30 Traditional Homes Around The World You Need To See
See these traditional homes around the world. See the way we live, from a new perspective. While the countries, cultures, and climates may differ, knowing we all have a place to call home is a first step to understanding everything we have in common.
Visit traditional homes around the globe and discover how the definition of home can both change and remain the same.
1. SEMBALUN, LOMBOK, INDONESIA
Near the popular beach destination of Bali is the island of Lombok. It’s home to the indigenous Sasak people as well as Gunung Rinjani, one of Indonesia’s largest volcanoes, which is topped by a large crater lake. Just outside the national park that protects this area is the village of Sembalun.
Here, on a little hill overlooking a valley of patchwork farm fields, is a cluster of traditional Sasak houses. One of these homes belongs to Salmini, whose mother and five siblings also live in the compound. Salmini’s family can trace their ancestors in the region back 700 years.
This traditional Sasak house is made primarily of bamboo from the surrounding forests. Other building materials include soil, rattan, clay, ash and cow dung, which is often used for minor repairs. “October to March has heavy rains and typhoons,” says Salmini. “But the roof is capable of withstanding rain as well as wind and sunlight.”
Most days, Salmini wakes up and washes the clothes and the dishes. Then she either opens her kiosk to sell things or walks to the nearby village to trade. Afterward, she returns home to cook lunch.
Salmini’s house is light and airy inside with a high, peaked ceiling. The main room serves as the kitchen, dining room and bedroom. “The other [room] is interesting,” says Salmini. “It’s specifically for the girls, so the parents can keep their eyes on them, to prevent them from sneaking out to meet friends or boys.” Salmini explains how things have changed over time. “Years ago, we carried pots to the river to collect water.
Now the government has built a water pipe four kilometers away.” Electricity replaced bamboo-oil torches for lighting a few years ago, but no major electrical appliances were added. “We welcome modernization. But on the other hand, we do want to maintain our village’s tradition,” she says. “This home is our heritage and we must protect it.”
2. NORTH TORAJA , SOUTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA
The countryside village of Buntu Pune features a striking pair of traditional Torajan dwellings known as tongkonan, which were constructed in 1880 by a coffee farmer and nobleman by the name of Pong Maramba. He died in Maluku after being exiled for plotting a rebellion against the rule of Dutch colonists.
His descendants remain, including 5th-generation Marla, who has lived here her whole life. A government worker, Marla is one of about 10 people who currently occupy the two tongkonan, which stand not far from Pong Maramba’s gravesite on a nearby hillside.
The tongkonan’s most distinctive stylistic trait, its soaring saddleback bamboo roofline, is designed to withstand the onslaught of heavy winds and rain during Indonesia’s wet season. Symbolic carvings and intricate painted patterns in red, yellow, white and black adorn the outer walls and gables as an indication of a family’s status.
The front of Marla’s home, for example, prominently features a “kabongo,” a sculpted buffalo head that represents nobility. Tongkonan houses are typically lined up side by side, north to south, and face a tidy row of rice granaries that resemble slightly smaller-scale versions of the tongkonan.
Each tongkonan has two floors, wood-paneled living quarters upstairs, and an open-air pen below, with a chicken shed and space for working or relaxing. They are also wired with electricity. A separate structure in the backyard houses a common kitchen and bathroom with running water.
The term “tongkonan” derives from a Torajan word meaning “to sit,” emphasizing that the house is not simply shelter from the elements, but a place where family can gather, both face-to-face as well as in spirit across the generations. Although Marla works in the city, she’s proud to return each day to her quiet home so rich in heritage.
3. CIPTAGELAR, WEST JAVA, INDONESIA
Ciptagelar is the main village of the Kasepuhan people, who belong to the Sundanese community in Sukabumi, Banten, Indonesia. The region experiences both rainy and dry seasons. About 400 people currently call the village home, and the population continues to grow steadily.
