How many of us saw these pictures of houses built from containers on Instagram or Pinterest and thought that we would like to have our own house that is made of containers one day? Bet, all of us saw it and at least half of us wanted to have one!
One wild couple from the Czech Republic actually made it. They’ve built five villas, the restaurant, coworking, two shops, and an art gallery from containers in Bali. This whole place is called Joshua District made by Joshua Design and it’s located in Tabanan area, next to Pigstone beach.
Lukas and Martina came to Bali 9 years ago from the Czech Republic. In the first couple of years, they were escaping from the winter in Europe and spent just a few months here. If you will look deeper, you’ll see that they live exactly the way you imagine when you hear “Wild, free and rock’n’roll”. They left the Czech Republic and ran a successful business back home to live in Bali and just enjoy life. From then on the new chapter of their life has begun.
JD never was a company with a business plan, everything began in a car on the way from Ngurah Rai when an ambitious question from Petrus, a friend of the family and business partner, popped up. “What do you think about building something special in Bali, a villa in rice fields built from shipping containers? Are you down?” An instantaneous and spontaneous answer “Let’s do it!” started it all. “I always wanted to build a house from the shipping containers. And a few years ago we were looking for a place for our house to live out of the city. One day Martina did a photoshoot close to this area and found this spot. At that moment it was just rice paddies in here. It was fucking perfect! We asked the security guy from Villa Vedas where is the land to rent in here, then we met the owner of the land and made a deal for the first 3 acres”, Lukas tells. The next step was to find the containers. As Lukas did. He visited Sanur harbor and asked the first guy who was security about the phone number of the person from whom he could buy the containers. “And in a week I had four. It was a super big deal cos I didn’t know the guy, but I gave him the deposit first and met him on the harbor on the night with a huge packet of money. It was a funny experience”, they both are laughing.
The first one was the Ocean villa. “In a few months after we moved, our company back home started to drop down without us. We’ve built it for 25 years and it had 20 employees. Everybody was asking us to come back. But personally, for us, the question was to save the business and have the money or just stay here and be happy. We asked ourselves what is more important? The answer was simple: “Fuck off! Be happy here!”, Lukas tells. “Of course, when you change your life from 6K Euro into zero in one day you are asking yourself “What the fuck we will do?”. But Martina was so calm “We will figure it out!”, he adds.
And they did. From the very beginning, it was tough for everyone cos they still have a lot of responsibilities: pay 3K Eur for the school, two kids and parents back home. “At that time we didn’t have any job. We were renting some villas and it didn’t matter if there were any guests or no, we needed to pay for the maintenance, and it was only 1 mln rupias we have for me and Martina per month. So we were literally surviving”, remember Lukas. “It was difficult for the kids as well because all their friends in school had iPhones and they got an old Nokia, or when they wanted to go somewhere we could give them only 20k rupias for nasi cumpur”, Martina adds.
The Ocean villa was ready only for 80% and they were out of money. At some point, one of their friends saw the villa and fell in love with the idea. They decided to help him to build one, so they’ve made a design, found a local constructor and started the process. Now it is called Kontiki and it is part of Joshua District. From then on, one by one, their friends started to invest in other villas.
Now, almost 5 years after, Joshua Design is a combination of two things — architecture and interior design. If there is a need to build something from point zero, it’s part of Lukas who’s consulting local contractors and controlling the whole process. Martina embodies all her ideas about interior design in the same way. “Of course, if clients want to have staff that are different from JD style, for example, a British style sofa, I don’t do it but have a few suppliers who are doing it for us. I control them from the very beginning till the end, but I don’t want to spend my time and energy to create something that I don’t like to do or it’s out of our style”, she explains.
It takes 8 till 10 months till the moment when you will have the keys from your perfect new house made of containers with all and everything inside, from the towels till forks, knives, cups, plates, and art on the walls till photos and Airbnb account so that you could give it for rent.
“I don’t want to say that being eco-green or whatever was our point from the very beginning or that was a part of the business plan, cos it’s not fucking true. The truth is that we didn’t have any money. So we needed to be creative”, Lukas tells.
Living a good life with good income back in the Czech Republic they never felt any pressure once they wanted to buy a new car, laptop, or phone. “Sustainable things like separate plastic and glass is a normal part of life. But once we come to Bali, it was nothing like “let’s do some fucking yoga or spiritual things”. Nope. We decided not to spend our money on the new stuff”, Lukas explains. So, if they needed a new table in front of the bed they just made it from the coke boxes and black tape around it. “From the beginning, it was just for fun. That’s how recycling actually started. After this, we were like “Ok, let’s do more clever things. Let’s check Youtube for a bit more inspiration!”, Martina remembers. The next one was a table made of concrete cube and a piece of wood on the top — easy, cheap, and original. Sometimes Martina can spend four days looking for something suitable among the trash from the beach or in search of some fabric in a second-hand market.
Sometimes needed trash is there almost accidentally. When you enter Joshua District restaurant, you can see two big tables made of parts of big pipes and glass. “We bought a few more containers from the North of Bali, and these parts were just inside the container. Martina saw it and she was like “This is so fucking cool! Let’s do something from them!”. It was a lot of trash in that place, so we gave them 10 mln and took it all”, Lukas tells. “You have to work on it just by using your brain and hands but you don’t need to go to IKEA and buy this whole similar staff, you can create yourself! It will be really cool, special, and recycled”, Martina adds. For example, part of the plates in the restaurant are made of the old bricks from their house, and Martina did it with her hands.
A big good surprise for Lukas and Martina was how passionate, hard, and fast local people are working. “They have some tricks that would be impossible to do in Europe. For example, to make scaffolds they use the bamboo and they use it on any height! You cannot imagine it back in Europe not only because of the absence of bamboo but also because of technology, how they actually do it!”, Lukas explains. Another surprise for them was that for Indonesians 10 centimeters on one side or another one is absolutely fine. “Sometimes they are not using the technologies that are making it faster. For example, in Europe we always use the crane to make a pool, but here they do it by hand, and it’s not about the time but more to give a job to more people. It is kind of the mindset, first of all, to help people and to give them a job”, he adds.
The COVID lockdown doesn’t affect Joshua Design so much. “It was Lukas deportation that stopped us for a bit, but even then we continued working”, Martina adds. Yes, Lukas was deported from Bali for almost 8 months 2 years ago. The reason was a misunderstanding in the documents but even this huge stress never affected Joshua Design or Joshua District, because our family and our team are very strong and supportive”, Lukas tells.
The future for JD? No idea! But while we are happy here, there will be more and more creativity for sure!
Writer: Valerie Noiman