‘I turned 40 and began to think about my life.
Did I want to be working from morning to night, not seeing enough of my children? I’d always loved Bali, coming every year to surf and soak up the atmosphere. So, I decided to live here full time and spend my holidays in Portugal instead,’ says Miguel Lacerda Leitão, who packed up his life and arrived with his then-wife and two daughters Carminho and Luz, trading a home in Lisbon for sun and surf in the tropics. ‘We came here when Carminho was just three months old, giving it six months to see if we could adapt,’ says Miguel. Eight years later, he’s still here, having built a business (he’s the owner of two hotels on Bali), as well as a beachfront home that’s balm to any midlife crisis.
‘We were renting at first, but the houses were crazily expensive,’ Miguel explains. ‘I asked an Indonesian friend if he had any land and he said yes, but it had a warehouse on it that we’d need to pull down. When I saw it, I immediately fell in love with the wooden ceilings and couldn’t think about demolishing it. It’s a huge, doubleheight space and, to me, it was asking to be turned into somewhere special.’
His vision was to keep the structure’s concrete walls and to create an open-plan, loft-style space inside, using huge wooden beams to build a mezzanine level for bedrooms and bathrooms with views over the cavernous, curvy space beneath. ‘I like to do things differently,’ he says with a laugh, referencing the lap pool that’s half-inside, half-outside the building, the wavy form of the built-in sofa and the circular aperture – the big O – that frames the entrance to his bedroom. ‘I love the organic shapes of Greek houses, but I’m also inspired by Mexican architecture, Morocco and the houses of Southern Portugal,’ he says. ‘What’s key is that the design is clean, without too much visual confusion. It must be as creative as possible, but not be too “noisy”.’
That approach counts for the decor too – whitewashed woodwork and plaster forms that morph from floor to stairs to sofa (the steps up to the kitchen look like squeezes of toothpaste). Touches of black add ballast to the airy space, while slubby linens, stone basins and wicker furniture bring wholesome texture – the interiors equivalent of yogurt and granola or Bran Flakes served in a white bowl. Traditional Balinese vessels and furniture decorate the space, bringing playful changes in shape and scale. ‘My friends said I was crazy because everything is open and you can see into the bedrooms. But if you want privacy, you can put up a curtain,’ says Miguel, laughing.
So, was coming here the right move? ‘If people ask, “What shall I bring back from Bali?” I tell them, “Peace of mind, good moments and a tan”,’ says Miguel. ‘I couldn’t ask for more than that.’
Check out Miguel’s Bali hotels at salbalihotel.com and gravitybalihotel.com