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The Officers Tent

A design date with Bill Bensley

Escapism is a word with many facets, but for Bill Bensley, it is in the heart of Southeast Asia, tucked inside the tall palm groves of Bali, with opulentlydesigned tents set up for a glamper’s wildest imagination.

Design maestro in action

Bangkok-based multidisciplinary designer shares the art of creating with nature

Escapism is a word with many facets, but for Bill Bensley, it is in the heart of Southeast Asia, tucked inside the tall palm groves of Bali, with opulently designed tents set up for a glamper’s wildest imagination. Trees sway at the soft breeze, the sun intrudes the open-air tents. There are no glass windows to swing open; vistas are readily viewed of the land so green kissing the sky so blue.

The tents of Capella Ubud, magnanimously surrounded by a jungle of tropical plants and the sizzling heat of Balinese skies, are designed by Bill Bensely himself, borrowing pages from the city’s first European settlers in the 1800s.

In the spirit of east meets west, Bensley successfully articulates nostalgia with colonial decor, marrying familiar artefacts with local touches. 22 tents and lodges are erected against the lush landscape, fully garbed with saltwater pools, outdoor baths, sun decks and a bit of variety–the interiors rely on the personalities of early explorers: naturalist, cartographer, voyager, storyteller, to name a few.

Terrace Tent Saltwater Pool
Terrace Tent Saltwater Pool

Colourful and character-filled, the tents boast of Indonesian-style bed frames, ornate wooden floors, entrance gates and suspension bridges, bringing out the exotic side to luxury glamping inside Bali’s natural surroundings.

Bensley may not be from Southeast Asia, but he made a home here, brilliantly conducting out-of-the-box designs for many grand resorts, intertwining each concept with the topography’s best features, and the culture’s diverse voice. A trifecta of knowledge, Bensley’s devotion to his craft is reflected through the architecture, interior and landscape design, all forming one decadent aesthetic; he makes playgrounds out of places without deducing its natural beauty. Without a doubt, the conservationist in him rings as clear as daylight.

In high end, smaller becomes better, wood much more precious is greater than the bulk of stone. Bensley pursues luxury attuned with low environment impact in unique ways that escapism rings true with a new meaning.

Keliki Valley bedroom
Keliki Valley bedroom

His genius, he creatively shares at the meeting of minds, right inside Capella Ubud, where he takes his audience for a curated art tour. Through the 1st to 3rd of November, Bill Bensley leads a class complete with sketchbooks and takes them through the entirety of the camp, with an indulging dinner, a visit to the Neka Museum, and an extravagant treat of a 75-minute Balinese massage that suits the body after the day-long travel. In this rare occasion, one may even have the chance to peek into Bensley’s private design studio in Sanur, where a picnic lunch is served en route, filling minds and stomachs with sumptuous Balinese meals and eye-opening design concepts.

Capella Ubud Valley Views
Capella Ubud Valley Views

One should not forget a copy of Escapism, which Bensley generously signs before handing out. Then, set off into the private tent drawn by the master designer himself, and pander in a marvellous weekend enjoying culinary masterpieces at Mad’s Lange, or a soothing swim inside the resort’s main swimming pool, the Cistern. From here, enjoy the views of Keliki Valley while basking in the terraced waters, watching the sun set over the gleaming fields, and head back to camp completely fulfilled. www.capellahotels.com ◼

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© This article was first published online in Aug 2019 – World Travel Magazine.

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