Paul Ropp makes it grander in a simpler form of living space. Photos and video: Ryerson Anselmo for Costes Portrait. Words: Ondy Sweeting.
New York-born, Bali-based artist, icon and fashion designer Paul Ropp has devolved from living in expansive tropical mansions to a contemporary take on a Chinese shop house.
Since empty nesting a few years ago he has downsized his living environment to a curated Jimbaran ‘landing strip’ purpose built for a life style of globe trotting, creating and seeking inspiration.
“I used to have very big, very expensive villas and I was travelling a lot and my kids had finished university and were travelling themselves. It was time to rethink my environment,” he says.
Paul connected to the Chinese notion of the shop house – the simple economy of living at the back and above one’s own commercial enterprise. Like the famous shop houses of Singapore, Penang, Phuket and Shanghai – Paul Ropp now lives above his Jimbaran store.
“The Chinese have the business bringing in money while they live upstairs. It’s a Chinese concept and it works. We’ve improvised this concept in Jimbaran and we’ve done the same in Thailand with two bedrooms at the best beach in Phuket,” says Paul.
Life with an army of staff also ended with the arrival of a simplified version of life.
“There were seven people looking after me, but I decided to end that way of living. I decided to let go of that concept of living – which I had enjoyed a lot for a very long time. I moved toward a new environment – like the Chinese have been doing for centuries,” he says.
While few, if any Chinese shop houses have a beautiful garden and swimming pool, Paul does acknowledge that his Jimbaran and Phuket pads are perhaps a little more sophisticated than the digs of your standard Chinese shopkeeper.
“My house is completely different to anything that you have ever seen.
It is a unique example of taking creativity into home furnishings but not as furniture, but as art,” says Paul.
As Bali’s most vibrant designer creating dresses of dreamy colours in fabrics sourced in India and stitched with sparkling beads and delicate buttons, his home mirrors both the man and his mania
“My environment is my art form. I design everything, absolutely everything and my team puts it together for me. I make it from little off cuts of fabrics from my collections. It’s like how I dress my collection of dolls,” the designer points to a series of feminine effigies clad in whimsical fashion.
“My home is a gallery full of work by talented artists. Artists I have grown up with, such as the great Dutch artist Nico Vrielink and the wonderful Davina Stephens. I have access to these artists as friends and their work adorns my walls,” he says.
Location is a big consideration for such a man on the move.
“I have lived in Bali for more than 40 years and always moved to neighbourhoods where there were no foreigners. Originally it was Legian but then foreigners came and I moved on. But when the kids moved on it was important to be near an airport,’ he says.
He even calls his apartments ‘landing strips’.
“I need a place to land – the plane lands in the airport and my body lands in my home. My home is the landing strip.