BALI / Have ideas for a new kind of treehouse? Here’s one beautifully crafted of wood – a revolutionary design that epitomizes the ultimate return to nature.
After only four months of construction time, Stilt Studios has unveiled the latest prototype of its treehouse design that was truly awesome. Known as “Treehouse C”, the preliminary model sits in the salubrious weather of Penestanan, a cozy Indonesian village just a stone’s throw from the town of Ubud on Bali.
Noted for its beauty and the richness of culture, Penestanan has been dubbed an artist village since the 1930’s. A 15-minute walk from the town center, the village is home to many go-to restaurants and bars sprouting up everywhere amid the green expanse of rice fields. Treehouse C itself sits high up in the leafy branches in a small community called Bukit Sari.
Strictly speaking, the home is raised high off the ground by a robust core element consisting of four vertical columns. Together they carry the weight of the entire dwelling. For strength and durability, the upright pillars are braced by a staircase and post-to-beam knee brackets for additional support. On the rooftop, a series of steel cable stays extend radially from the top of each mast anchorage to connect with the roof framing and the floor plane below. This results in the reduction of member cross-sections and building parts for the whole building.
From afar, it gives the impression that the home is hovering among the lush green treetops, a sight that can leave a memorable experience. Plus, its surprisingly lightweight appearance is further enhanced by slender façades decorated with wood frames and glass paneling designed to carry nothing else but its own weight.
The latest layout differs from the previous Treehouse C model at Buduk published in October 2020 in that the original open floor plan has been revised in favor of one divided into several rooms. They include the kitchen with dining and nearby living room, plus the spacious bedroom with a cozy sitting area interconnected via the bathroom corridor. The 64-square-meter design is for 2 to 4 people to fit in easily. And it offers a vista of the surrounding landscape and amazing sunrise views from Mount Agung.
As may be expected, the front yard is filled with edible gardens designed and executed by True Nature Nusantara, a Bali-based landscape consultancy specializing in natural regenerative processes. Commenting on the role of permaculture in creating sustainable ecosystems, Bodhi Denton, the company’s director, said: “The goal of developing these gardens is to create a delightful labyrinth of low-maintenance and colorful perennials and trees like they exist in the wild, plus a laid-back, inconspicuous area to sit and enjoy the view of nearby rice fields.”
It’s for this reason that the gardens are full of flowers, tropical ornamental plants, edible fruits and herbs. It even features a small pond at one of the corners. Besides its famous Tetra Pod homes, Stilt Studios also offers drawings of Treehouse A, B, and C models for purchase. In three simple steps, you can get access to the drawings and license to build your dream studio. Visit the company’s website for more information.
RATCHABURI / We thought you’d like this. Here’s an intimate little house on stilts amid the coconut groves of Damnoen Saduak, a country town famous for lush orchards and a vibrant floating market. Built on a budget, much of it is made of reclaimed timber in various styles. Oh, by the way there’s no need for air conditioning. It stands canopied by overhanging trees alongside water channels for crop irrigation, an ecosystem that drives natural ventilation to keep it cool all year round.
Since its heyday in the mid 1900s, Damnoen Saduak Canal had been a major route for water transport in this part of Ratchaburi. People’s houses were built mostly along the water’s edge, while properties that lay further inland were used for agriculture. This 7-Rai piece of land was home to thriving fruit orchards for several decades. The house now in the hands of the family’s fourth generation was recently restored to all its former glory. In the process, parts of the water channels were filled to make room for a new contemporary home.
At first what they had in mind was a little house with one bedroom. But after having consulted the architectural firm Studio Miti, they were convinced that house-on-stilts design, something slightly bigger, was the way forward. It was a prudent thing to do since the area has experienced flooding in the past. By using tall timber posts and beams, they were able to create a 112-sq-m home plan with high ceilings.
