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The Necker Refit

The Necker Refit

In 2007, Time magazine elected Sir Richard Branson a “hero of the environment.” And four years later, he continues to live up to that title.

The British Virgin Island’s most recognizable billionaire currently is hustling to rebuild the great house on his Necker Island, one of two islands he owns in the Virgin Islands. The structure was struck by lightning in a freak storm last summer, threatening the lives of his family—and a guest list that included Titanic starlette Kate Winslet. But the highly publicized setback hasn’t stopped Sir Richard from moving forward—and greenfully so. Around the great house, six flawless villas dot the property, each available for renting one or all at a time for some five figures a pop.


The billionaire boasts his home as his “favourite hideaway." Necker Island seems to exist off the grid from all other Virgin Islands, secluded and strangely seductive. The crew there works hard to uphold Necker’s standard of excellence, with the help of a few friends. The Branson family called upon project managers from Kraus-Manning, architects from Roger Downing & Partner, Poolworks staff and outfitters from Arawak Interiors to head the task of revitalizing their villas, which remain functional for high-class clients while the great house undergoes massive reconstruction.

The new style of the villas has remained consistent and conducive to the unique Balinese style that encompasses and defines the island. Roger Downing architects described the project as one that met Necker’s traditional Balinese style and moved it forward. The team revived the villas with contemporary design, but were careful not to replace their rustic charm.

In tune with Sir Richard’s demand to preserve the environment by using sustainable materials, Roy Keegan from Arawak was called upon to drum up the most eco-friendly approach to outfitting the island hideaways, under the design of Roger Downing architects. Roy traveled straight to the source in Bali to work with trusted suppliers, artisans and craftspeople he has used for over the past 20 years, who specialize in using reclaimed timbers—perfect for pairing the island’s rustic yet contemporary theme. He also searched out materials that were 100 percent reclaimed from previously used items. Previously, Roy was requested to do a similar task on Cooper Island, and he was able to find timber rescued from sunken fishing boats off Java. But the Necker task would prove challenging.

“After hunting around at my usual suppliers, I found they either didn’t have enough wood in stock for this size of a project or they were simply too busy to meet our tight deadlines,” he said. “But I ended up eventually finding a supplier off the beaten who had been buying up old railway sleepers once used for the Java railway that crosses the backbone of Java through most of Indonesia.”


The raw, reclaimed woods were cleaned up, denailed, made into boards and carefully selected so they could be used as cleaned working materials. Carpenters and carvers used the reclaimed railway ties and fashioned them into the requested designs for wardrobes, bathroom vanities, beds, bar units and mirrors. The new furniture was designed to better utilize the space in the existing villas, and most pieces became built-in units once they arrived. When the materials and designs were secured, Bali crews worked diligently to ensure the items made their deadline onto container ships for a two-month journey across thousands of miles of ocean blue to their final destination at Necker Island.


Reclaimed wood has become very popular in Bali over the past several years, especially with a spotlight put on the negative affects from deforestation. Now, availability is lacking and prices are soaring due to this demand. Arawak has been sourcing reclaimed teak for year and have allowed sustainability to thrive on their showroom floors.

Necker’s great house may still be under construction, but the island remains strong at heart—and its owner’s vision of environmental excellence continues to thrive.

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