10 Modern Tropical Homes for Inspiration

10 Modern Tropical Homes for Inspiration

Living ASEAN presents 10 modern tropical homes for an inspiration as we celebrate another year ending and a new one beginning. They focus on a beautiful blend of indoor and outdoor spaces that translates into stylish patios, cool verandas and courtyard tropical gardens. Plus, plenty of ideas to make your yard lush!



















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Quiet Interaction of Nature and Architecture

Quiet Interaction of Nature and Architecture

Pok (Attaporn Kobkongsanti), his wife Romanee, and their young son Phumi have just moved into their new house, which took six years to design and build. Now it shows a perfect picture, lofty white walls rising above its inspired design and meticulous construction.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Korakot Lordkam /// Photography: Soopakorn, Nantiya

“As an architect myself, I imagined a courtyard here. Having worked with Boonlert, I felt our styles were really in sync, and after a few iterations we settled on our fourth design, which is what you see here!” Pok, who is the owner not only of the house, but also TROP Landscape Architects, is referring to Boonlert Hemvijitraphan of “Boon Design,” his co-designer.

Boonlert adds, “The relationship between the house and nature is always at the core of our design work. The owner’s imagination is what makes this one unique. We began with a set of high walls with the separate spaces between them assigned to different uses. We call this concept ‘series of wall.’”

To the architects, “series of wall” is expressed with four very tall walls set in parallel that establish the frame of this 3-storey house. The walls are set between 2.5 and 5 meters apart, protruding out beyond the main body of the house, with varied height and length according to functionality of the spaces between. Floor 1 holds living room, dining area, and kitchen. Husband and wife have a workroom on the 2nd floor, and bedrooms are on the 3rd.

Closing off areas between walls before assigning them functions as rooms gave the look of, as the architects put it, “putting people in the in-between spaces.” Areas of use are rectangular, enclosed lengthwise between the walls. The front and rear of the house are all floor-to-ceiling clear glass, for a free, airy feeling everywhere, the natural world outside shining through into the home. The walls are thick, blocking the sun’s heat from the north and south. The glass sides bring in the sun’s natural light as it moves from east to west, keeping the house bright and cheerful all day.

The walls also facilitate inner courtyards that are part and parcel of the livable space and bring the outside garden in, using the owner’s unique talents and experience to incorporate landscape architecture into the building itself.

“This wasn’t easy,” said Pok. “We wanted it all, here, there, everywhere, but when you do it you always worry it might be too much! We went back and forth, and in end we chose the most orderly form.” The personalities of the in-house gardens differ according to position. At the east entrance we see a mixture of kitchen vegetable and decorative garden they call the “moon garden,” since a moonrise is especially gorgeous from there. Special attention was paid to its beauty, as it is the first garden we see when getting out of the car and the last before leaving.

Next we encounter a triangular courtyard, inserted in the living room! This is an architectural artifice to bring light into a darker area. It opens the living room right out on the swimming pool and at the same time welcomes us into the room, creating an intriguing space facing both inward and outward.

In the kitchen there’s yet another large courtyard. This one helps draw light and clean air into the various rooms from the topmost down to the ground floor, and connects with a forest garden behind the house to the west. Between house and fence is a copse of trees that filters the afternoon sun, a space used just to relax, or perhaps for a party. The L-shaped swimming pool is landscaped in with a neat wooden porch that fits perfectly with the tall trees Pok has freely planted all about. This garden also connects to the living room through a large clear glass door, creating even more unity between indoors and outdoors.

The house glass reflects the darker forested area in a wavy green. Our landscape architect compares it to an abstract painting by nature itself, saying it took away any need for hanging pictures on the walls, which are bare, like a white canvas, waiting for nature as the single artist to brush it with light.

A White House Matching Modern Architecture to its Environment

A White House Matching Modern Architecture to its Environment

Secluded behind what appear to be walls of white paper, the “PA House” is IDIN Architects’ innovative integration of contemporary tropical architecture with a unique solution to its site-specific environment.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Korakot Lordkam /// Photography: Ketsiree Wongwan /// Design: IDIN Architects

Architect Jeravej Hongsakul, architect, explained that the first design challenge of this 400-square-meter house was its owner’s interest in privacy for his growing family:

“In our first site survey we noted the wide variety of sizes and styles of the surrounding homes, a 4-storey house here, a Louis-style there. How to fit a new house into this context and make it livable?”