The wooden floor is elevated on concrete poles for stability and better ventilation, while the superstructure is crafted of weathered wood that gives the home rustic and contempory décor. The exterior walls are built of a captivating mix of reclaimed timber, including Praduak (Pterocarpus soyauxii) that’s preferred for its bright orange red color, Mai Daeng or Ironwood (Xylia xylocarpa), and Mai Yang (Dipterocarpus alatus), which is light brown in color. Where appropriate, shorter wall planks are used to add the warmth and charm to interior living spaces.
Taken as a whole, it’s an open concept house plan that’s just right for a small family’s lifestyle needs. There is no guest reception area that’s characteristic of the Western style home. Instead, the center of family life is a good-sized wooden table in the middle of the room that’s fulfilling multiple functions as living area, dining room and space for relaxing and socializing.
The kitchen formerly at the rear of the house has been moved to the ground floor that’s made suitable for traditional Thai cooking. It’s a way to get rid of food smells fast. Only a pantry with necessary food, dishes and utensils are kept upstairs, where the focus is more on making light meals, coffee and other beverages. It’s separated from the living area by roll-away shutters that open to circulate air and give a sense of cohesiveness.
The house has two bedrooms made especially relaxing by a monochromatic color scheme. A nexus between old world charm and a calm, clutter-free life, each room has a mattress on a wooden platform canopied by a fine net to keep mosquitoes away. Both of them are so well ventilated that there’s no need for air conditioning.
Wood has its benefits as a building material. It doesn’t reflect or store heat very well, which results in hardwood floors not getting much hot in summer. This makes it comfortable to spend daylight hours in the shady space on the ground floor. When evening comes, a gentle wind helps cool the home down. Otherwise, simple fans will do the trick. Outside, a canopy of overhanging trees and water channels make the home environment calm and peaceful. In the rainy season, extended overhangs protect the interior from the elements.
As timber prices continue to rise, the cost of building a home also increases at an alarming rate. Here, the architect is able to overcome the limited budget and deliver on his promise. The result is a beautiful contemporary design that relates to its intended function and purpose — an intimate little home amid the enchantment of lush coconut groves.
This is a stilt house design where the contemporary style merges with rural vernacular in Chanthaburi. It’s built on the concept of home with a dual nature – a villa-cum-homestay. The design pays particular attention to the simple life and harmony with the surroundings, plus good positioning in relation to light and wind patterns makes it more comfortable to live.
/// THAILAND /// Story: Wuthikorn Sut // Photography: Soopakorn Srisakul
Baan Lek Villa is the work of “Kaew” Rinrada Nirote, homeowner and architect at GLA DESIGN STUDIO, in collaboration with designer Pitch Nimchinda. It’s intended to accommodate her family, house guests and friends of her mother (“Lek” Kuna Nirote).
Rinrada came to Bangkok to further her studies and has worked there since graduation. Little by little it dawned on her that building a new house in her native Chanthaburi would be a good idea. It would give her a place to stay and a small office away from the city. She wanted a design that looked simple yet attractive, kept within the budget, and blended into the community.
The result is a home that merges with the surrounding countryside. Simple house design offers two distinctly different zones – private and public areas. The living space is raised up on piles, while the ample multi-use area underneath it is meant for dining and receiving guests.
Sharing her slice of paradise, Rinrada says that nowadays more people are yearning for a simple way of living. Advances in technology have made it possible for us live anywhere and still be able to work. What we need is a case for carrying clothes and a few personal belongings, plus a portable computer. Even better if you have a place of your choice that helps you relax in nature. Intended to make our breaks truly refreshing in the countryside, this house was complete only recently. So far it has received many guests and friends of her mother and brother.
“We didn’t intend to make it a family business. I was into hotel designing to begin with. Now that I have a house of my own, Mom has invited her friends over. They loved it and spread the good word. So we thought the time was ripe to provide the accommodation of guests. It’s important that they get to experience the relaxing side of Chantaburi town,” she said.
