“I feel like we’re traveling when we’re in our home,” says Angela O’Brien, founder of sustainable and ethical clothing brand Cleobella. Specifically she feels like she’s back in Bali, where O’Brien and her husband, Jim, and their two kids live half the year. With the help of longtime friends and fellow travelers Elaina Myers and Susanna Ward from Design 4 Corners, the couple brought those oasis vibes to their other main home in Seal Beach, California, with a sauna, white stucco walls, and a dreamy pergola-like structure called a joglo.
Before the space looked like the tropical getaway it does now, there was just the large maple tree, which fortunately survived the renovations and still offers up plenty of shade. Around it, the couple decided to fill in the ground with drought-tolerant plant life and teakwood accents. “Nothing is too precious because we have kids and friends over a lot, so everything’s pretty indestructible,” says O’Brien. Here are some ideas for making your backyard feel like a trip to Bali.
Treat Exterior Lighting Like Jewelry
On either side of the giant French doors that open up to the home, Design 4 Corners installed custom copper lamps (they were made by an artist in Bali that O’Brien frequently sources recycled brass from for her accessory designs). “It adds something special that you just can’t get anywhere else,” she says. The bulbs inside are electric, but they almost flicker when turned on, giving the impression that they’re lit by a candle. Furniture from Found and pottery from Rex Design and Clay + Craft add to the homey touch outside.
Rethink the Traditional Pergola
Durable teakwood is one of the main features in the outdoor space, and it’s what makes up the large pergola structure. The couple had the joglo constructed and intricately carved in Indonesia and eventually shipped to the U.S. in a large container with other found items they collected over the course of 18 months. “You put it together like a puzzle, so there’s no hammer and nails. The parts just fight right in,” explains O’Brien.
The structure is traditionally designated as a gathering spot, a place to connect with the community, and its purpose isn’t all that different at this California home: It’s prime for entertaining. But O’Brien and her husband did change one thing about it. Usually joglos have a large wood platform, but worrying that dust would collect under the base, they took that piece off and made it into a dining table to use elsewhere in the backyard.
Balance the Hot With the Cold
During the height of the pandemic, the outdoor space served as the ultimate wellness and self-care retreat. On the far end of the yard, there’s a small ice bath, which Jim, a frequent surfer, uses the most out of everyone in the family. Combine the chilly tub with a steamy sauna session and you’ve got a recipe for feeling good. “The back-and-forth between the ice and the heat, mixed with breathing exercises, is really healthy,” says O’Brien. “We kind of have our own little spa.”
Make Your Landscaping Work for Your Schedule
Being in Bali for five months out of the year means not a whole lot of time to water the grass, so the pair needed plants that wouldn’t require a ton of maintenance. In between the gravel and stone, they opted for mondo grass (it can thrive in full sun) and, of course, succulents galore.