The Kasepuhan haven’t always lived in Ciptagelar. They decided to call Ciptagelar home based on instructions from their ancestors, which usually appear as signs in their dreams. Another move may be required by their ancestors in the future, as it has been many times in the past. Ciptagelar is home to Abah Ugih, who leads the community — a position he inherited from his father.
The Kasepuhan people call their houses Rumah Panggung, but Abah’s home has a dedicated name — Imad Gede. Abah’s home was built by his father and other community members. The construction started in 1998 and used natural materials found growing around the village. One particularly important material is ijuk the dark black fibers surrounding the trunk of the local palms trees.
These fibers have been used to build roofs in Indonesia dating back to ancient times. Not every adult in Ciptagelar owns their home. Some may choose to live with their parents, but if they want to build a new house they must obtain the permission of their parents as well as Abah Ugih, who considers whether land and materials are available for a new home.
Abah Ugih’s home is made up of four rooms. There is a Tiang Kalapa where guests meet and chat with Abah Ugih, a Hawi Pole (bedroom), an Imah Gede where guests are greeted, and the kitchen. In the kitchen, rice is an important staple of the family’s daily diet. Most community members in Ciptagelar farm rice for a living and so rice is consumed regularly, along with local vegetables, meat, sauce and sometimes fish, brought from the ocean about 30 kilometers away.
Rice is so important to the future of this community that it is never sold to outsiders. Each year’s harvest is placed in a communal barn called a Leuit, which can store up to 100 years worth of rice harvests. Currently the rice barn in Ciptagelar has enough to ensure the community is fed for the next five years.
4. KEMIREN VILLAGE, EAST JAVA, INDONESIA
The Osing people live in the highlands of East Java. The region is known for strong winds and earthquakes, so their homes are built with strong foundations and poles that can withstand the elements. The Osing people have a rich heritage as descendants of the ancient Indonesian Kingdom of Blambangan. Mr. Sae Panji is a community member who has lived in his home his entire life.
Like his people, Mr. Panji’s house has a rich heritage. This 450-year-old home was built by his ancestors in a traditional style called Omah Tikel Balung. Stepping inside the gates, visitors will pass through terraces full of lush plants that Mr. Panji cares for and sells.
The wooden poles and foundation of the house are held together with flat pegs instead of nails and its walls are woven from bamboo. All of these materials are harvested from the surrounding areas. The Osing people select their materials for their staying power — the bamboo for example must be cut down during a full moon, due to the Osing belief that it will then last for 25 years.
Inside this Osing home, there are three main rooms bustling with daily family life. The bale is the living room and family room and is used for receiving guests. The jrumah is the bedroom and the pawon is the kitchen, where the mother of the family cooks. For special occasions, she might prepare tape buntil, a dish made from fermented glutinous rice and wrapped in pecan leaves, or pecel pitik, roasted chicken mixed with grated coconut and mashed peanuts. To Mr. Panji, his home represents his family heritage from generation to generation and an opportunity to share Osing culture with the rest of the world.
5. KANEKES VILLAGE, WEST JAVA, INDONESIA
The Kanekes people, known more commonly as the Baduy people, are a traditional Sundanese community living in the Banten region of western Java, surrounded by lush green hills. Although located only 120 kilometers from Jakarta, the Baduy maintain a secluded, traditional lifestyle.
In fact, foreigners are not allowed to make contact with some Baduy communities, while others — like the community living in Kanekes Village where Mr. Saija is the headman — have some limited interaction with the outside world. As a whole, the Baduy people strive to live in harmony with nature.
According to tradition, homes in Kanekes Village are lined up facing north and south. The houses are built using natural materials such as wood, bamboo, leaves and fibers.
Mr. Saija’s home was built piece-by-piece with the help of other villagers in 2012. It includes a living room, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. A solar lamp is used to brighten up the entrance and the common area in the evening.
According to Mr. Saija, there are no differences between the homes of the rich or the poor in Kanekes society. Every family uses their home as a place to gather their family and to practice their religion, Sunda Wiwitan.
For Mr. Saija and the Baduy people, home represents a tradition passed down from generation to generation and a place to keep the memories and ways inherited from ancestors alive.