Inviting, eclectic, colorful, comfortable, and ever-evolving: our home in Jakarta, Indonesia

By on Jul 31st

You heard how Samantha and Ryan made their brave move to Indonesia. Now check out their Jakarta home (with the "no white walls! rule), and GREAT tips if you too are thinking of making the move.

Front Yard

Our neighbors are confused by our choice of decor. Are we Buddhists? Christians? Muslims? Hindus?

The offbeat occupant: Samantha, Small Business Owner, Managing Director, Overseer of Organization, Professional Networker, and Occasional Teacher

Other occupants: Ryan (husband), Mahmudah (maid), Udin (handyman), Vincent (dog)

Approximate square footage: 1000-2000 sq. feet

How many bedrooms? 3

Lives in: Komplek Bukit Golf Mediterania — Pantai Indah Kapuk — Jakarta Utara — Indonesia

When did you move into this home? Since May of 2011.

The House

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? We live in a gated community in North Jakarta, right on the Java Sea. The name of the neighborhood is Pantai Indah Kapuk, which translates to something like "Beautiful Beach by the Bay." It's a planned estate, a "city-within-a-city."

Here, amongst the chaos of Jakarta, living in this neighborhood offers respite. We have everything we need right here — Monday through Friday, we have no reason to fight the traffic and pollution and crowds and flooding of Jakarta.

Pantai Indah Kapuk

Pantai Indah Kapuk. These are rows of shophouses called rukos. Our neighborhood has a thriving strip of rukos that house bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants, shops, and entertainment options — like the karaoke and billiards. Not to mention the spas! (Cheap massages FTW!)

Just minutes from our front door, there's a great grocery store, a wet market, a Singapore-style hawker center, and tons of bars, cafes, and restaurants. There are parks. Waterslides! A world-class golf course. Karaoke. A billiards hall. A great community center/fitness club with a huge swimming pool. Bike paths. A nature preserve where you can rent boats and go canoeing. It might not sound like much, but for Jakarta, it's heaven.


The swimming pool at our local community center/gym.

There aren't very many Western expats in this neighborhood — most of the "bules" (directly translated, it means albinos, but really it's a catch-all term for foreigners that come from Western countries) live in South Jakarta. There are quite a few Asian expatriates that live here, though, from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and other SE Asian nations. In addition to the Asian expats, our neighborhood is primarily comprised of Chinese-Indonesians — an ethnic minority here in predominately Muslim Indonesia.

What makes your home offbeat? Our home is a reflection of who we are: Travelers. Expats. Readers. Writers. Creators. Colorful. Eclectic.

The Entry

The Entry. I don't like the table/sofa set up here, but we hold English lessons at our house and that's where we do it.

Just like ourselves, it's always in a state of transition. We're always rethinking, repainting, and/or remodeling something.

The Living Room + Entry

The living room and entry.

The Living Room

When we choose decor elements, we don't worry too much about "design rules." We just go with what feels right. A mo-hawked Churchill next to a Balinese shrine next to Moorish calligraphy on an eggplant purple wall? Why not!

The Landing

The Landing.

The Landing

The posters and lanterns are all from Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Above all else, we live by one cardinal rule: NO WHITE WALLS.

Master Bedroom

Master bedroom.

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Getting things done in Indonesia can be a challenge, to say the least. Nothing here is automated and the entire system is set up assuming that people A) Speak the language, B) Have a housewife spouse with nothing to do all day, and C) Have a cadre of domestic employees to handle everything. (Most people have at LEAST one maid, a nanny for each child, and a driver — and the women are almost always housewives.)

The Kitchen

The kitchen.

The Half-Bath and the Stairs

The half bath and the stairs.

Since both of us work full-time, we really needed someone to help us manage the household. Even paying a simple water bill can be a process that takes hours. So, hiring Udin, our handyman, wasn't really an option — we needed someone to help us navigate the confusing bureaucracy of Indonesia. Without Udin and Uda (our maid), we'd be screwed.