Modern House

The architects observed, took pictures, noted directions, viewpoints, levels, and distances between houses, and analyzed the collected data to feed into their design plan, and came up with a concept that used these surroundings not as a limitation, but, surprisingly, as a help.

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“Each one of these other houses actually functions as an assistant architect, telling us where and at what levels to place the walls and planes that build connections on all sides, leading us to create open spaces within. I sometimes feel like the conductor of an orchestra, arranging voices and the mix to bring this home to life as a beautiful piece.”

The concept of a “viewpoint” may seem abstract, but the relationships formed by viewpoints to and from surrounding buildings has turned out to be a primary factor in the straightforward design of this home. Each wall was placed to help deal with problems that might arise from its geographic situation, and also adapt open space inside the walls to enhance utility and the livability of the house, as its “conductor” architect performed his work.

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Coming in on the south entrance road, we encounter two planes meeting in a tall, wide “L” appearing to float out from the second floor of the house. This construction benefits the house much as a raised hand can block sun from burning our face. The ground floor is cool and shady, but still has a great view of the wide, open garden directly outside, while the upper wall both blocks the view from other houses and insulates against heat. Along this section of the lower floor a wall also is set two meters out from the house to create space for growing plants, and glass walls reach up another 6 meters for a look out through the shade, where we watch the sunlight trace down the inner wall, creating new dimensions and an open, airy feeling.

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Comfort of use is the basis for the distribution of functionality within the house. On the ground floor a living room and dining area open out on a wide garden view, and one portion is set aside for a guest bedroom. On the second floor we find a master bedroom and one more room for a family member expected to come in the future. All this is coordinated with external design to support the family’s lifestyle in the most perfect way. As the architect adds,

“The primary design is all about controlling sunlight and creating balance between outside and the outer and  inner courtyards. The home is open and airy in every direction. The horizontal “wall” above looks almost like a hat on the house, and functions both to block harsh light from the sun and create a wide open view at eye level.

Modern House

“The concept is what we call ‘Passive Design’: design where the natural systems facilitate living. It also came out in a style both we and the owner are happy with. It’s a happy mix of many things.”

Canalside “Garden House” for Happiness, Thai-Style

Canalside “Garden House” for Happiness, Thai-Style

Like Thai houses of former eras, this garden house has a high open area called a tai thun on the ground floor, an economical construction that suits Thailand’s climate and terrain and encourages family culture.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Sarayut Sreetip-ard /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham

Three years ago Pongsakorn Tumpruksa, of Arsom Silp Community and Environmental Architects Co., Ltd., decided to live the waterside life and build a family home on 340 square meters at water’s edge in Bang Khun Thian, where two other streams converge with Bang Mot Canal.

Thai houses

The roadside entrance is in back, so the house fronts on the canal, Thai-style.

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The tall tai thun includes a carport and an area blocked off as a workshop. An open staircase leads up to the porch, and in the center is a large contiguous open space combining living and dining areas, with the kitchen on one side and bedrooms on the other. Pongsakorn explained the three design principles he kept in mind:

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  • A centuries-old principle of Central Thai traditional architecture is suitability for the environment, balancing sun, wind, and rain to keep things cool and comfortable. Here the old knowledge is blended with modern construction materials. The high tai thun avoids flooding and termite damage. Good air circulation is ensured with a high roof with long eaves; windows and a gap below the roof help release hot air. There is a deck where either clothes or fish can be dried, a heat-resistant mesh on the wooden roof, and there is an open porch below the eaves where you can sit, catch the breeze, and relax from the heat. Also the gardens around the house give shade and maintain moisture, cooling the area.

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  • The architecture promotes family culture. Previously the family lived in a townhouse, chatted at the dinner table, and were always in close, warm contact. To continue that feeling, living and dining areas and kitchen were designed as a single continuous space.

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  • Economical construction. The house was built with a limited budget: overbuilding would have been problematic. Thai traditional knowledge shows how to do this: leave room for gradual expansion, building onto the house as needed, as was done in Thailand’s earlier days.

Pongsakorn tells us, “Building a home for my loved ones was like building happiness. What I’m most proud of is doing it as the architect son of my father, who worked for the government as an architectural technician. Dad left us last year, but he got to live with us in this house.”

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“Happiness for me is growing plants and living in a shady, cool home,” says Pongsakorn’s mother with a smile. “I’m truly glad that Father had the chance to live here with us.”

