Maerim House: A U-Shaped Steel Frame Home Fosters Harmony with Nature

Maerim House: A U-Shaped Steel Frame Home Fosters Harmony with Nature

Maerim House: A U-Shaped Steel Frame Home Fosters Harmony with Nature

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Markus Gortz /

Amidst a beautiful mountain landscape, a steel frame home looks lightweight under a canopy of overhanging trees in Mae Rim District, roughly 15 minutes’ drive from Chiang Mai’s downtown. It’s tucked away in a cozy corner of a peaceful neighborhood blending seamlessly into the dark green of nearby woodlands. Upfront a natural water pond lies hemmed in by the U-shaped house plan, creating an environmentally friendly living space. Needless to say, it’s invitingly comfortable, calm and peaceful thanks to the crisp cool mountain air passing through all day. Nothing compares to living close to nature.

Its spacious floor plan affords a whopping 800 square meters of living, functional and utility spaces snug by the warmth of a northern countryside. The brainchild of Design Qua, an architectural practice based in Bangkok, the house among the trees is designed to be in harmony with nature. This can only come from a profound understanding of the place, knowledge of the local climate and efforts at maintaining ecological balance long term.

A drawing illustrates the various component parts of a U-shape house plan in relation to the courtyard under tree cover and a water pond that’s the centerpiece of landscape design. / Courtesy of Design Qua
A diagram of the second floor shows the private residential wing at the far end, utility areas on the left, and the multipurpose wing holding a welcome area in the foreground. / Courtesy of Design Qua
A side-elevation view of the U-shaped house plan in cross section illustrates the physical interactions between man and nature, as evidenced by the positioning of living spaces linked by a system of corridors, balconies and verandas overlooking the courtyard with a water pond. / Courtesy of Design Qua

That being said, structural steel framing comes in as a handy building technique. Among other advantages, vertical steel columns take up less space than do concrete ones. This helps to avoid damaging the root system of a rain tree standing close by. Steel frames provide a stronger, more durable structure than concrete does. Plus, it’s lightweight and faster to construct. Overall, they are the key attributes that give the home its character.

Steel framing for building construction offers many advantages. Among others, it takes up less space and provides flexibility in design as evidenced by a system of pathways connecting to all parts of the home. Plus, it promotes good ventilation and interactions between nature and humankind.

Typical of homes in the Northern Region, passive design strategies take priority over any other matter. Correct building orientation ensures there are enough openings in the walls to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home, while texture applied to walls and ceilings create shadows and an even concentration of warm soft light in the interior.

Named Maerim House, the two-story steel home is built on a U-shaped floor plan with a courtyard containing a natural water pond occupying the in-between space.

The house consists of three parts. First, the north wing holds a garage upfront leading to the main entrance with a warm and cozy welcome room. The ground is covered with new top soil, paved and polished to give it a neat and clean surface. The raised floorboard ensures safety in case of heavy rain.

The second part of the house plan is raised at plinth height 60 centimeters above the ground. All the equipment and utility spaces are here, among them washing and drying machines plus a work studio at the far end right next to a rather unique circular bathroom.

The third and final section of the home holds a quiet, secluded residential area. The downstairs consists of a kitchen complete with dining and sitting rooms plus a bedroom for guest accommodation. It’s accessed by a veranda tiled in different colors and textures that blend with surrounding courtyard landscapes. Close at hand, the overhanging branches of a rain tree spread above the water’s edge providing crisp, cool shade.

The counter enclosed by an overlapping clapboard of reclaimed timber adds vintage appeal to the kitchen and dining area.
For a good first impression, the welcome wing is enclosed by glass walls and sliding doors that open to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the room.

A set of steps illuminated by recessed lights gives access to a two-meter-wide veranda overlooking the water pond that’s the focal point of the courtyard landscape.

Nearby, an apparently lightweight set of stairs next to a breeze block wall provides access to the second floor holding the principal bedroom. From here, a hallway connects to a living area and a circular bathroom and, beyond, two other bedrooms tucked away at the far end. On the outside of the building, a spacious balcony affords beautiful views of the rain tree and lush courtyard landscapes.

Separate but not divided. Breeze block walls painted a muted shade of green clearly define the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, at the same time providing visual continuity between the two worlds.
A yoga pavilion at the rear of the house affords a beautiful panorama of wooded hills and surrounding mountains stretching farther than the eye can see.

For indoor thermal comfort, the house’s wooden floorboard is made up of long planks recycled from older homes, resulting in a feel and appearance that make people feel calm. The interior decor is simple yet elegant, featuring the simplicity of a mix-and-match between old and contemporary items. The furnishings mostly sourced from within the region bespeak the homeowner’s love for pleasingly graceful styles adorned with beautiful works of handicraft.

The upstairs bedroom boasts the simplicity of a floorboard made up of reclaimed wooden planks installed with narrow grooves in between, creating a texture that’s the only one of its kind.
Tall wall ideas provide ample room for an awning window hinged at the top. It opens and shuts as needed to regulate fresh outdoor air streaming into the upstairs bedroom.
An accent wall in the downstairs living room is tiled in different colors symbolizing variety, with a fireplace directly across from it radiates timeless appeal.

To create a restful atmosphere, perforate brick walls are painted earthy light green that visually blends with the darkness of nearby wooded hills in the landscape. For a lightweight look, the home is roofed over with metal sheeting with extended overhangs protecting the glass walls from the elements. At the end of the gutter, rain chains direct the flow of water from the rooftop to the ground in a more controlled way.

Taken as a whole, it’s a beautiful amalgam of natural and built environments. Built largely of bricks and reclaimed timber, the steel frame home successfully merges into the complex woodland ecosystems that are the pride and joy of this part of Chiang Mai. By design, it’s a simple structure inspired by a yearning desire to live closer to nature. And that’s exactly the point. Gorgeous!

Architect: Design Qua

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