/ Story: Phattaraphon / English Version: Bob Pitakwong / Photographs: Arti Pictures /
A live/work design solution could be just what you’re looking for. Here’s a home developed for a designer couple in Tangerang, Indonesia. Known as MP House, it marries work-from-home essentials with well-planned living spaces that come loaded with personality.
The secret to a productive daily routine, it combines both residential and home office functions. The workspace lies on the first floor, that also includes a semi-basement, while the more private residential area is placed on the level above it.
The ample residential space is divided into two parts. Semi‐private facilities such as the living room and dining room take up the front of the house, whereas more private spaces and bedrooms are located at the rear that are designed for peace and seclusion.
On the first floor, only a dry garden separates the home office from the guest and kids’ bedrooms at the rear. By design, healthy green foliage in the center courtyard serves as an engine that drives natural ventilation and provides a light and heat barrier. The result is a tranquil indoor environment that’s the key to a happy family life.
In a sensitive and practical way, indoor ramps with handrails are chosen as an alternative to a set of stairs to provide access between different levels. The sloped pathways are particularly useful for the homeowner’s elderly parents. Plus, it’s the split-level design that makes the most effective use of available space.
There is a real sense of achievement in the way the living room and dining room merge into one large lounge with comforting earth tones and double-height ceiling design. It’s a place to eat home-cooked meals and enjoy family conversations that help keep everyone together. Semi-private by design, the ample social interaction space is well-lit and well-ventilated.
The house has a modern exterior. Filled with cement breeze blocks, aka screen blocks, the front façade looks onto another dry garden located just above the carport.
The decorative breeze blocks are chosen for their ability to provide sun protection and maintain openness and airflow. Meantime, flat masonry textures that are repetitive and earthy in color provide a variety of light refraction that adds aesthetic pleasure to the interior living space.
The building is roofed over with a gable design that offers many benefits. Besides strength and durability, it allows the architects to create all kinds of space underneath.
The result is a hybrid live/work design of the home office and the place of residence that feels pleasantly comfortable and capacious.
The design studio of VTN Architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects) sits comfortably ensconced in a plant-covered six-story building in Ho Chi Minh City. The 1,300-square-meter office block is adorned with balconies containing lush green gardens that combine to create a vibrant building shell. It’s a design based on an understanding of the challenges facing big cities and the importance of environmental conservation.
Far and wide a lack of recreation areas and green spaces, coupled with rapidly worsening air pollution, is causing serious health problems for people in urban areas. It’s for this reason that living trees and shrubs are integrated into the ‘ building’s external envelope.
The result is a green office block that brings fresh air to the design. Here, easy-care trees cool the air, provide shade, and filter out dangerous, fine particulate matter. It transforms ideas into solutions as Vietnam, a developing country, joins a global network of advanced manufacturing hubs.
Precisely, it’s a design rooted in good environmental management practice that aims to minimize human impacts on surrounding ecosystems – a fact that’s easy to overlook when planning a building. Also known as the Urban Farming Office, it communicates a message that failure to do so will have unpredictable and often undesirable consequences.
The Urban Farming Office isn’t just home to a design studio. It’s also a perfect example of innovative companies driven by a desire to go green in the workplace.
Plus, it gives back healthy lush foliage and a breath of fresh air to the city. That’s not all though. It draws attention to many possibilities of vertical gardening – techniques to grow more in less space.
From the outside looking in, the building façade looks like a botanical laboratory lined with decorative concrete containers where trees and plants grow. They are mostly easy-to-care-for native plants that thrive in local ecosystems. Where appropriate, seasonal vegetables, herbs and spices are grown organically to meet family needs. It’s a way to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
And it’s safe, eco-friendly, and even energy efficient.
From a distance, thriving vegetation turns the bland building shell into a lushly planted living façade. Overall it’s a straightforward concrete construction with outdoor platforms attached to the side of the building.
These balconies are filled with modular concrete planters designed to be moved easily depending on the height and growth of trees. This ensures that each particular species gets sufficient amounts of sun to grow.
Combine biodiversity in the balcony and rooftop gardening with the surrounding landscape, and you get an expansive urban forest that amounts to 190 percent of the total project area. As the architect puts it, this translates into 1.1 tons of vegetation including native edible plants, vegetables, herbs and fruit trees carefully chosen as being the best and most suitable.
Also, it’s organic farming and the quality of being diverse that give the office building a cheerful and positive personality.
Walk past the front façade, and you come before an inviting first impression. The window, doorframe and exterior wall are glazed entirely with glass to protect interior rooms from the elements.