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“Huean Tham,” Local Thai House in a Japanese Tradition

“Huean Tham,” Local Thai House in a Japanese Tradition

Local, with a Modern Flavor

Local, with a Modern Flavor

This steel-frame Thai house, a vacation home with a tai thun (open space below), is pared down to modern-style essentials and incorporates elements of a Buddhist temple. Natural ventilation is good enough that it doesn’t need to rely on air conditioning.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Soopakorn Srisakul /// Design: PO-D Architects

Regarding “Baan Loy Lom,” as the home is known, a PO-D Company architect said, “This house in the Baan Rai Thaw Si Project presented the challenge of creating a restful getaway for meditation practice on holidays, eliminating all nonessentials. The house’s owner didn’t want to come here and have it be like everywhere else, but rather to have a temple mood, with a monks’ hall, a place to invite dear friends to come sit in a meditation circle and practice dharma.” There were two more challenges. First, the owner was partial to Thai houses, but wanted this one to have a steel frame. One reason for that was that the house had connections to the steel industry, and another was a village conservationist regulation forbidding use of land fill above a certain height.

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Design began with the steel frame and then added features that give the house truly Thai characteristics. A high tai thun open lower space was added, with display columns independent of the house frame. Usable space is separated into blocks connected by open areas. The roof’s partially gabled section connects with a single-sheet roof. Other signature additions include open panels, latticework, openings for light, and folding doors, all elements of traditional Thai houses, but arranged differently here.

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The “monks’ hall” takes central importance, so by design it is visible from every room. For privacy’s sake, though, it can’t be seen from the street. The walkway has a bent axis to give desired angles of view. Brick walls are of Lampang clay, with a lighter shade and more relaxing to the eyes than brick from elsewhere. Apertures inspired by the shape of a temple are cut into walls, but these are of varying sizes and arranged in ways that aren’t always orderly, so that the house doesn’t appear too austere. Similarly, latticework is arranged to give the house a warm look and also to let in breeze and light as appropriate.

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Inside, especially in the living room – which is like a shady, roofed platform – we feel the air circulating around us, never too warm. This shows the success of the design plan, based on Thai-style traditional construction from roof to wide openings for air and light, but enhanced with modern materials such as steel, channeled through the wisdom of an architect with the ability to find solutions matching the wants and needs of the people who live here.

Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”: Comfortable Living, Easy Repair

Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”: Comfortable Living, Easy Repair

This wooden home in San Sai District, Chiang Mai Province connects 2 buildings with a high, wide open tai thun (open lower floor) featuring a long dining table and “living room” spot that gets a cool breeze the whole day.

Story: Patsiri Chotpongsun /// Photography: Rithirong Chanthongsuk /// Design: Nuttawut Saylahom

 Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”

Ae (Nuttawut) and May (Sutthida) Saylahom had scheduled ten months to build their new home, but it took more than a year to finish, until after their second son was born. Along the way a few alterations were made: a planned swimming pool, for instance, became instead a grass lawn where their young Kiri would be able to run and play with his new little brother.

Ae worked as both architect and laborer here in combining an old Lanna rice granary with the original wooden house next to it. Construction began by disassembling the old buildings: original components and materials were removed and set aside for use in new functionality envisioned in the new design. The granary’s primary structure remains: 8 large wooden pillars, with 4 pillars angled inwards for weight-bearing purposes. There is a tall main column reaching all the way through to the tie beam – a primary roof component – and another post up to the roof for ridgepole support, all set in a foundation of poured concrete to protect against moisture and ground-nesting termites.

 Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”  Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun” Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”  Wooden House with Thai-style “Tai Thun”

“Huean Tham,” Local Thai House in a Japanese Tradition

“Huean Tham,” Local Thai House in a Japanese Tradition

This home connects architecture and life in a beautiful, serene composition at one with nature, hence the name “Huean Tham” (House of Dharma)

Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa /// Photography: Soopakorn Srisakul /// Owner : Somyot Suparpornhemin and Usaburo Sato /// Design:
Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect /// Project Consultant : Teerapon Niyom /// Architect: Nuntapong Lertmaneetaweesap /// Contractor: Pratiew Yasai

The Huean Tham house has a depth that makes it much more than just a place to live. It’s actually a group of buildings and rooms, each with its own particular use. The Thai word tham (dharma) is integral to the words thammachat (nature) and thammada (natural), and suggests tranquility in life.

