Blog : Mae Rim

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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Mitbury the Public House: A Café in Pastel Brown Humbly Camouflaged in Nature’s Embrace

Mitbury the Public House: A Café in Pastel Brown Humbly Camouflaged in Nature’s Embrace

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Prueksakun Kornudom, Ornpailin Leelasiriwong /

Tucked away amidst the crisp mountain air and dense green plants thriving under tree cover, a quaint country café takes center stage giving off friendly vibes. It’s enclosed by glass walls on three sides, while perimeter fence walls of large breeze blocks in pastel brown speak volumes for the humble origins of mankind.

Lying furthest from everything else, a lazy brook passes by reflecting sunlight glistening with sparkles in misty winds. Aptly named “Mitbury the Public House”, the café and nearby support buildings merge into the cool shade of wooded hills in the backdrop. It’s arguably the most exquisite kind of scenery. And it’s located right here in Mae Rim District, only a short ride from Chiang Mai’s city center.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the aroma of coffee beans being ground and roasted in the background smells like heaven. There’s nothing like chilling out, sipping one’s favorite Morning Brew on a quiet day at nature’s edge.

The project comprises three small buildings with a chic coffee bar located at the center of the property. The other two buildings lie hidden in plain sight behind the walls of perforate blocks in muted brown designed to promote ventilation and regulate sunlight. The coffee bar itself affords 140 square meters of restaurant space canopied by overhanging trees.

A charcoal sketch of the premises illustrates the positioning of the café and two support buildings enclosed by a perforate wall and surrounding terrain features. / Courtesy of WOS Architects
A side-elevation view of the café building in cross section, silhouetted against a breeze block wall lying under the canopy of overhanging trees / Courtesy of WOS Architects

The brainchild of WOS Architects, a Bangkok-based architectural practice, Mitburi the Public House is a design masterpiece that seeks reconnections with the natural world.

Walk in the door, and you find an ample space used for guests and seating. Interestingly, the rough textured wall in soft pastel beige at the back is the sight to behold. It stands overlooking the space used for preps, the coffee bar and kitchen.

From a distance, a paved passageway glides past lush lawns leading to first building that houses the café and kitchen. The second building holds storage space and staff quarters, while the third is a complete toilet building. By design, they lie hidden from view behind the perforate brick walls.

A footbridge gives access to nearby wooded hills. It’s built of structural I-beam framing, with wooden planks and railings of wire infill panels for protection against slip and fall accidents.

All of them are built of structural steel framing. Where appropriate, the exterior walls are crafted of natural building materials sourced from within the community. Immediately appealing among them is the floor tiled in grayish brown. It lies covered with thin slabs of baked clay from a local kiln, creating charm, good looks that embrace imperfect simplicity.

For visual continuity, the café building itself is enclosed by glass walls on three sides, with a pair of transom windows at the top of the front door. A clean, well-lighted place, the interior is warm and welcoming, thanks to pale soft lights that are less distracting, adding romantic appeal to the room.

From inside the café, glass walls provide undisrupted visual continuity between indoors and outdoors. The floor is tiled in reddish brown slabs fired the old-fashioned way by a local kiln, the beauty of imperfections that blends with the surroundings.
The café building stands among the trees, enclosed by glass walls on three sides. They open to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the room.

Out-of-doors, yard landscaping ideas are just impressive. Perforate blocks in reddish brown fill up the entire boundary fence, blending seamlessly into the dark green of the forest’s edge. Located furthest to the rear, a footbridge built of steel I-beams, wooden planks and wire infill railings provide access to nearby forested hills.

Attention to detail is evidenced by the breeze block fence in muted brown that separates the business premises into clearly defined zones depending on functionality.
The complete toilet building stands hidden from view, separated from nearby lush lawns and café space by a wall of perforate bricks for ventilation.

The I-beams are painted a grayish green hue that merges into large areas of old woodlands in the background. Underneath the footbridge, a babbling stream runs idly by meandering through the rock-covered forest floor. Above it, cool breezes and leaves rustling in the trees entice the imagination.

