As with any new [to you] house, there’s going to be quirky little things. Maybe it’s an usual layout or tile choice. Every previous owner has different tastes and preferences. Well, the same is here in Indonesia…but on a totally different level. As I shared in my first blog post in this series, we are right in the middle of updating & recreating our newest Indonesian home. And before I share about some of the changes & updates we’ve been making, I have to share with some of the quirks we’re facing right off the bat.
I know I don’t live in America anymore. I haven’t for a long time! But it’s hard to turn off my American thinking when it comes to a house layout, function, and decor. This new house, while beautiful in many aspects, is still distinctly Indonesian. It is at times, completely in contrast to my American aesthetic. Here’s a few examples of some of the unique aspects in our new place.
I grew up in Florida. I know what it’s like to be hot. But I also know what it’s like to come in from the oppressive humidity of a Florida summer and instantly cool down in the glorious air conditioning. And while Indonesia lies directly on the equator, homes definitely don’t do air conditioning like American homes. The weather on our island ranges from 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Yet, homes here don’t have central air conditioning. Indonesian homes are designed to be opened with either doors or windows so the air can flow through. Single room air conditioning units can be installed per room, and can cool down a room quite nicely.
Our new home had one air conditioner already installed in the master bedroom. We checked it before we moved in to make sure it worked. Success. We could comfortably sleep in our new home the first night. However, we did fail to notice a few quirks in the master bedroom that would limit the coolness. For example, we have this beautiful wood carving for a bedroom door. It’s very ornate and very Indonesian. It’s also full of intentional holes that easily allow any cool air in the room right out. Oops. Also, our master bathroom has cutouts in the wall to let moisture or smelly air out…but also air conditioning. Just close the bathroom door you say? The house didn’t come with one. Add that as another quirk. So we spent our first night sweating it out under the “air conditioning” until we get up, buy a fan, and cover up all the air conditioning escaping holes of our room.
Oh, bathrooms in this country. I’m quite grateful that we actually have two toilets that we can sit down on, and not have to squat over. Other parts of our bathrooms, I’m not so excited about. For example, both of our bathrooms are missing a bathroom sink. Toilet and shower, yes. Bathroom sink, no. I don’t understand the culture enough to know why this is so normal. We looked at many houses without bathroom sinks, and many of our foreign friends talked about having to install them after moving in. I need to do more research on putting in a hand washing sink. But we will be adding one ASAP. Our master bathroom has an interesting shower situation as well. The current way it is set up I can either shower with the shower head above my head outside of the tub and get the entire bathroom floor and toilet wet, or I can shower in the bathtub with the shower head at my knees. I am completely confused. Our guest bath has a shower head overhead, so that’s nice. But it also has the Indonesian open concrete tank for bucket flushing toilets. I’m guessing this bathroom once had a squat toilet that need a tub of standing water so you could scoop a bucket of water to flush it. The squat toilet is gone, but the tank is still there. There’s so much work to be done here.
Good design, taste and aesthetic preferences vary wildly across cultures, countries and people groups. This is obvious through fashion, art, and more. It is also quite obvious in home design as well. Here’s some of the more unique design choices the builders of this home made, which I doubt I would have made myself.
- Different tiles, paints & woods: I’m not 100% sure how many different colors & patterns of tile are in my house. There’s one on the master bedroom floor that is different than all the other floors in the house. There’s about 4 different designs of tile in the master bath. There’s three different designs in the kitchen. There’s different colors of wood staining on different doors, with completely different shades of wood on just one door. There’s a dull yellow paint that does nothing for the beauty of the house. No carpet anywhere to be seen. Which is probably best, because it would mold quickly!
- Ceilings: I don’t mind a nice crown molding, but these ornate details is just a bit extravagant!
- Master Bedroom Door: Speaking of extravagant. Look. at. this. door. Indonesians have an incredible skill of wood carving and creativity with handiwork. However, this is a bit excessive as an entrance to our bedroom. Perhaps I should just call it the royal throne room!
- Picture Window: I don’t even know how to justify this one. This giant 8 foot long window looks out on a gray wall of nothing. There’s fake tree trunks on either side of the wall for….??? There’s a 2 foot gap between the window and wall, as though the previous tenants planned to add a fish pond. I don’t think I’ll be adding one of those with a small child. Maybe some plants? Who knows. For now, our living room has a picturesque view of….nothing.
I kind of forgot this was a weird one, until I started talking about our house to my American friends. Indonesian homes don’t have closets. I’ve never seen one. We all use wardrobes. Again, not sure why, but this is standard across every Indonesian home or hotel I’ve seen. Our home came with one large wardrobe for the master bedroom, which is great. But we will need to get a few more for the guest bedroom and baby’s bedroom too. Let the furniture shopping begin!
I would say generally that Indonesian people aren’t the tallest in the world. Thankfully, I’m not an extremely tall person either, so usually I don’t mind living in a country designed for shorter people. Now my 6’1” husband probably has a different opinion. Especially when it comes to the kitchen counters in our new house. They are so short, I can’t imagine an adult using them comfortably. I’m pretty sure that when my daughter is a toddler, she will be able to use them well.
We have this cool courtyard on the back side of the house, which would be a great play area for my little one. Or a spot to dry laundry. Or just put a table and chairs and enjoy the breeze during the windy season. However. Currently, it is a walking hazard. There’s pipes sticking out of the ground. There’s loose tile laying around. The nice stonework stop partway through and ends in a concrete mess. And the ceiling is so low, that no air or light can get through, creating a dingy feeling in the back of the house. It could be a relatively easy fix, that would make a big change!
I haven’t seen this one before. Outlets at shoulder height…or higher! Why? How? What?
Speaking of electricity, this isn’t a quirk in just this house, but every home in Indonesia. Electricity is prepaid. As in we have a meter that we load up with credit, and when it runs out, our electricity just turns off. Which has happened more than once to us, because we forget to refill the meter! Thankfully I can buy more credit from an app on my phone connected to my local bank account!
There’s probably so much more I could add about the oddities of housing in Indonesia, but I’ll stop here. So much about life outside of my home culture is a learning experience, and renovating this new home is no exception. I’ve added new words to my vocabulary, I’ve found my way around our new town, and I’ve been able to laugh at the absurd moments through all of these quirks. What’s next? We shall see.