With Bali Bungalow, couple brings Indonesian furniture and décor to Stonington
Stonington — The showroom Lita and Matt Bondlow created is a light and airy space, with plants of varying sizes neatly placed between the teak furniture and rattan lounge chairs, and lights covered by rattan pendants hang from the ceiling. There's calming music and a light touch of incense.
Rattan is a type of palm tree used to make wicker-style furniture, and the greatest population of rattan trees is in Indonesia, where Lita is from.
She and Matt founded the furniture and home décor company Bali Bungalow in New York in 2019, selling the work of Indonesian artisans. The couple is among those who fled the city in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, moving to East Lyme and setting up shop in the Velvet Mill.
They started off a year ago with a small studio off the atrium and have since opened the showroom, which has an entrance off the parking lot on the Bayview Avenue side of the pond, between Woodfellas Pizza and Zest Fresh Pastry.
"It's nice to have this space because we get to meet the clients in person, and do all kinds of custom orders," Lita Bondlow said. She said her work is also her way of giving back to her home country, and she goes back every year to find suppliers, do photoshoots and see family. The couple last went to Indonesia in March and were there for almost two months.
"We literally hop on a moped, drive around, source everything," Lita Bondlow said. Different artisans have different specialties, she said, whether that's teak or weaving or stonework or woodwork.
"We want to make furniture the way it was made before, before the mass production. We want to show the craftsmanship," she said. Matt Bondlow added that they want to carry furniture that will last for generations, and said people are willing to spend money when they don't have to buy a new chair every 10 years. Lounge chairs range from about $950 to $1,400, and dining chairs are around $550 to $650.
They've done furnishing for the new Curio Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a restaurant opening in Miami. Locally, Matt said they've also worked with Surf Cantina, a new restaurant in Westerly, and Surfridge Brewing Co. in Essex, the new second location of a California brewery.
From Indonesia to Stonington
Lita grew up in East Java, Indonesia, and studied hospitality in college. She moved to the U.S. more than 15 years ago, at age 23, and spent time working in hotels in California and New York. She then worked as a Realtor in Manhattan for seven years, and still does part-time administrative work for a real estate company.
During that time, she met Matt Bondlow, who is originally from Darien and studied theater at Syracuse University before spending 27 years in the publishing industry in New York City. He currently works remotely for Scientific American, as the director of integrated media.
Matt Bondlow said when the pandemic hit, they "saw the writing on the wall" about living in the city. He knew the Stonington and Mystic area from growing up in Connecticut, and after driving through southeastern Connecticut, the Bondlows opted to rent a place in East Lyme instead of their small apartment in New York.
Bali Bungalow started mainly as an online business, with small items like pillows and throws. But Matt Bondlow said before they knew it, furniture was their main business.
He said their concept is custom orders, so models can be built off preorders and delivered. Interested customers can check out the business's website, bali-bungalow.com, but he said coming into the showroom is the way to do it.
Looking ahead, he said they'll meet with local architects and interior designers, and they envision more partnerships.
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