On the outside, lush green vegetation doubles as a building envelope that filters out harsh sunlight while allowing plenty of fresh, outdoor air to pass into the interior workspaces. Plant watering is done using rainwater stored in catch basins strategically placed around the building.
The irrigation method that sprays water droplets overhead with sprinklers also keeps the ambient temperature cool, thereby saving money on air conditioning costs.
On every level, the open floor plan boasts clean lines that make the interior workspace look more spacious and well-ventilated all day long. All told, it’s the ingenious double wall design that makes living a whole lot easier and less stressful.
To give a brief summary, green architecture isn’t the only feature that makes this office building stand out from the rest. Rather, it’s also the image of organizational culture that speaks volumes for the determination of the architects who live and work here.
VTN Architects have demonstrated that humans and the environment can coexist symbiotically. This is achievable by letting nature permeate and be a crucial part of the city and any office design. It’s the way forward in creating a more equitable, sustainable future.
To have more space for his three children, M.L. Varudh Varavarn (Vin) of Vin Varavarn Architectsbuilt this modern house amid a garden on a quarter-acre property in the heart of Bangkok’s ChidlomDistrict.
“Children need a place with trees to run and play,” was Vin’s first thought in keeping all the original trees for the garden. Each room looks out on this great play area.
“When we built the place we’d just come back from living abroad in a town house. There wasn’t really enough space for the kids there, so we made this home more about the kids than ourselves,” he told LivingASEAN.
One primary building material was 20-year-old teakwood from Vin’s mother’s plantation in Kamphaeng Phet, much of which had been eaten hollow by wood boring beetles and couldn’t be sold to a lumber yard.
“We figured wood like this might give an interesting look. Talking with The Jam Factory contractor Subhashok gave us some ideas.
“We wanted something that didn’t look too slick, but had unique character and was durable. Wood, concrete, and steel were our main building materials.”
With porous teak, it’s best to cut the wood into narrow boards, sort out the more porous ones, then use the different types in different parts of the house.
Wood with no holes is used for flooring. Even though you can see into the sapwood on some, porous wood panels can be used for latticework, folding doors/windows, and ceilings, which are not usually touched by people, and they can be patched where called for.
This steel-frame box-shaped house uses cement walls as artifice: for instance, the wall of rough concrete next to the parking area creates a vertical play of light and shadow on garden stone surfaces.
Meantime, the living room’s big brick walls are surfaced with concrete poured in different concentrations, creating gray stripes in gentle contrast to the rough harshness of the concrete itself.
The house plan visually connects interior and outdoor spaces in a number of places: coming in the door, we first encounter an interior court with a tree, then walk around into the living area, dining space, and large open-plan pantry flanked on both sides by gardens, seeming to switch character back and forth between being indoors and outdoors.
By the tree court is a latticed staircase of wood and steel leading to the 2nd floor, where we find a living area, children’s activity room, and all the bedrooms.
“The kids have been happy here, and feel more like staying at home, so we’ve achieved a nice level of success,” added M.L. Varudh. Before the evening came we got to see all 3 of Vin’s children as they got back from school to run, play, climb, and have fun, laughing and smiling, sometimes in the children’s activity room.
A renovation done right turns this 40-year-old house into a white minimalist home that oozes charm and character. It’s spacious with all mod cons. The original frame of the house is retained, but important interventions are added to improve structural integrity, enhance indoor comfort and boost curb appeal. Among them, an array of vertical blades provides vital sun shading integrated into the façade.
Condominium living is awesome for young adults and families without kids. But as their family grew, Prem and Wasinee Chatmanop soon found it unfit to answer their lifestyle needs.
That was reason enough to go searching for a house to buy starting from their familiar neighborhood. Call it serendipity. It wasn’t long before the couple found a fixer-upper located on a 40-year-old housing development in Choke Chai 4 area.
The house was in poor condition and had to be completely renovated. A lot had to be demolished, from the floors to walls to ceilings that had fallen into decay. Only the beams, poles and gable roof trusses that were part of the original load-bearing structure were preserved.
Out with the old, in with the new
“I went out and looked at several houses. In the end, I was really pleased that I chose this one.
“The old house sat on nice square shape land 100 square wah in extent that was characteristic of housing estates in the past. I had a team of building engineers do a structural integrity assessment to determine it was good to buy.
