Capella Ubud is a stylish and original place to stay just outside Bali’s cultural capital. Co-owner Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell reveals what makes this creative masterpiece so wonderful.
The explosion of Instagram has made hotel interiors accessible to a much wider audience than the paying guest who will experience them. Designers now appear to try for copycat looks in their clients’ homes and even in other hotels they design. I find the lack of originality and potential homogeneity a little depressing. You cannot replicate a sense of place. And ‘the look’ is only one element in a successful hotel. Houses should be designed for living in, whereas hotels can and should be something completely different.
Few hotels combine a sense of place with a sense of theatre better than Capella Ubud in Bali. This is designer, Bill Bensley, at his best. He has a house on the island, so knows the culture and the craftsmen, but I am pretty sure that his home is completely different to the hotel fantasy that he has created in the rice paddies outside Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud.
For starters, the rooms are dotted far apart across the lush, forested hillsides. Each is angled to catch a view of the valleys and rice paddies beyond. This means networks of steep paths and carefully designed rope bridges, which lead to a private world where you are happy to spend many hours in quiet contemplation or valued time away from other guests to do what you will.
Secondly, the design of each room – a modern take on an explorer’s camp but with steeply pitched roofs and detailing that echo that of Balinese architecture – has a touch of film director Terry Gilliam. Expect exaggerated showerheads and thrones for loos, but there is also a fabulous balance to the brightly patterned fabrics on the walls and upholstery. If it doesn’t fight, it isn’t fun, but somehow there is a harmony in the competing patterns. Every room has a different theme but each one is clever, whimsical and deeply satisfying both in style and in comfort. I personally love the Birdwatcher’s Tent as it is deep in the canopy, down a winding path and across a rickety rope bridge. The Lodge is super-indulgent and ideal for a couple, but always bear in mind that a remote-feeling tent means a long walk back from dinner, so there is a cost to solitude. But having looked at most of the rooms I am still not sure if I have a favourite.