Living and Working in Paradise
A San Diego designer spent a decade in Bali and welcomes the island lifestyle back here
Lots of us dream about living on a tropical island but we don’t actually do it. San Diego native Elaina Samaniego-Myers and her husband Nathan Myers were different. In May 2008, they packed up their lives, said goodbye to southern California and moved to Canggu, a village on Bali’s south coast.
Elaina is one-half of the design duo behind 4 Corners International Design Concepts, which she runs with her sister Susanna Samaniego-Ward. Nathan used to be a senior editor at Surfing Magazine and now works as an independent filmmaker. The couple was living in Encinitas, and after a trip around the world, Nathan was recruited by some expats living in Bali, Indonesia, who wanted him to collaborate on some movie-making ventures.
“We took a scouting trip early in 2008,” Elaina says. “We stayed with an expat family for three days, and we fell in love with the beautiful lifestyle and culture there. It was so different than visiting as a tourist, which we’d done before.”
Elaina initially thought she would export amazing Balinese designs to Susanna, still in San Diego, as part of their burgeoning design business. But when she landed clients in Bali redoing their home in La Jolla with everything from Indonesia, the sisters saw an opportunity to expand.
Susanna would stay in San Diego and operate the office there while Elaina opened the international extension of their company in Bali. The sisters would still collaborate together on every project—in Bali and San Diego—but project manage locally.
In 2010, with everything falling neatly into place, Elaina and Nathan moved to Batu Bolong, now one of the trendiest streets in Canggu. They rented a three-bedroom, three-bathroom villa with a nice front garden, a rooftop meditation area and a pool for their growing family (the couple had their two boys, Quinn, now 8, and Hudson, now 7, while living in Bali).
Though it wasn’t a home the family owned, Elaina got to work making it feel more modern, more them. She painted all the walls—and the soaring ceiling’s ornate crown molding—a soft gray, covered the tile floors with rugs, got beds for the master bedroom and bunkbeds for her boys’ shared room that were all custom made, bought lots of teak furnishings to pepper throughout her home, and accessorized with Indonesian artifacts, antiques and textiles. She added splashes of accent colors to the neutral palette—a turquoise wall in the dining room, a coral wall in the guest room and vibrant artwork that spoke to her throughout.
People took notice of Elaina’s style and the Bali arm of the business grew.
“We started getting clients in Bali—from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore—who wanted us to redo their villas in Bali,” Elaina says. “And it was so much fun because our clients were so willing to push the envelope, to take beautiful and creative risks.”
One client requested a glass-bottom pool that jutted out from the second story. “We made it happen on bamboo scaffolding,” she says. “You could do anything there. It was sometimes scary but so inspiring.”
Back in San Diego, business was booming as well. In fact, that part of the company was so successful that, by the summer of 2017, something had to change. “We had to make a decision for Elaina to come back or for us to restructure the business,” Susanna explains.
Ultimately, Elaina decided it was time for her family to come home. “We’d lived in Bali for 10 years, our boys were getting older, and we were ready for the next chapter,” she says.
They moved to Carlsbad just over a year ago. The house they rent here wears many of the Bali finds well. The coffee table, bench, kitchen table, console, stools, beds, all the accessories and artwork made the trip as did one of Elaina’s favorite pieces, an old Balinese framed textile that hangs above the living room’s teal sofa (a purchase she made shortly after moving here).
“For my 40th birthday, my friends in Canggu all went in together to get me this textile depicting Mahabharata,” she says. It’s one of the two Sanskrit epic poems of ancient India illustrating the development of Hinduism, the reigning religion in Bali.
“It links me, my kids and my business to Bali,” Elaina says.
The Villa a year later…
During a delay in the Bali airport—and while doing laps around it to entertain her kids—Elaina kept passing another mom doing the same thing. They started chatting and it turned out the other mom was Angela O’Brien, founder of Cleobella, the fashion and accessories brand headquartered in Huntington Beach, with a flagship boutique in Sunset Beach, but founded in Bali. Having so much in common, the two quickly became fast friends.
Angela and her crew—husband Jim and two kids, Keenan Case and Indigo Skye—travel to Bali twice a year to source textiles and meet with the artisans who make the Cleobella pieces. In a win-win situation, the family took over the long-term lease on Elaina’s old abode, and Elaina helped transform the villa, which she called her own for eight years, into the O’Brien home by modifying some of the spaces.
While the patio configuration remains the same, a pretty pink paint now covers the outside stucco walls in the backyard. Inside, the layout mimics what Elaina and Nathan had but the furnishings are different—some concepts, however, are the same.
“We had similar custom bunkbeds made for her kids that we moved with us to California,” Elaina says.
Besides helping select all the furniture, Elaina also consulted on the tile and island in the kitchen, the lighting and the bathrooms. In the guest room, she papered over the coral wall with her Design 4 Corners’ Balinese toile wallpaper in Moody Jade.
“Taking over the long lease, being welcomed into the community that Elaina was part of for so long and having her help me make this our second home has been such a blessing and a gift,” Angela says.