“The house’s interior was old and in disrepair. So we left the renovation project in the good hands of architect Sitthichai Chompooh of the Perspective design studio. We specifically chose to have him do it after having seen his work in ‘The Renovation’, a BaanLaeSuan TV program. It happened to be the style that I liked,” said Prem.
At first, the architect was a bit concerned since the old house was built on a slope below the street level. In spite of that, he was attracted by the gable roof that was the popular appeal in the old days. This made it possible to create an open concept floor plan that seamlessly merged with a lush green side garden. The result was a complete transformation that offered 287 square meters of living spaces.
Sharing his experience, Sitthichai said: “The ground floor was further elevated by 30 centimeters to prevent groundwater flooding. Then, the old false ceiling suspended from the structure above was removed to create more headroom. Next, everything that had been added to the existing construction was demolished to make room for a new open floor plan.
“This included taking out the old floors, walls and extensions that were damaged over a long period of time.”
Higher floor, more windows, and continuous flow
The renovation project started with further elevating the ground floor to put it higher than street level. Then, the entire floor plan was reorganized and the exterior redesigned. This results in bigger windows that allow for natural daylighting and the interconnectedness between spaces.
The highlight of his design is a spacious interior that brings indoor and outdoor rooms together to form a larger whole. Plus, the atmosphere is relaxing, thanks to side garden ideas that bring the benefits of natural light into the interior.
All of this is achieved without making changes to the original framework of the house. Where appropriate, unnecessary details are reduced and important units of construction added to enhance structural integrity. In the meantime, green spaces are integrated in the design for indoor thermal comfort, while simple clean lines create a warm and inviting place to unwind after a long day at work.
Taking everything into account, it’s an amazing house makeover, one that transforms an old-fashioned fixer-upper into a modern minimalist home that reflects the personality of the people living in it.
A cool and restful home close to nature
Slightly off-white walls go best with wood accents. The gray tinge is a winner with soft, weathered wood trim. It’s a contemporary calming color scheme just right for an open floor plan that extends from the living room to dining room to pantry.
That way a feeling of continuous flow is created, and it makes perfect sense to float a sofa in the middle of a large room. From the inside, the living room is enclosed by glass window walls that look out over a lush green side garden, a visual of the design that makes the homeowner couple very happy.
Sharing her experience, Wasinee said: “We spend the most time here in this area, unlike at the condo where the kitchen was isolated from the rest of the interior. The floor plan layout contains a variety of functions separated from one another by furniture rather than being enclosed by walls.
“It’s an open concept design that promotes social interactions. Prem sits here at his desk. I can see the kid playing on the sofa while preparing a meal in the kitchen nearby. It’s a flexible layout that’s easy to update. For the time being, the more space, the better. The child is growing up fast, and more furniture will be added in future.”
The renovation project benefits from large openings in the wall that let natural light stream into the interior living spaces. In the meantime, privacy is very important and needs to be protected. This explains why only the side of the house facing the solid wall of an adjacent townhouse is open for daylighting and connecting seamlessly with a side garden.
Commenting on the renovation plan, the architect said:
“We put in a sundeck patio that’s easily accessible from the dining room. It serves multiple purposes. Where appropriate, vertical fin facades are erected to shield the house from the sun while allowing natural ventilation and daylight. The upright structure also doubles as outdoor privacy wall.”
Taken as a whole, the ground floor is very well thought out. To prevent the living room from smelling like food, an enclosed kitchen is built at the rear of the house that’s devoted to Thai cooking.
The back of the house also has a bedroom kept out of sight in one of the quietest locations. The second floor has three bedrooms, the largest of which affords a garden view from above.
In a few words, the renovation project brings new ideas and energy to an old house after it was vacant for many years. Done right, the old-fashioned gable roof house completely transforms into an awesome minimalist home oozing with charm.
Simple, clean lines give the house its character as well as beauty. Above all, it’s a piece of architecture that connects past, present, and future.
Owner: Prem and Wasinee Chatmanop
Architect: Perspective by Sitthichai Chompooh (www.perspacetive.com)
A large intergenerational family calls this house home. With family members from 8 to 84 years old, what stories it tells! Here belongings passed down across nearly a century give a sense of modern oriental flavor to every corner of its design.
Long-time community worker Patama Roonrakwit, CASE Studio architect who designed and owns the house, created it from her knowledge of the ways and tastes of all its residents in their old home.
In a unique adaptation and fundamental design difference here, she preserved an old wooden house Pong’s grandfather had built, hiring Chinese craftsmen to raise it up to the second floor of the central building so family members could continue to experience its warmth.