Local Thai House

Huean Tham is a residence, a design workshop for naturally dyed fabrics, and a storehouse for Usaato brand fabrics, all in 6 buildings. First is “ruean yai” (the large house), residence of owners Somyot Suparpornhemin and Usaburo Sato.

Just to the north is ruean lek (small house), where the children and visiting friends stay. More or less in the center of the complex is sala tham (dharma hall), a place to socialize, with a shady multipurpose yard for activities such as dharma seminars and trainings in woven fabric design, for a local village weaving group, and in natural soap production. There is also a shrine with a wooden Buddha here. Both wings of the second floor hold guest rooms for close friends. On the southwest side is ruean luang pho (holy man house), a retreat for family members which serves as a monk’s hut when a revered spiritual teacher is invited to the home. Finally, to the south are akhan kep pha (fabric storehouse) and ruean ngan (workshop) for design work, with different rooms for specialists in different crafts.

Local Thai HouseLocal Thai HouseLocal Thai House

Huean Tham’s outstanding attributes were conceived by Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect with the aim of combining good features of the traditional Thai house with functional Japanese concepts. Entering ruean yai we see the floor is raised a bit: this is to protect against ground moisture. Thai and Japanese homes share a characteristic utilization of the area beneath the main house for guest reception and dining, a multipurpose space called “tai thun” in Thai. Construction materials were selected for their good points and their suitability: the house is constructed primarily of wood, the house frame primarily of concrete and steel.

The architecture of Huean Tham isn’t flashy or showy. The true beauty of this home is in its fusion of architecture with life toward a oneness with nature and the ways of tranquility, raising the level of excellence for both the architectural team and for Eung and Ussa’s lifestyle. This excellence will continuously reinforce the beauty of this home as time goes on.

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House Under The Pines

House Under The Pines

This modern house nestled in pine-forested hills is surrounded by green grass and tree-studded scenery that provides privacy and accents its harmony with the natural setting.

/// VIETNAM ///
Story: Sara’ /// Photography: Triệu Chiến /// Design: Idee Architects

Modern House

This house was designed by a Vietnamese team from Idee Architects whose priorities involved respecting the former environment instead of leveling the hill and responding to the simplicity of the owner’s lifestyle. This they managed with an “open space” concept in a home full of modern conveniences that still stays close to nature, washed in the sunlight that streams in through the pine woods.

Modern House

The house is built on two levels, the lower section holding a carport/garage and multipurpose room, and the upper level with living room, kitchen, and four bedrooms set atop a piney hill with a magnificent view on three sides. Interior colors are dominated by natural-looking mid-tone colors: whites, blacks, greys, browns, conveying natural warmth and tranquility. The “focus and flow” design creates points of interest with a play of straight, horizontal, and vertical lines laid against the curves of the drive.

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Three-meter eaves project out from the house to offer increased protection from Vietnam’s heavy rain and bright sunlight. The house is designed in the shape of a slightly unbalanced “T” with a “semi-outdoor” pathway reaching all around. Except for the outdoor shower belonging to the master bedroom, on good-weather days doors and windows on every side of the house can be opened to let the air flow through. A corridor on the west side acts as heat insulation for the bedroom, an elegant simplicity in design that creates balance between static and dynamic elements in the house.

The bedroom’s spaciousness shows dynamism, with the static element expressed through its privacy and sense of peace and quiet. The house is securely tucked away in greenery, as the building was actually designed to blend in with the trees that were already present. The big grass lawn out in front of the living room and bedrooms provides a great playground for the kids without blocking the idyllic view from inside.

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The house structure is primarily of authentic materials like steel, brick, and glass, whose lightness makes for easier adjustments when encountering problems combining them in construction while helping reduce living expenses and minimize negative effects on the original land. Future energy use is optimized with the wide roof’s facilitation of solar energy storage as well as through clean water and the cultivation of vegetables, all of which truly support a comfortable and relaxing lifestyle.

Link: Idee architects – 

A Steel Frame Waterfront House That Blends Modernity with Context

A Steel Frame Waterfront House That Blends Modernity with Context

This home rises above a tall tai thun open space perfect for socializing, especially for large family gatherings. And it has some surprises inside.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham /// Design: Volume Matrix Studio 

There was already a residence built here, but it wasn’t designed with the evolving needs of such a big family in mind, so a new space was created, a new waterfront home where everyone could come together and guests could spend the night.

