PHOTO BY Bagus Tri Laksono
Many generations ago, there was a renowned king in Karangasem, Bali known as I Gusti Bagus Jelantik who built a water garden known as the Dirah Pond in 1901. Then in 1909, he expanded it into a leisure palace using Dutch architect Van Den Hentz and Chinese architect Loto Ang. The whole complex became known as the Ujung Water Palace and was finally completed in 1921. It is now recognised as one of Bali’s architectural marvels – combining European, Chinese and Balinese design elements.
Enchanted by this amazing story, the owner of Rumah Luwih, together with the Hadiprana Design Consultant design firm, decided to create a hotel in the form of a big mansion like the true essence of “Rumah Luwih” – which means a big house in Balinese. Located on the seashore of Lebih Beach in the Gianyar area, they built Rumah Luwih on the previous site of the owner’s private villa using the Ujung Water Palace as their source of inspiration. Various aspects of Dutch Colonial, Chinese, and Balinese cultural elements are incorporated into the design.
Hadiprana Design Consultant team, aimed to create an ambiance with the intimate feeling of coming home to your grandmother’s large mansion. That objective has been successfully achieved with their careful selection of antique furniture and artworks from the owner’s personal collection as well as some replica antique furniture from the colonial era. The balance is created by using a colour palette – mostly in white – inspired by the Ujung Water Palace. However, we also see shades of blue and red accents in the canopies on the terrace that contrast with the pool and the sea.
Like the famous palace in Karangasem, the main house at Rumah Luwih is surrounded by water elements and a luscious garden. The water elements are divided between the large infinity pool that perches by the edge of the Andrawina restaurant and the man made lotus pond with live geese which is similar to the set up at the Ujung Water Palace. A small outdoor gazebo in white stands in the middle of the horizon – separating the beach from the lotus pond. It has a dual function: as a yoga spot in the morning or afternoon and as a beautiful place for private wedding ceremonies.
Layout wise, Rumah Luwih is designed to follow the classic grand mansion layout and is divided into three zones with the main house in the middle and additional houses on both wings, forming a symmetrical axis to reinforce the home concept. We found the public areas in the main house including the arrival lobby and reception area, the main guest rooms, the Andrawina dining room, and a library lounge.
There are two types of room occupying both wings of the mansion. In the Garden View rooms, the bathroom and bedroom areas are divided by an L-shaped sliding jalousie doors that can be fully opened to give a more spacious, accessible and unifying feeling to the room. To reinforce this arrangement, there is no height difference between the floor level in the bedroom and bathroom areas (except the shower area) and the same material is used for the flooring area. This makes it possible for guests to access a view to all corners of the room, including the bathroom towards the balcony.
For the Sea View rooms, Hadiprana Design Consultant tried to get away from a common hotel layout. Once entering the room, guests are firstly greeted by a foyer before proceeding to the bedroom area. The bathroom has a bathtub right next to the window, enabling guests to look out directly at the seascape while soaking in the bathtub. We also noticed that the bed runner in each room acts not only as a decorative artistic element but also as a welcoming object. It is an interesting example of the attention to detail that differentiates Rumah Luwih and sets it in a class on its own.
One of the fundamental sustainability factors for a hotel is the ability to be both distinct and attractive to existing customers and future guests. Rumah Luwih, with its unique blend between the Karangasem concept and a residential approach, has successfully achieved this goal. Surely King I Gusti Bagus Jelantik would have been proud if he had the chance to see the modern version of his palace.