Falling for Balinese bamboo furniture

Ibuku’s eco-chic designs are perfectly of the moment

“It’s five times the tensile strength of steel,” according to John Hardy, the sarong-clad Canadian jeweller turned bamboo evangelist, who would extol the virtues of this tropical grass to anyone like me who joined him on early morning walks from his sprawling compound along the Sayan Ridge in central Bali. Eight years ago, I lived alongside Hardy and his American wife Cynthia just as they were transitioning from five-star silversmiths to sustainable chic tree-huggers with the opening of their Green School, a fully accredited nursery-to-high-school facility built almost entirely of bamboo and mud in Bali’s fertile highlands.

Image: Rio Helmi

Fascinated by the potential of this indigenous grass – the fastest growing natural building material on earth – I watched students take notes on recycled paper at their bamboo desks then look up at chalkboards similarly fashioned from these stalks. Even back then, Hardy envisioned a market far beyond these Balinese classrooms for an upscale version of these schoolroom necessities – although the first time I sat down at one of the bamboo desks I rose with multiple splinters as my souvenir.

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Fast forward to 2016 and back in Bali’s verdant hinterland, local artisans are carefully bending this ultra-sustainable resource into fantastically undulating sculptures, sans splinters, under the design direction of Hardy’s equally talented daughter Elora. The former designer at Donna Karan returned home to Bali in 2010 to realise what she calls her father’s “big dreams made out of overgrown grass”. This summer, Elora launched the Ibuku furniture collection, an online catalogue of these natural, artful furnishings that already populate the monumental custom bamboo houses (second picture) of Green Village, this talented family’s other bamboo-building venture.

Those of us not yet willing to put down at least six figures for one of these stunning, earthquake-resistant structures, with environmentally sensitive plumbing and natural air flows, may now satisfy our desire to live eco-chic anywhere, even if, like me, you do not have a spot for the Sway woven basket-style swing ($1,477, fourth picture). While the Bone dining chair ($513, third picture) with rattan or leather would have been a more practical choice, I opt for Noon, a sensual swoop of a chaise ($881, first picture). Two of these will replace my now gently tattered club chairs that seemed so timeless when I bought them a dozen years back, but now feel dated compared to Ibuku’s entirely of-the-moment take on living well by doing good for the planet too.

All items are made-to-order, and Ibuku primarily produces custom-made schemes for people’s homes, or works with interior designers on residential or commercial projects. This means that orders for individual pieces may not always be possible, and the above prices are relevant to anyone desiring multiple-item orders valued at $15,000. So it might be a case of go big on bamboo, or go bespoke.

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