The Yak got down low on a comfy sofa, and chatted with a number of Bali’s top Architects cum Interiors/Concept specialists…Those bricks, mortar and design experts…
Your name, your business and which projects (on and off Bali) have you been involved with?
I am Martje Nietzman. I’m a Dutch designer, and have been based in Bali for the last 14 years.
With my studio Pure by Martje I deliver Architectural and Interior design, in Bali and beyond: I create tropical villas and spaces for both residential and hospitality purposes.
I strongly believe the two design disciplines, architecture and interiors, are intimately interconnected, where the one cannot flourish without the other.
Certain design decisions to the architecture can have a big impact on the interiors.
The same is true for the other way around: if you like to create a certain feature or ambience in the interiors, you may need to adapt the architecture to make that possible.
Considering the indoor-outdoor living aspects of a tropical location like Bali, I feel it is even the more vital to always keep the overall flow in mind. I therefore take a holistic approach to the design process, and typically address the design as a ‘whole’: While designing the architecture, I immediately consider the interiors, the outdoor spaces, and the overall atmosphere (colours, furniture, lighting).
For my clients this holistic design process simply means that a beautiful integrity is created throughout their projects; a seamless flow of interior and exterior spaces, that people will instinctively feel at ease in: whether that is their home, a rental villa, or a restaurant.
As for some past projects I have been involved in, the largest would be the luxury villa enclave of Desa Bulan, a turn-key project with 10 houses, for which I did the architectural design, interiors and landscaping, as well as being engaged in the development of the villas. Other projects are the boutique hotel Cloud Nine Estate, for which I co-designed the interiors, and further I worked on several private villas, ranging from designing only the architecture, just the interiors, or my specialty, both. At this moment I am engaged in the renovation of two existing villas, where large architectural overhauls are being created.
What was it that drew you to the architecture, design, interiors and concept?
Most importantly, I love to make the world a more beautiful place!
I am a designer by heart and very sensitive to my surroundings, and how they look. As such I know how much a beautiful environment contributes to people’s health and happiness. And I believe that environments that are easy on the eye, have a calming and soothing effect on one’s soul. Whether this is in one’s personal home, or a holiday villa; when the flow in a house is good, people will simply feel better. It is that realisation that drew me to designing spaces, with always the questions in mind: where would I want to be – what would I want to see around me?
What /who were your main influences when you started out in this profession?
I have always been reading architectural and interior design magazines and books, for as long as I can recall! But having lived in the Caribbean as a child, and after, later in life having moved to Bali, with all its indoor-outdoor living possibilities, I became interested in tropical design. I came across the stunning work of Geoffrey Bawa and was intrigued from the start.
But other great architects like Luis Barragán for example, have been very inspirational to me as well. Further I guess, Dutch Design, in all kinds of disciplines, has been a great source of inspiration as well. It is the combining of Tropical Living with a no-nonsense Dutch Design twist that became my signature: Understated Luxury, Modern Meets Traditional Bali.
What other professions had you gone through before choosing this one?
I was a fashion designer for almost 15 years, before I embarked on designing spaces and houses. The transition was a very natural one. Where fashion design is more transient, creating buildings and spaces is a much more timeless way of designing. Which is what I learned I really prefer.
How long have you dedicated yourself to designing “what walls look like”, and what goes on inside of them?
I have been doing this for 16 years now.
What do you think sets you/your company apart from others?
I strongly believe in the concept of holistic design, where architecture, interiors and landscaping are intimately interconnected. I therefore undertake the design as a whole, and always safeguard the integrity of the overall outcome. That way, the client will get the beautiful flow and the overall feeling of tranquillity that I specialise in: Indoor is seamlessly connected to outdoor, and furniture goes hand in hand with, and is often part of, the architecture.
Designing a house is a highly personal process for a client, during which clients like to feel acknowledged and often develop a close collaboration with a designer. The personal approach that I offer, is one of my stronger qualities that the clients I work with really appreciate. I believe it is vital for obtaining an optimal outcome.
Do you/your company have a mantra? A tagline?
If any, it would be ‘creating beauty’. Beauty gets created with love and attention to detail. I am passionate about creating beautiful spaces that touch people’s hearts; environments that are easy on the eye and soothing on the soul – spaces that have a special energy – where people really love to be and feel happy.
We don’t want to know the name of the who (client) or which (venue) was the biggest challenge – actually, we just want the why! Why was it so challenging?