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 The steel used for columns, beams, stairs, and balconies is surplus material  from a large construction business belonging to the owner himself. “I had to scale the entire house to fit all that material,” said architect Kasin Sonsri, of Volume Matrix Studio as he spoke about the design challenges.

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This Ayutthaya home is put together to give the feel of a traditional Thai house, with its high tai thun to use as a multi-purpose courtyard, broad eaves reaching out, living area open and inviting to the outside breeze, house raised up to catch views of the river and the garden below. There’s a wide porch, an add-on extending out from the big house. Massive posts and beams are designed to showcase their structural utility as a part of the house, as do the steps up into the dining room, the walkways, the outside porch, and the rain gutters spilling water through a steel grate. All these elements combine to give a unique contemporary look to this house of steel and wood. The interior décor is simple. The second floor features an “open plan” separation of usable space: walls open up, reaching through from the kitchen into a large dining nook and from there into the living room area.

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Step up onto the third floor, and surprise! The décor completely changes and it’s as if you’ve suddenly dropped into a Japanese home, where the style of mats, windows, and doors all tell you why the owner named the house “Sala Zen.” In this room is a built-in cabinet where bedding is stored so that guests can easily come spend the night. Outside is a roof deck garden highlighted by an Onsen hot tub in an outdoor private spot that can’t be seen from the garden below.

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This home is composed of many elements, but they all blend to make this a truly Thai residence, a steel-framed waterfront house that’s warm and familial, fits perfectly into its context, and offers the experience of comfortable living with natural light and breezes and great views all around, on this small Ko Rian soi in Ayutthaya Province.

Steel House


Single-Storey House on a Foundation of Simplicity

Single-Storey House on a Foundation of Simplicity

Right in the middle of a field in Ang Thong Province stands a single-storey house that has become a community point of interest, built with his own cash by a 73-year-old youngster.

/// THAILAND ///
Story: Patsiri Chot /// Photography: Soopakorn Srisakul /// Design: Teerachai Leesuraplanon /// Style: Somboon Kringkrai

Owner Chamnan Chatchawalyangkul says, “At my age, I really needed to make this happen while I was still strong enough to get around. I don’t want to be a burden on my kids when I’m not so capable anymore, living in a cramped room with them worrying about me all the time. I needed to plan in advance to have a house where I can take care of myself. And the house will eventually belong to the kids anyhow.” 

Single-Storey House / Teerachai LeesuraplanonSingle-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon Single-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon Single-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon

Chamnan’s design is spare and open, with excellent ventilation. With everything on the same level, each room is accessible by wheelchair. One special place is a karaoke room for him and his friends. Architect Jim (Teerachai) Leesuraplanon tells us, “Chamnan said he’d always lived in a rowhouse, a limited, safe space. Some people might want a house in the middle of an open lot to be open all around, but I think about safety, too. This is why we put the brick wall in front, and the iron bars, barriers that still allow light and air to pass through. I’d summarize the design I had in mind with the three words ‘balance,’ ‘blend,’ and ‘believe,’ expressing a balanced life, cause and effect, and faith.”

Single-Storey House / Teerachai LeesuraplanonSingle-Storey House / Teerachai LeesuraplanonSingle-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon
Standing in a rural field with a road in front, the house opens out on a rubber tree orchard in the rear. Simplicity is the foundation of the design: a balance between vertical and horizontal lines and surfaces, no nooks or ridges to collect dust, and elemental materials such as concrete, wood, metal, brick, and gravel. A metal frame lifts the roof at an angle to break the force of the wind. The floor is raised above the ground, facilitating maintenance work on utility systems beneath. The front wall is a striking display of BPK brick, a local Ang Thong material, laid in a unique arrangement to create beautiful patterns of light and shade, with an additional layer of sliding glass windows for safety. Around the house is laid a path of river gravel, so someone in the house can easily hear a person walking outside.

Single-Storey House / Teerachai LeesuraplanonSingle-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon Single-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon

The big central living room is a great place to relax, but the real heart of the house is the big porch. When the folding doors are opened, the room opens up, and it’s much like an old-time Thai house, with the added benefit of a great view of the gorgeous rubber forest, just as the original design envisioned.

Single-Storey House / Teerachai LeesuraplanonSingle-Storey House / Teerachai Leesuraplanon