If you’ve been in Bali for some time, you surely have already come across one and probably mistook it for something traditional from Bali. It’s the joglo; the vernacular wooden house of Java with its typical high roof, four inner main columns, and possibly outward extended spaces.
For a couple of years, these buildings have been increasingly popular in Bali’s property business and have triggered a new trend, sometimes surpassing the usual villas that get built. With real estate builder Laurent Filloux, let’s try to dig into the meaning of this new taste for old houses and point out the many benefits that a joglo can offer to the Bali real estate market dynamic.
“The number one factor is aesthetics. It looks good and exotic for a foreigner willing to set up their home in Bali. It’s traditional too, although not originally from Bali, so it gives you a good feeling. You don’t add your ugly block of concrete to the wild urbanisation of the island,” explains this French father of five, married to an Indonesian.
Originally a house for aristocrats in Central Java, the height and type of the roof reflects the social and economic status of the owner, although, in modern Indonesia, far humbler joglo have been built in rural kampung for ages now. Joglo historically comprised seven different types, and the very true nature of these adjustable wooden constructions turns them into fully modular homes up to anyone’s taste, nowadays.
“A good builder can make almost anything starting from the heart of a joglo, the space between the four innermost pillars holding the roof which is called tumpang sari. Seldom are the owners who want to use the original room partition now, as you can do almost anything out of it and it mixes well with modern materials sold to make walls, ceilings, or floors,” explains this long-timer in Bali.
Easy to build in only one and a half months, it is also easy to knock down if you decide to move away and take your home with you like a snail. On the budget side, as the roof is included with the price of the joglo, expect to save money on the building bill, with prices being as low as 30 percent what it takes to build a villa.
Originally made of teak wood for better quality and to show status, a joglo can be easily built out of jackfruit wood or even other less common fruit trees. Prices will differ on a ratio from one to five, according to the wood quality and age. A small-sized joglo is about 60 to 70 square metres, a big one will be about 100 to 120 square metres, not including special orders.
To give you an idea about the price, a 100 square metre jackfruit wood joglo will cost about Rp96.5 million (EUR6,500), while a teak wood one will cost Rp163.3 million (EUR11,000). No longer considered to be a semi-permanent building, a joglo now requires a building permit (IMB) to be put up in Bali. You can order yours in Java, for example in Kudus, or choose to buy an already imported one in Bali, where they are easy to find now thanks to the growing market.
“It’s an investment for life because you can move away with it or sell it separately from the land on which it sits. Wood, if dried properly before assembly, is a reliable construction material that will stay put. It’s natural, very rewarding, there is no minus to it,” Filloux further explained with enthusiasm.
Originally without glass windows and fitted with shutters, walls can be replaced by plate-glass windows or floor-to-ceiling windows, complete with any kind of floorings and ceilings to accommodate those who cannot live without an air conditioner in Bali. Note that the original smart ventilation system already provides an excellent and natural cooling sensation.
The ever appreciated open-air, tropical bathroom can be linked onto any side. A joglo is also particularly pleasing to decorate as you can dive deep into your quest for Indonesian-style antiques or venture into a modern and classic mix like no other. Not to forget, as it is made of wood, a joglo requires regular pest control and possible treatments.
As the basic joglo can be increased, almost at will, to any size by adding extra columns and extending the roof area outwards, it is nevertheless important to have in mind that the slope of the roof should be kept at around 25 to 30 percent, otherwise you’ll experience leaking during the rainy season.
One other meaningful aspect of the joglo is its resilience to earthquakes. A way to acknowledge the fact that our ancestors knew better than us is how to make a safe family home and avoid, as much as possible, fatal outcomes from natural disasters.
Designed to withstand earthquakes, joglo were originally put on stone wedges, without having to be embedded. The wood’s natural resonance is trivial enough to guarantee safety when an earthquake happens. Joglo parts are assembled and pegged without the use of nails, which makes for an overall construction that is free of breaking stress.
To conclude this praise of traditional joglo, it is to be remembered that it is not only Westerners who put them back on the map. Indonesians themselves have lately rediscovered these wooden dwellings as a way to reconnect with their past, notably among wealthy people.
When asked about how Balinese perceive this mushrooming of alien traditional houses on their landscapes, Laurent Filloux answers that he deals also with Balinese customers. “They even modify the roof to adorn it with Balinese symbols or decorations. Somehow, the identity side of it has come full circle. Central Java was a cradle of Hinduism. For certain Balinese, it makes perfect sense!” concludes the building expert.