The Bangkok-based Bill Bensley—who has designed more than 200 resorts in 30 countries—is known for being a visionary and encouraging people to think outside the box. His latest outpost, Capella Ubud, a Dutch-style tented camp in the hinterlands of a village called Keliki, debuts June 29 in Bali. It is the first of his two tent-style properties that open this year (the second, Shinta Mani Wild, opens at the end of the year in Cambodia).
“I grew up camping in a tent,” he tells AD. Bensley, who was recently inducted into Hospitality Designs Hall of Fame, says that he loves tents as modern-day venues for even the most expensive of hotels because they push guests out of their normal comfort zone. Tents do not black out like hotel rooms and are not necessarily quiet but allow guests to interact closely with nature. And because of their size and flexibility, they can be easily “dropped” into a site.
He did not want Capella Ubud to be another conventional 130-key hotel that was initially the vision for the property. “Not only would that have meant the destruction of the forest,” he says, but “the magical morning concert of the Balinese birds and the sun creeping across the forest floor would be missed in a conventional room.”
With this conscious idea of “minimal intervention,” he and his team of designers built these Dutch-style camps, which have dimpled teak floors hand-made in Central Java, along with most of the furniture. Traditional Balinese patterned hand-carved doors took about a year to commission, and most of the motifs signify man’s middle position between heaven and hell.
Playful brass monkeys can be found everywhere, and the designer said he loved the idea of using them because they never fail to make people smile. “That is the great pleasure in my life…to make folks happy,” he says. “Too many hospitality projects take themselves too seriously, and what is the point of that? I want folks to laugh, learn, and remember where they have been.”