For Germany-born furniture and product designer Maximilian Eicke, the pandemic stirred lockdown was a time of full-fledged productivity with a gracious, life-changing outcome – he used this time of isolation and self-reflection to handcraft a home for himself and his family in Bali, Indonesia, reacting to a not-so-promising site, yet finding ways to build a promising abode. Nestling into a lush site blessed with calming views, the Dukuh Haus, or “Hamlet” in Indonesian, emerged victorious as an edifice of curated beauty, deep-seated creative range, seamless style and most of all, pure independence.
Replete with his own sensibilities of design, the Dukuh Haus is “a house of prototypes—a living research and development lab for our brand and for me,” describes Eicke, the design wunderkind behind Max ID NY (his own label), based between the Hamptons and Southeast Asia.
Eicke reveals that the home, consisting of a main house and a guest house built in contrasting styles, has been his passion for the last four years. Taking a leaf out of visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s book, Eicke designed both, the buildings and every single item that takes residence inside, right from the furniture, the door handles and the forks. “The cohesive geometry of the spaces and the furnishings are a poetic statement that transforms everyday objects into sculpture. Every detail down to the cutlery, ceramics, lighting, toilet paper holder, and the trash can is done by me. It became a goal to source new manufacturers throughout Southeast Asia to make this vision possible during the building of the home,” he says, elaborating on how he wanted to design something completely fresh for every piece.
The surrounding spatiality of rice fields, with a river and a picturesque water temple nearby greatly informed the residential design and its subsequent landscape design that saunters and rests around the house. Instead of one building, Eicke split up the house into unique forms upon the now lush site to face a central courtyard and a pool, culminating as the heart of the property. The angular main house clad in dark shingles juts out like a tent, with spaces designed for Eicke and his parents, while the unfussy, white guesthouse features a more pared-back, concrete architecture with glass walls. The austere pool pavilion features a distinct, tall roof reminiscent of Javanese Joglo vernacular structures. All forms, distinct on their own, manage to come together in a stylish chorus, of eclectic yet sombre décor, sewn with a materiality of solid steel, teak, and marble.
Apparently, the location presented itself to Eicke at random. “We were looking for a specific sized plot of land so we could include as much nature and outdoors into our project as possible, and at the same time, not overbuild onto small pieces of land, as has become conventional in the tourist centres of Bali. The width of the property allowed us to create several buildings with a central park/courtyard concept,” he elaborates. A wise and old Bodhi tree grows tall near the house, as volcanic stone-lined terraces up the ante, to accompany bespoke stainless-steel, outdoor chaise lounges that mimic the main house’s structural beams.
Eicke relays that it was crucial for him and his design team to employ as many locally sourced elements as possible for the house and its softly eclectic interior design, only resorting to western manufacturers in two cases – the ceramic floor tiles for the main house that receive the most wear and tear were sourced from Spain, and the oversized sliding windows are aluminium ones from a European manufacturer with a factory in Jakarta. “The latter will outlast any locally sourced windows three times over,” Eicke adds.
Another subtly quirky element presents itself at the onset, with the absence of a doorway as a preamble to the Dukuh Haus, as well as a solid wall that could potentially impose at welcome, or obstruct views to and from the dwelling. “This was done to leave you immediately immersed into the property and its natural surroundings,” he smiles. The main house was conceived to be fully exposed on all its sides, laid bare to nature and letting nature in impeccably, which led to all technical and service equipment being hidden out of sight below or above the residence. Therefore, upon entering the property, one is straightaway presented with freedom, to meander within and choose their paths, instead of being guided down specific ones. “My goal was to not make a single view better than another. Every direction you look and every angle from which you see the house has a feature and was placed there with purpose,” he elaborates.
Reflecting on the residential architecture’s moniker, the product designer says, “The name came from many months of brainstorming all of the typical names that homes in Bali carry. We wanted to go against the common convention of the term “villa”. For several reasons, especially my obsession with the Bauhaus and being German, we went with Dukuh Haus. Dukuh is the village where our house is located, so I asked the local village heads for permission to use the village’s name out of respect for the neighbourhood and community, that also influenced the design and aesthetics of the home.”
How would he describe his brand’s philosophy? “This question is always the most difficult for me to answer. Every few years my design philosophy evolves with the new knowledge that I gain. But the core principle has always remained that I am obsessed with the manufacturing aspect as much as the design. We still produce all of our products and furniture designs through handmade processes, which equally influence them alongside their aesthetics.”
Another challenge came in the form of a hefty rainstorm that drenched the formerly barren site in 10-foot-high water. Eicke brought in 450 truckloads of soil to counter the same, and to keep future flooding possibilities at bay, which ensued into an accidentally intriguing and layered landscape. This included the inclusion of thick palms, ferns and Bodhi trees which made friends with the designed organic terraces, picturesque pocket ponds and verdant foliage that contrasted with the striking, angular abode.
Blending harmoniously into its surroundings, which Eicke meticulously landscaped, referencing the natural terraces of Indonesian rice fields, the residential design successfully embodies a spirit of minimalism and fantasy, lined with Balinese culture and its traditional features of architecture. “Surprisingly since I do not have a green thumb, designing the landscaping and planting trees was the most fun I had. The nature in Bali is so stunning. And the fact that there are so many options here allowed me to get out of my comfort zone. The garden actually became the most important part of the home. I decided from the beginning that the garden and plants would not be an afterthought but would steer the direction of the property. I would stop construction on certain aspects of the home, so I could plant a feature tree between some future overhanging roofs, or in a courtyard that was only accessible while we were still under construction,” he continues.
Because he is fundamentally, a product and furniture designer, Eicke shares that one of the first challenges while carrying out the design was his naivete entering a project of this scale. “While I was well established and versed in the furniture and manufacturing industry, I learned quickly that an architectural project was an entirely different, colossal creature. I had to humble myself and learn from the start, but I had an amazing team well-versed with deep knowledge and experiences that guided me through the process to make me feel at home at the later stages of the project. Then the challenges became those that you regularly face creating any product or project: deadline delays, miscommunication from drawings to what occurred on site, etc. But, fortunately, every obstacle was rectifiable and taught me ways to prevent it from happening again,” he adds.