Mini-Garden. Udin built the colorful wooden stands for us.

View from my balcony.

View from my balcony looking out on the mangrove preserve and the Java Sea.

What's your favorite feature of your home? We love most everything about our house, but I think our favorite feature is the location — our house is on a corner lot right at the verrrrry back of the complex. That means we have fewer neighbors, a bigger yard, and an unobstructed view of the mangrove preserve and sea.

The Mangrove Preserve

The Mangrove Preserve.

The mangrove preserve is full of animals — especially birds and monkeys — and they all make regular appearances at our house. At night, we have a nice sea breeze and we can hear the boats putting along. To be able to live in Jakarta and still feel close to nature is really an incredible feat — something that we never take for granted.


The Utility Area

The grating is to keep the monkeys out. Seriously.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? Landlords in Indonesia are nothing like their American counterparts. Here, we pay the entire year's rent up front + a deposit — at which point the landlord disappears. Roof leaking? Pipe broken? Wall cracked? It's the tenant's responsibility, all of it. Even though we are only renters in this home, it feels like we're homeowners — and having this responsibility has taught us to always budget for the unexpected.

What's your grandest plan for the space? We have so many plans… This house is a never-ending project.

We want to expand our garden. Renovate the bathroom(s). Get new bedroom furniture. Add ceiling fans. Make custom batik curtains for all of the windows. Build a wall unit for the entry way. Install an oven in the kitchen.


It's really a bummer that we're only renters (foreigners aren't allowed to own property in Indonesia), because we'd love to buy this house and really make it our own.

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? If you're in Indonesia, or another highly-superstitious locale, seek out homes that are believed to be haunted or cursed to get super good deals on rent! (Just kidding! …Kinda…)

Pantai Indah Kapuk

Pantai Indah Kapuk. New homes are sprouting up every where. These homes will be finished soon.

Seriously, though, when you are looking for a house or apartment, don't look for one that's already "perfect" or move-in ready. Choosing a fixer-upper, a place that's a little rough around the edges, can be both cheaper and — with a little elbow-grease — much more "you."

Also: Don't be afraid of color!

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? Here in Jakarta, there's a caterer that, well, "caters" to expats. They send out a daily menu via email. Expats can place free ads at the bottom of the email, kinda like Craigslist. Relocating expats tend to sell off most of their furniture/household goods before leaving, so we've been able to score some epic deals through that mailer. Many cities have similar services for expats so, if you're living abroad, use your GoogleFu to find out where the expats buy-and-sell their household goods.

The Master Bedroom

More of the Master Bedroom. The little sofa is Vincent's. Our bedroom furniture was all free, but we don't like it. It's on the 'too upgrade' list.

In one of the big, high-end malls here (Senayan City), there's a shop called Kare. I think they have branches all over the world, but we don't have them in the States, so they were unknown to me. They're INCREDIBLE. I lust over their furniture and home accessories. Kare is an Offbeat Homie's BFF.


Most of our home decor was purchased during our travels. Before we depart, we always do research about what handicrafts/art a region is famous for and then allot a set amount of our travel budget for hunting down "oleh-oleh" (souvenirs) in the form of art and home decor. We travel lightly and always bring an empty duffel-bag with us so that we can haul it all back to Jakarta when we're done.


I hate our bed, but it was free. I'm saving up for a custom made carved wood Balinese four-poster bed. The tapestries and art are all from India. (The bedding is all Indonesian batik.)

Living in Indonesia, we're really lucky to be surrounded by talented artisans and builders. More often than not, it's cheaper to have a new piece of furniture custom built than it is to buy it ready-made at a big-box store.

And, of course, our house wouldn't be possible without Uda (our maid) and Udin (our handyman). They're the real reason we have a great place to live — without them, we'd be lost!

Show me the decor porn!

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