Overall, the business premises keep firmly to the owner’s initial resolve to leave every tree and the nearby brook where they have always been, giving rise to house-among-trees ideas. For a good reason, they are built small and disposed around the periphery of the project site. The building shell is topped with a simple gable roof made of natural materials that are friendly to the environment.

To live and let live, a native tree stands where it’s always been. Cutting it down is not a choice.

Nature lovers should find the small café in the woods a paradise, thanks to rocks being used to create a set of steps leading to the glass-glazed façade, a clever hack to create visual continuity between indoors and outdoors.

Surrounded by lush lawns and shade trees, a set of rock steps adds beauty and functionality to the building’s glass-glazed façade.

Thanks to thoughtful design, the trio of small buildings in earthy browns lies beautifully ensconced among the trees and wooded hills in the background. Day in, day out, the smell of coffee ground and roasted fresh on site induces a sense of warmth and comfort among people who feel a yearning for the mountains.

It comes as no surprise that they name it “Mitbury”, a Thai term literally translated as a place for friendly people, and in this particular case, a café built into nature that celebrates the easy, laidback lifestyles that have made Chiang Mai famous. Swing by next time you’re in town!

Architect: WOS Architects (

Interior Design: Estudio (

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Raw Concrete House with an Idyllic View of Rice Fields in Chiang Mai

Raw Concrete House with an Idyllic View of Rice Fields in Chiang Mai

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /

Amid the relaxed ambience of the countryside stands a two-story raw concrete house with a view of rice fields and a beautiful blue sky. Here at Baan Mae Ann in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District, life is simple, morning dew lingers on flowers and paddy fields, and the scenic view seems to stretch farther than the eye can see. The house stands among teak trees. Unmistakably paradise!

chiang mai
The ground floor evokes pleasant memories of a traditional Thai-style home. Here, a covered loggia that forms part of the house is made for entertaining guests, dining, and semi-outdoor workspace.

The house design is the idea and creation of Seksan Silpwatananukul. There is beauty in imperfections and natural flaws in cement walls that tell the story of the patterns and seams imprinted on them by handheld trowels and scrub brushes.

chiang mai
Serving as the centerpiece of landscape design, an Indian oak tree (scientific name: Barringtonia acutangula) adds a crisp cool feature to the outdoor living space.
chiang mai
Raw concrete stairs and stepping stones over the pond connects the home with nature. At the far end, a semi-outdoor gallery provides ample room for relaxation.
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Everything changes with greenery. It’s easy to get why the homeowner takes very good care of the Indian oak tree in the courtyard. The crisp cool canopy is salubrious.

Sharing his design experience, Seksan said: “At first, the land had been left unattended for some time before the owner decided to put in a home here. I managed to change the whole look of the property by incorporating raw concrete finishes in the overall design. Every little detail was thought about very carefully.

“I took my time to look around in no hurry. After a meeting with the homeowner, we decided that multiple-level design would best fit into the idyllic setting in this part of Chiang Mai’s landscapes. We didn’t really stick to any particular style. But I would say Tropical modern was the best definition for it.”

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The front porch kissed by the warm morning sun looks out over serene paddy fields and, beyond, pristine Tropical woodlands.

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The courtyard enclosed by raw concrete terraces feels bright and breezy all day long, courtesy of generous openings in the exterior walls.
The courtyard enclosed by raw concrete terraces feels bright and breezy all day long, courtesy of generous openings in the exterior walls.
The relaxed atmosphere of a sitting room where timeless elegance meets modern flair. Overhead, the sloped ceiling in vibrant shades of reddish-browns is slanted to match the shape of the roof.
The relaxed atmosphere of a sitting room where timeless elegance meets modern flair. Overhead, the sloped ceiling in vibrant shades of reddish-browns is slanted to match the shape of the roof.


chiang mai

Designer: Seksan Silpwatananukul

Visit the original Thai version.

บ้านในฝันกลางป่าและนาผืนพอดี จังหวัดเชียงใหม่

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