
Supplies weren’t an issue except for all the interior design elements we procured from outside Indonesia. These included lamps, tiles and fabrics. They all took more time and came at an additional import cost. The workforce was only impacted during the strictest periods of the lockdowns in Indonesia. Even so, the completion of the building was delayed by about six months.
Was it easy to get necessities like utilities and electricity sorted?
Very easy. Electricity, internet access and water access are straightforward and the vendors are very responsive to any issues. We relied quite heavily on our builder and project manager for these elements.
What was the end result?
From the moment you enter Umbala, every room has its own story. Whether you’re in the dining room or sunken pool bar area, you can feel the connectivity yet relish the experience each space offers. The house is in the heart of Canggu and strikes a perfect balance between luxury property and relaxed family home.
Our Bali villa with private pool has five unique suites, a media room, toy room, a fully functional kitchen and various living areas that overlook the lawn and pool. The interiors transition seamlessly to the outdoors, and the open-plan style is perfect for gatherings of families and friends.
During your stay at Umbala House, you can expect to be well looked after by an attentive team. They include a villa manager, in-house chef, butler, housekeeping and night security!
Will you live in this villa in Canggu full time eventually, or will it be a holiday home?
It will be a holiday home and vacation rental for the next 10 years or so while the children finish school. Then we’ll see! It certainly is a retirement option one day.
If you’re interested in booking a stay, nightly rates start at US$1,250 in the low season.
Quick questions about Bali: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Milk & Madu (Berawa and Beach Road, Batu Bolong)
Date-night restaurant? Skool, Luma, Indigo
Bar? Skool, JI Restaurant, Kong
Local food? Ulekan
Nature space? The beach and Parklife playground
Thing to do with visitors? We just love the ability to be able to host friends and loved ones at Umbala The House, and giving them an experience that reflects what a holiday should really be – a relaxing time with friends or children and bringing people together, and being spoilt by the Umbala experience. Plus, we love giving our guests and their families a Canggu experience. We visit the restaurants, go shopping, head to Finns Recreation Club, try surfing lessons and enjoy the sunsets!
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