What to do with wayward walls

Anyone who has renovated or built a house in Bali will be familiar with that sinking feeling on realising the gulf between your expectation and the likely delivery. Though thankfully gone are the days when a contractor would build a wall and only then knock a hole through for the window, getting a good finish is still problematic; it’s enough to drive you up the wall. Cringe-worthy puns aside, what can you do to mask imperfections, impart a finished look and make a feature out of the most flawed surface? Here are a few ideas that can be easy on your budget as well as your time.



A lick of paint is the fastest, cheapest and possibly the most forgiving way to change a wall, and transform the space. Choose a strong solid colour for an accent wall (e.g. Ibu Cat’s pink living room, featured in this column at the end of last year). Make a virtue of the existing texture by sponge-painting or using a ragging or scumbling technique. Use chalkboard paint in a child’s room and encourage their personal graffiti practice. Or up the design ante by painting a pattern; I love my friend Nina’s bathroom with its soaring aqua-and-white chevron painted wall.


Hang large-scale art

The classic way to conceal an imperfect patch of wall! Buy direct from a favourite artist, visit a renowned gallery, or take a leisurely drive along through Lotunduh village for inspiration. For a low-cost solution, why not create your own artwork; just buy a large canvas or two and a few pots of paint – standard house paint will do – and even the least arty amongst us can create a minimalist abstract to be proud of!


Create a mural

To make a statement on an expanse of wall, consider commissioning one of Bali’s talented muralists to create a unique artwork. In their hands, flaws can be camouflaged or even incorporated into the design e.g. that unsightly crack could serve as the branch of a tree. I love the Sayan House mural of red palms – as iconic as its fusion menu and sunset vista. But you don’t have to cover an entire wall; when my lovely neighbours built a rental in their family compound, Pak Made painted a beautiful free-flowing traditional Balinese scene above the bed that delights their guests.


Make a gallery wall

This interior designer staple is a neat way to curate art, photos, drawings, and bits and bobs. Use simple black frames for a contemporary look, or different frames for a touch of whimsy… at all times exercising a keen editorial eye to keep chaos at bay. Group items by theme or topic, or adopt a colour to unify an eclectic collection e.g. choose art, photos, objects and fabric with a touch of green. I saw a great example of this in a Batu Belig villa, where old prints of beetles were simply framed and hung in clusters on a wall painted a spectacular pink.


Tile a wall

We’re so lucky to have access to traditional cement tiles in Bali, such as Sadhu Tiles in Sideman, which has a wonderful selection of traditional colours and patterns. A few years ago, I bought a selection of random mismatched ‘rejects’ to cover a shower wall, and love the result. Another approach is to buy the cheapest ceramic tiles in an array of colours, smash them then use the pieces to create a mosaic scene; in Nina’s guest bathroom, the effect is magical!


Line with natural materials

Sometimes it can make sense to create a new wall by applying a new surface layer. This could be prohibitively expensive elsewhere, but with Indonesia’s abundance of materials it’s do-able. Unevenly stacked slate, pebbles, and exposed brick make for a striking accent wall. Use fine-weave bedeg or rattan as wallpaper and stick onto a wall, then paint over for an interesting texture. Or apply split bamboo across the entire wall. And to disguise cracks between the wall and ceiling, add traditional hand-carved wood strips along the join; you can pick up elaborately carved lengths in Mas and Sukawati.


Hang fabric

There’s something sumptuous about fabric-covered walls — think boudoir sizzle and Bedouin romance. Fabric is very effective in hiding imperfections, and is also fairly simple to install as well as remove; so, like paint, you can easily change your mind and replace later. Hang a piece of fabric from a dowel or curtain rod fixed as close to the ceiling as possible, or roughly staple the fabric to the edge of the wall. Better still, treat fabric as wallpaper and stick it to the wall. Given that you might need many metres to cover the surface, you might want to steer clear of the (admittedly divine) Hermes fabric I recently spotted in a Seminyak villa. But a quick trip to Klungkung market, Jalan Sulawesi or Alta Moda will give you lots of inspiration, whether you’re into patterned prints in eye-popping colours, or a more ethnic look with hand-loomed ikat or Javanese batik.


Digital prints on vinyl

One of the most effective ways to create a killer accent wall is by using digitally printed vinyl. I saw this technique used to great effect in a beachfront vacation rental in Seseh, where green jungle scenes elevated the interiors of contemporary flat-roofed pavilions. And Janet, who we interviewed for the last At Home in Bali column, found a novel way to use vinyl in the garden courtyard of her Palm Merah renovation in Kemenuh. “We found the red palms to be fantastically expensive, and it was too difficult to paint a mural on the site, so I googled red palm images, measured the wall, downloaded the file and took it to the printer, who printed it in a day.” The printer she recommends is Gede at Dwi Karya (08123655125).


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