The Inspiration Driving New Avenue

I was fortunate to have a research position in the tropical paradise of Bali, Indonesia when I was 22. Bali is known as a Paradise.  Most people consider sun, surf and white sand beaches to be the makings of a paradise.   I certainly agree and that certainly applies to Bali!

I was surprised by the beauty of the mountains, their surrounding rice paddies and the dense little neighborhood where I rented a room in a family compound.  The differences between a Balinese village and a typical American town give meaning to the phase “a world away”.  It turns out the paradise in Bali is the people and the communities.  The beaches are a distant second, or even third.

This is the view of the area surrounding the village where I lived.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

This overhead view of the village shows a fascinating glimpse into this 1,000+ year old community.  You can see the density of the homes, the distinct line that our city planners would call an “urban growth boundary”.   There is a small park, temple and market at the main intersection in the middle of town.   Balinese Village


We might compare this nostalgic town to a Swiss or Tuscan Village too. This island village has attributes that are universally attractive to us.  A walkable community, local shops and soccer fields matter as much in Bali as they do in Los Angeles or New York.

My very rough sketch of a small home in Bali is far from architectural quality.  But you can see what is happenning on 5,000 square feet – the same space of a typical American suburban home.  There are two rental units in the front (the left), the apartment I rented (i.e., Airbnb in 2001), the owner’s home and an open space, which in the case of the Balinese is mostly dedicated to a family temple.

Balinese Compound

What sparked New Avenue is the reality that the wealthiest people in the US have had compounds like this for as long as we’ve had homes.  A compound is still what the wealthiest people today choose for themselves.  The CEO of Google, or Leonardo Dicaprio, or The Great Gatspy all choose a home with some form of carriage house, in law apartment or guest house.

When founding New Avenue we asked if farmers in Bali and billionaires in Silicon valley choose the same style of home, then can the rest of do the same?   Do we even want to?

Surveys across numerous cities found that over 30% of us want what the Balinese and the billionaires have – and the most shocking stat is that 100% of people who have an accessory dwelling would recommend others build one too.  That 100% includes families with in-laws living a few feet away.  I’m writing this just after the holidays and I find those results shocking.

For the farmers of Bali a compound may be out of necessity while for others, it might be a pure luxury. Either way, a more social, more secure, more flexible home makes people happier. So we set out to make it possible for anyone, anywhere, to maximize the benefits their homes creates.  That means we need to make it easier for owners to remodel their old home or build a new one – and that’s what we do.

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