Besides this, the home contains the offices of CASE Studio, Ed The Builder Contracting, her brother’s tour company, sister’s music school, and guest rooms where friends can stay.
All this had to fit in a space of 1 Rai (1600 sq.m.), a narrow, long north-to-south lot. The building divides into seven sections, some of which are open, verandah-like corridors that give an angular definition to the space, trapping the wind and making for good air circulation throughout.
Bedrooms are intentionally not large, so as to encourage residents to come out and socialize in common spaces. Throughout the home, doors open onto walkways sloping down to the swimming pool.
The charm of the wooden house and the heirloom furniture gives the three generations of the Roonrakwit family and their regular guests the sense of a home that has opened its doors to welcome change while incorporating the experiences of them all at this important time.
This 7-storey concrete house, blanketed with a refreshing green façade, has angles everywhere, with one especially remarkable section dominated by slanting red posts and beams.
Chatrawichai Phromthattawethi, interior decorator and owner of the company “Pro Space,” lived in a two-storey building for 15 years before finding it too small and building a new place on a nearby property. On that limited space he built upwards rather than out, in fact seven storeys up.
“Designing, we weren’t thinking primarily about style, but utility. The space was narrow, so we built tall.
“Then with a 4-storey townhouse next door we figured an ordinary building would seem too cramped, so we made the building structure visible: posts, beams and deep spaces into open walls creating dimensions of light and shade, adding panache with one section of oddly slanting posts painted red, set off with flowers here and there.”
Even closed in next to a small street, Chatrawichai’s design still provides nearly 1,000 square meters of usable space.
“Depending on use, each floor has a different height.
“The ground floor, with garage and kitchen, is moderately tall. The second floor is an office, and the third holds the butler & maid’s room, all normal height. We use the fourth floor for entertaining, so it’s spacious, with a higher ceiling than the others.
“The fifth floor has a guest bedroom and storage space, the sixth is my bedroom, and the seventh floor holds a living room and dining room set at different levels according to usage; the living room has a higher ceiling. On the roof is a deck, swimming pool, and garden.”
Chatrawichai agrees that this is an unusual design for him, with its red exterior posts at odd angles and interior ceilings displaying working utility systems, plus use of unusual materials such as metallic structural highlights in certain spots, creating a much different residential feeling than before and incidentally requiring a lot of detailed work during construction.
For the interior, furniture and décor mostly come from the old house, a mix of many styles – modern, classic, and antique – matched with exceptional taste because the colors were chosen in advance, primarily framed in a context of gray and black.
Colorful ornaments such as cloth or bright pictures hung on the wall add vitality.
“Coming from a two-storey house, at first living here took some getting used to. It was a tall building with the green façade, but definitely no condo; how to live in such a place? In the end, though, we found it wasn’t all that different,” Chatrawichai adds.
Design: Pro Space Co.,Ltd. by Chatvichai Phromthattadhevi
/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam / / Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / Photographs: Tanakitt Khum-on /
The architecture of this modern breeze blocks tropical house in Ho Chi Minh City is perfectly suited to the hot, humid climate, with an imaginative counterpoint of plants, greenery, and airy openings keeping it shady and pleasant inside and out.
Shunri Nishizawa, architect and owner of this 5-storey row house, designed the Nishizawa Architects office into the basement. Floors 1-3 are rented to a Vietnamese family with bedroom and dining room on the first floor, living room on the second, and more bedrooms on floor three. The Nishizawa family itself has its living room on the fourth floor and bedrooms on the fifth.
Levels from basement up to the fifth floor alternate between open and closed design, according to their use. Catching sunshine and natural breezes, the second- and fourth-storey balconies are edged with small gardens.
This makes the tall building less constricted while allowing for easy air circulation from the front through to the back. Alternating levels extend out from the building’s frame, floors above shading the ones below.
The small gardens also make residents feel relaxed, filter out intense light, and cool the breezes blowing through. Floors two and four feature concrete ceilings sculpted with curves rather than the harsh lines often found in concrete buildings, softening reflected light and creating the sensation of being in natural stone caves.
Shunri says, “This house shows a true combination of ‘tropical’ and ‘modern’ architectural design coming from understanding traditional living patterns in this hot, humid Vietnamese climate as well as how to set things up perfectly for contemporary life.
“It’s safe and secure living with modern comforts such as air conditioning, yet still answers our need to be close to nature, with sunlight, breezes, and open spaces connecting to garden and plants right here in the house.”
For versatility in design, Shunri draws on his experience growing up with multipurpose spaces common in Japanese homes. Areas such as the living room are strategically partitioned to block direct light and view, simultaneously giving privacy and an open feeling.
