Stonington – The showroom created by Lita and Matt Bondlow is a light and airy space, with plants of varying sizes neatly placed between the teak furniture and rattan lounge chairs, and lights covered with rattan pendant lights hang from the ceiling. There is soothing music and a light touch of incense.
Rattan is a type of palm tree used to make wicker furniture, and the largest population of rattan trees is found in Indonesia, where Lita originated.
She and Matt founded the Bali Bungalow furniture and decor company in New York City in 2019, selling the work of Indonesian artisans. The couple are among those who fled the city at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, settling in East Lyme and settling at the Velvet Mill.
They started a year ago with a small studio next to the atrium and have since opened the showroom, which has an entrance to the parking lot on the pond side of Bayview Avenue, between Woodfellas Pizza and Zest Fresh Pastry.
“It’s nice to have this space because we meet clients in person and do all kinds of custom orders,” said Lita Bondlow. She said her job is also her way of giving back to her home country, and she returns there every year to find suppliers, do photoshoots and see her family. The couple last visited Indonesia in March and stayed there for almost two months.
“We literally jump on a moped, drive, buy it all,” Lita Bondlow said. Different artisans have different specialties, she said, whether it’s teak or weaving or stone or wood.
“We want to make furniture as it was made before, before mass production. We want to show the craftsmanship,” she said. Matt Bondlow added that they wanted to transport furniture that will last for generations, and said people are willing to spend the money when they don’t have to buy a new chair every 10 years. Lounge chairs range from around $ 950 to $ 1,400, and dining chairs are around $ 550 to $ 650.
They furnished the new Curio hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, and opened a restaurant in Miami. Locally, Matt said they had also worked with Surf Cantina, a new restaurant in Westerly, and Surfridge Brewing Co. in Essex, the new second location for a California brewery.
From Indonesia to Stoneton
Lita grew up in East Java, Indonesia, and studied hospitality at university. She moved to the United States over 15 years ago, at the age of 23, and worked in hotels in California and New York. She then worked as a real estate agent in Manhattan for seven years and continues to perform part-time administrative duties for a real estate company.
During this time, she met Matt Bondlow, who is originally from Darien and studied acting at Syracuse University before spending 27 years in the publishing industry in New York City. He is currently working remotely for Scientific American, as Director of Integrated Media.
Matt Bondlow said when the pandemic hit they “saw the writing on the wall” about city life. He knew the Stonington and Mystic area from growing up in Connecticut, and after traveling through southeast Connecticut, the Bondlows chose to rent accommodation in East Lyme instead of their tiny apartment in New York City.
Bali Bungalow started out primarily 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 from preorders and delivered. Interested customers can check out the company’s website, bali-bungalow.com, but he said entering the showroom was the best way to do it.
Going forward, he said they will meet with local architects and interior designers and consider more partnerships.