I believe we grow and learn from our challenges! Of course, there have been some difficulties in past projects, but I tend to forget these; I learn from them, and move on!
Best project ever?
There have been several that I think have been successful. But I would say, the projects for which I am engaged for the full concept from architectural to interior design, seem to result in the best outcome. Although I certainly enjoy a good collaboration project!
Who would be your dream client?
This really can be anyone! But for sure someone who appreciates design and understands the power of well-thought out, holistic design. Who wants a beautiful villa, that blends in with its environment, where ‘form meets function’ rather than ‘design for design’s sake’.
Naturally a certain level of carte blanche is always nice – but certainly not needed nor expected. I also love clients who have strong ideas themselves – where the challenge becomes to make them work from a design point of view. In general, it is good to have some limitations in the design process: whether that is a budget, an odd-shaped plot, or even Feng Shui principles that a design needs to adhere to. It sparks my creativity!
My dream project is a holistic one, where everything is designed with the same concept in mind. Where what happens indoors is reflected in the architecture, and vice versa. This can be a sweet small home, or a larger villa estate! Where attention to details matters on all areas of the design: both in the interiors as well as the exteriors: anything from the use of materials for the architecture, until the sheets on the beds.
How big was your biggest project?
A villa enclave of ten houses in Ubud, a turn-key project. The houses were designed for ten different clients, each with their own requirements and specifications, and with completely different plot sizes and shapes. The result is ten unique villas that in look and feel form a beautiful unity, all exuding the same mood, but very different in shape and dimensions. This was achieved by the same use of materials, colour and style, carefully blending the houses in with nature and with beautiful common grounds tying it all together.
Which was your smallest?
Hardly a project! But that would be a few hours of on-site interior advice for a family, who wanted to make some alterations to their home to be able to rent it when they would go on a holiday. They engaged me just to give them several options and ‘quick-wins’ in order to make it stand out on the rental market.
Fun to do and really nice to make people aware of all the options and minor tweaks that can make a huge difference to the outlook of their home. Basically, making them fall in love with their house again in just a few hours!
Which do you prefer – private or commercial properties?
I’m do both, with the same enthusiasm! And, private and commercial projects are often intertwined: A lot of the villas that I designed doubled up as rental properties. Where those would be considered ‘private’, I have also designed villa resorts that were only for the rental business, they both gave me the same amount of joy in the process.
It is mostly about the mood of a space that is important. If that is done well, a space works for both commercial as private use. And, since I really love creating beauty, the overall atmosphere is more important to me, than whether a space is commercial or private.
Hotels, villas, malls or resorts?
Villas and resorts, and smaller boutique hotels. But I love doing restaurants as well! Again, it is more the attention to detail for a space, and a client’s desire for an overall beautiful outcome, that makes me enjoy my work.
How big is your own house? And how much of “you” created that space?
I just sold it and moved out! It was not large, but beautiful, and it had everything I needed.
A gorgeous one-bedroom villa, with separate office/studio, stunning rice field views, amazing sunsets and many nooks and places to lounge in. And yes, it was very close to my heart: I designed everything from the architecture, interiors and landscaping, to furniture and soft furnishings. It was very ‘me’!
Ahh, perhaps, when a villa I designed ranked in ‘the top 10 villas in the world’ on Airbnb in 2015/2016. Following that, photos of that house were used for the world-wide online marketing campaign of Airbnb. But in general: When people are over-thrilled of staying in one of ‘my’ houses, that makes my heart jump! And, they often are designers themselves – which is not an easy target group to please. So, I consider that a job well done.
What is on your holistic “architectural interiors” bucket list?
Haha! That is a selfish one: a new house of my own! So many beautiful ideas.
And lastly if The Yak had a project and was looking for a real estate designer, why would we choose you / your company?
First and for all of course, timeless design that stands out.
Then, having been based in Bali for the past 14 years, I have been involved in numerous villas and luxury developments as principal designer on all aspects from inception, architecture, lay-out, lighting and furniture design, through to completion on site.
My experience comes with a deep understanding of the design factors that contribute to high occupancy and guest satisfaction in tropical resorts and villas. Both luxury estates that I designed in Ubud (14 villas), have solid occupancy rates and are highly frequented by design lovers.
So, if you appreciate a personal approach and attention to detail, a beautiful flow and a sophisticated, serene environment, I would say Pure by Martje is your go-to designer. With my company I create tropical paradises: soulful spaces of understated luxury.
Martje, It’s been a pleasure – Thank you for your time…