Hollow blocks, a popular Vietnamese building material, inspired the design of larger outside openings for efficient sun and rainstorm protection.
More than just comfortable living, this house offers a charming blend of nature and architecture, snuggled up to natural phenomena right in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City.
This breeze blocks tropical house is actually much better described as a “house and garden” than simply a “building.”
This tropical waterside house brings back memories of Thai life as it was along Khlong Samsen (Samsen canal) in bygone times. From the outside, it looks straightforward and contemporary, but inside is a fascinating mix of antiques from the owners’ collections.
To match the Thai climate, Associate Professor Dr Tonkao Panin designed this house in a tropical style.
Although it has a contemporary look, the tropical waterside house contains a mix of antiques and collectibles belonging to owners Kajorn Tanaphaet and Eugene Kroon. A major design challenge for Dr Tonkao was to make old and new fit well together.
“My requirements are simply stated: 1. I don’t want luxury. 2. I want high ceilings, and 3. Air conditioning should be minimal. Tonkhao’s proportional design successfully connects the entire property: balcony, reception parlor, reading room, down through the kitchen and out to the swimming pool and pier.
“There are a lot of reasons I’m pleased with this location: it’s at the end of the soi, quiet and peaceful, one side opens onto Khlong Samsen, and there’s space in front for a nice garden.
“I bought the place some time before I ran across a house designed by Tonkhao in a book I was reading and managed to get him to come design this one.
“As you can see, the end result is a good-sized house with a great style,” says Kajorn.
The design of this tropical waterside house took 8 months, and construction an additional year.
“We did it little by little, along the way discovering things we liked in the detail suggested by the word ‘house.’ Here is a mixture of many things: some sections come from Eugene and me, some from Tonkao, and there are things the craftsmen suggested as we chatted during construction.”
Aside from the remarkable style and the great number of owner-collected antiques and collected artifacts, another point of interest is the unusual transverse placement of the house, set crosswise on the property.
“Kajorn wanted to have the house right on the water,” explains Professor Tonkhao, “and orienting the house this way lets it catch the constant breeze from the lawn out to the khlong.”
So this tropical waterside house has permanent natural ventilation. “Even though the design is straightforward, we want it to create a feeling somewhere between being inside and outside, a tropical feeling.
“The house is designed so it can fully open up to the air from terrace and doorways, that all can be left open. At the same time, balconies and doors block the direct sun from entering the building, creating different levels of sunshine and shade inside and out.”
Even in the late afternoon, it’s still shady and cool. The patio has a long porch deck reminiscent of an “arcade,” the façade of a Sino-Portuguese-style house.
There’s a balcony door which can be opened vertically as a sunshade, a similar design to a Thai-style “baan krathung” pop-up window.
Features such as this help create an amazing sense of comfort for a Bangkok house.
“There used to be only four, but I adopted more cats. So I ended up with seven of them. They were the reason that we left our old apartment and built a new home in the suburb.”
The apartment back in Kuala Lumpur was a bit chaotic. He made a good decision. The new house in suburban Petaling Jaya, Selangor turned out to be an expedient solution. Now he can work in the comfort of his new home and occasionally go to meetings in the city.
In the process, the quality of life for him and his family, as well as that of the cats, has improved markedly.
The design is inspired by Rumah Melayu, the Malaysian version of houses of stilts, the difference being that this one is crafted of modern materials and utilizing new technologies.
The new home boasts high ceilings for a light and airy feel. Correct orientation allows it to take advantage of certain aspects of the surroundings.
Take for instance, the pinnacle of the steeply pitched roof, which is set at an angle that effectively shades the house from the scorching afternoon sun.
This results in thermal comfort in the interior living spaces. The first floor is set aside for a carport, storage spaces, and a gym, while the entire upper floor provides ample spaces for modern living.
It’s obvious the architect designed the new home with his cats in mind. The entire front façade is wrapped in mesh panels from top to bottom to protect the cats from wandering off or going into harm’s way.
In the meantime, they keep the domestic feline population from coming in contact with stray cats. Attention to detail ensures that every door closes securely. Even door knobs are carefully thought-out so that no cat can open them.
The awesome design ensures the surrounding landscape can be seen in full view from the master bedroom. Well, at least for now. Everything changes. “The view from my bedroom will be the same until someone buys those hills,” said the architect.
This has been a story of kind pet owners and their feline companions. In such a beautiful home, they can live happily ever after.
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