Potato Head Studios Bali Is Like Someone Created A Hotel Out Of Your Imagination

Potato Head

Potato Head Studios Bali is so joyously iconoclastic, caring, and design-conscious, staying in its Oceanfront Studio room feels like the PTT Family, the Bali-based hospitality and lifestyle people behind it, have peered inside your mind and made a hotel out of your wildest imagination. 

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt 

Considering the abundant smiles and positive energy at Potato Head Studios Bali, it’s no surprise that the Potato Head project started out of love

Love Made Potato Head…And It Shows

Co-founder Ronald Akili’s wife-to-be Sandra was an up-and-coming chef, and so he and his friend Jason Gunawan opened the first Potato Head Bar & Restaurant in Jakarta’s Pacific Place mall for her. 

Desa Potato Head Bali
Potato Head Bali started out with the beach club but the team always envisioned a village, or desa.

They’d recently opened an art gallery in the city, Ark Galerie, and were in a confident mood. And so this, their first project, called Potato Head Jakarta, contained much of the blueprint of what was to come – it was a sprawling terrace space that was also hip and casual with lots of artworks by local creatives on the walls. 

And it became wildly successful just as Potato Head Bali would do when it opened a couple of years after. And the odd name, Ronald has said, was him and Jason rejecting the slew of luxury new restaurant openings with their minimalist interiors and bougie names. Potato Head was meant to be oddball and fun, and nothing like those other places. And so the name, Potato Head, which was originally the code name for the project during its construction, stuck.

Potato Head Beach Club
Colosseum-like Potato Head Beach Club Bali with its 6,600 antique windows.

You Already Know Potato Head Beach Club Bali

Most people who know Bali even a little bit know Potato Head. And that’s partly because of its design. When he was creating the brief, Ronald Akili had just come back from his honeymoon. He’d visited Rome and he was full of ideas. And so, Andra Matin created a beach club that looked like a colosseum.

Matin had become known for his contemporary take on Indonesian traditions. And so, while creating this home for arts and culture on the Indonesian holiday island, he incorporated 6,600 antique windows and shutters gathered from across the country.

And then the accolades kept rolled in. The Wall Street Journal said it had serious design cred. And Condé Nast Traveller named it one of the best beach clubs in the world. 

Snoop Dogg and John Legend both played there. And in the last year alone, artists as diverse as American rapper Earl Sweatshirt and British acid-house legend A Guy Called Gerald have lit up the space. 

Desa Potato Head's creative village in Bali
Part of the seven-acre site that has becoming a thriving, sustainable creative village.

It Takes A Village… 

The site was seven-acres, and they always envisioned that it would become a creative village, or desa (the Indonesian word for village). Phase two of that was building Katamama behind the beach club, a boutique hotel that opened in 2015 that “takes art, design, music, and drinking seriously.” 

Katamama, which is now known as Potato Head Suites, was also designed by Andra Matin. And they built it using over 1.5 million handmade terracotta-colored bricks produced in a Balinese village called Darmasaba. It was a perfect amplification of Potato Head’s philosophy. As Ronald Akili summarized it at the time, “we are globally exposed, but also proud of our heritage.” And it deliberately counterbalanced the curvy beachclub in front of it, with its sturdy, monolithic appearance. 

The 168-room Potato Head Studios is the third and final element that completes the village. And this time, architect David Gianotten from OMA, the Dutch architecture practice founded by Rem Koolhaas who had been a long-time idol of Ronald Akili’s, did the design. David and OMA imagined it as a place where guests could engage the local community. And they would do it in a building with areas dedicated to the arts, sustainability and cultural immersion.

Fittingly, they call it the desa’s cultural heartbeat.

Katamama or Potato Head Suites
The monolithic Katamama, that became Potato Head Suites, is made from 1.5 million locally-made terracotta bricks.

Pointman – The Desa’s Guardian Angel In Residence

Right now, the desa’s guardian angel in residence, Pointman – Riverwarrior is moodily watching over the Potato Head Studios’ courtyard. 

The storied New York graffiti artist, Futura2000, created the 6-meter tall statue. It’s part of his long term deployment of his Pointman character – a kind of alien robot with a big, long head – everywhere from album covers to collectible toys to streetwear

Only this time, channeling the altruistic energy of the desa, he did it using plastic waste from across Bali. All 888kg of it. 

