By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy: Paul Demming
Paul Demming could be considered a citizen of the world. Growing up in the Vietnam era US, Paul Demming left that country at 18 for a global excursion. Once he discovered the province of Bali in Indonesian, he decided to plant roots, and 30 years later, he moved to Costa Rica. He arrived here with his profound love for Indonesia intact, and as a result, Demming opened Tropical House Imports, which became the place for imported Balinese furniture and accessories. In addition, he loved that craftsmanship and feel so much, that he imported his entire house from Bali in pieces which was reconstructed in Cañafistula outside of Tamarindo, also the location of his business.
Among intricate carvings of Balinese wood of his showroom, THE Tamarindo News met with Demming to get his whole story.
THE Tamarindo News: What’s with your passion for Bali?
Paul Demming: I grew up in Denver, but I left the States when I was 18 years old because of the politics of the Vietnam War; I had to get out. I left after one year at the University of Wisconsin. I went on a world tour that included places like India, Nepal and Tibet, taking jobs everywhere. Eventually I landed in Bali. When I arrived there, I instantly fell in love with it and stayed 30 years. That whole country of Indonesia is full of musicians, carvers, jewelers. In Bali, I did a variety of things. I had a bunch of Tibetan jewelry that I reshaped and traded for silver. I sent the new collection I made from it to America to sell and that supported me for a while. I got a sailboat and took surfers out to inaccessible surf destinations. Basically, I grew up in Bali from 21 to 51 years old. I left because it was getting so crowded. When I got here 16 years ago, things were quiet. You could walk Avellanas in the morning and not see one person. I’ve had an incredible life.
TNN: How did you end up in Costa Rica?
PD: My next door neighbor in Bali came over one day and said he had a good friend who had been living in Tahiti that moved to Costa Rica and had a great piece of land, a big finca, for sale. My neighbor said to come with him to look at this guy’s finca. When my wife and I came, we took a tour and we went up to the ridge here in Cañafistula and we saw the ocean view. I asked how much for the whole valley. I put a deposit and paid the balance later. I hiked our land and it was eight hectares with ocean view. Then I went back to Bali and found my house and bought it with plans to reconstruct it in Costa Rica. I disassembled the house, marked all the wood, shipped in a container, and reassembled it here. I loved the feeling of Bali for my home and it was so much cheaper than building here. It was built with 150-year-old wood, which would be quadruple the price here.
TNN: What did you plan to do here?
PD: When we got here, the idea was to finish this showroom with lots of furniture. I couldn’t buy and bring it over fast enough. Indonesian furniture was an attraction because 1) the quality of the wood, which is old teak and over 100 years old. It comes from dilapidated houses, and is recycled. 2) Its craftsmanship, the carvings are so ornate, more so than any here in Costa Rica. Every piece demonstrates care and the carving is so intricate.
TNN: Where do you get the pieces?
PD: I get from sources all over Bali. I get a lot from people who actually produce the furniture.
TNN: Who exactly are your clients?
PD: Mostly homeowners, who have just built homes and want to fill out there houses. People want accessories.
TNN: Are you glad you made the move?
PD: This was a wonderful place to bring my daughter Brooke up. Look how peaceful it is here. Look, there’s a 100-year-old mango tree. I work here, then I go home and it’s even more peaceful. At this point in my life quiet is what I value.
TNN: Would you say you are done traveling?
PD: There are still places I want to travel, like I want to enjoy the hot springs in Iceland, take a sailboat to Bora Bora, do an African safari. But this is a nice place to come home to.