Futura2000's Pointman in Bali
Futura2000’s Pointman recreated with 888kg of recycled plastic as Pointman – Riverwarrior.

Enter: Potato Head Studios

So, you’ve wandered in past Pointman – Riverwarrior and taken a comfy seat at a speckled curve of bench. Before you’ve finished your welcome drink the Potato Head Studios staff have checked you in. Then they usher you over to a nearby room, the Circle Store.

There you select a reusable water bottle and bag. They’ll accompany you during your stay. Nonchalantly sat next door is a vinyl listening room and record store; somewhere to return to later.

You head upstairs and the 72-sqm Oceanfront Studio is lined with floor-to-ceiling patio doors. Outside, on the long balcony, a hammock is swinging gently in the breeze, and beyond that palm trees sway in the gardens and around the pool, and beyond that still is the deep blue Bali Sea. 

Corridors at Potato Head Studios
Corridors at Potato Head Studios.

The large innocent-looking wooden block that is the coffee table slides open to reveal a complementary mini-bar. Handily, there’s instructions on how to make cocktails with the bottles of spirits – local arak and spiced rum – and mixers and garnishes inside. For example, there’s directions on how to make a signature Tama Tama which requires the arak, raw honey, archipelago bitters, fresh tamarillo and squeezed lemon; or a customized classic, like a Cuba Libre with their own Island Spiced Rum, or a simple Vodka Lemonade but using their Citrus-husk Vodka. 

Potato Head Studio's Oceanfront Studios
Magic hour in Potato Head Studio’s Oceanfront Studio.

Magic Hour At Potato Head Studios

Then, you notice the Potato Head Studios team have left a ‘Magic Hour’ note in the shape of a doorhanger on the bed. Hang the card on the door, they suggest, with the checkbox marked that asks them to fill your bath for you for the golden hour of sunset and fill it full of flowers too, all complimentary, and to check the other boxes, for them to prepare champagne, oysters, a fruit plate and more (at an additional charge) that they set carefully on the bath tray above the full, flower-strewn bath. 

Then, discovering Potato Head Studios Oceanfront Studio is so big it even has a walk-in closet, you start to suspect the team are very generously stretching the definition of ‘studio.’ And, all the while, you’re asking yourself if this is the heights hotels can ascend to a quarter of the way through the 21st-century.

The Potato Head Studio's pool with its emerald green sofas.
The Potato Head Studio’s pool with its emerald green sofas.

Daily Rituals At The Desa 

Underneath Potato Head Studios is the domed roof of Tanaman Restaurant. It looks part crash-landed space ship and part stranded deep sea explorer. Inside, Chef Dominique Hammond is leading her creative, multi-sensory dining experience – serving dishes like her zero-waste pumpkin with mushroom scraps salt and pumpkin seed dukkah, and her yuba, shallot waste dust, soy milk remoulade, finger lime, and cucumber pickle that’s a wild riff on fish and chips – in this otherworldly, post-apocalyptic neon-lit space. 

The pool, with its lush green sofas and umbrellas makes sun loungers immediately feel passé. The only compelling reason to leave the poolside sofa is for one of Potato Head Studios’ wellness sessions like their breathwork class, that begins in the library and moves to The Sanctuary wellness studio before conveniently finishing back where you started with an ice bath in front of the pool, right on the beachfront. 

Breath work in Bali
Breathwork at Potato Head Studio’s Sanctuary.

Good Times, Do Good 

Throughout, you can’t help to have noticed that there’s an odd, speckled material everywhere – turned into coasters, lids, tissue boxes, soap dispensers, countertops and stools. 

Then you find the source. Behind Potato Head Suites, beneath a womblike bamboo tunnel, in the Headstream Radio control room is a DJ booth with audio and video live-streaming equipment. It began as a showcase for local artists but now welcomes international DJs and artists passing through.

In the Headstream studio.

And beside that, there’s industrial blue and yellow machines which are processing and pressing plastic waste from across Bali into panels of speckled material to give them a second life.

Right then, watching the DJ nodding her head contentedly in the booth, and the machinery whirring and churning out recycled plastic, Potato Head’s motto of ‘Good Times, Do Good’ comes gloriously to life. Potato Head was made out of love, after all. 

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