What makes this house unique is the architectural detail that’s right for the climate of Thailand. The design takes into account seasonal variations, such as sunlight and wind patterns, to create a comfortable environment. Rinrada got the inspiration for the multi-use ground floor from “Have you eaten yet?” a traditional expression of goodwill that Thais say as a sign of welcome. This explains why a dining table set and kitchen counter are there. The area doubles as waiting room for people who drop by for a visit just like old times.
Walk up the stairs and you come to a more private area of the house, which consists of a large balcony and main living quarters. Overall, the building is made of concrete that works well with beautiful wood accents. To make the building appear lightweight, the entire floor of the overhanging balcony is made of steel framework. Taken as a whole, it’s a perfect mix of concrete, steel and clever design that lets the beauty of natural wood stand out.
For an aesthetic appeal, the ground floor is covered to some extent by eggshell pebble pavers that seamlessly connect with the surrounding landscape. The garden sits in the shade for much of the day thanks to the house being positioned on the western side of land. The fact that it’s located in the further reach also leaves plenty of extra room available for future projects. For the time being, Rinrada intends to turn the front yard into an ample garden filled with large trees, shrubs and natural light.
Most importantly, Rinrada says it’s the understanding of the context that sets the main idea about good house design. Appropriate orientation involves more than just the sun’s path or seasonal wind patterns. Every little detail must be taken into account. This modest home is designed to blend with the environment and other key attributes that have made Chanthaburi town famous. It merges with rural vernacular and sprawling fruit orchards. It’s built of material that’s available locally, reclaimed lumber included. All told, it’s one that stands in perfect harmony with the community.
This impressive small contemporary house is the place where a married couple live with their seven dogs. House on stilt design paired with a breeze block wall allows plenty of air and natural light into the room. Pleasant and healthy, it’s a paradise for avid dog lovers and their fluffy companions.
The sheer loveliness of man’s best friends was reason enough for a married couple, Roung Jobby Wuttinawin and Whan Paktranon, to build a home ideally suited for their needs. The problem was Whan had allergies. To avoid going about it in the wrong way, they left the planning in the good hands of architect Unnop Wongwaipananij of REUN Home Design.
The result is a modern, geometric-shaped stilt house with a shed roof that’s well ventilated, easy to keep clean and easy to update. The side of the house facing west is protected by a continuous vertical breeze block structure, plus a full-grown tree to keep the home in shade for much of the day. The under-floor space has a carport and laundry area with plenty of room for doggie nooks. In essence, it’s a small place with all the comforts of a full-functioning home where humans and dogs live in harmony.
A dog’s dream house
“This house is built for the dogs. We just share a living space like a big family,” said Jobby with a laugh.
Sharing his story with us, Jobby said: “Originally I lived with Mom to the rear of the property. Other siblings also resided in the neighborhood. After I got married, I received this plot of land, about one rai, from Mom. We wanted a home that could accommodate all seven dogs we had at the time. Later, when three of them died, we adopted three new dogs after they had been injured. Who knows, we may have more in future.”.
The couple sought advice from Unnop, their architect friend who also took an avid interest in dogs. And the rest was history. Their new house is a salubrious place, one that’s bright, happy and easy to keep clean.
A happy state of mind in geometric design
The geometric house design that the couple requests is simple yet attractively modern thanks to its shed roof style. Stilt house design offers ample under-floor spaces for a carport, laundry area and plenty of room just for dogs. The floor is a flat slap that’s formed of concrete making it easy for future updates. It lies surrounded by lush green lawns and stable pea gravel paths that are ideal for dog runs.
Whan said that she discovered the benefits of breeze block construction while reading BaanLaeSuan magazines. Square concrete blocks with air vents are a perfect match for geometric house design. “In fact, I want to do more home decorating, but ‘Photo’ (her golden retriever) is only 9 months old and very active. So the open floor plan is the best solution at least for the time being. Living room furniture understandably comes down to the bare essentials. There’s a couch that floats in the middle of the room surrounded by dogs, while a computer desk for Jobby is placed against a wall. The dogs sleep in the same room at night.”
A design based on human needs and dog behavior
The blueprint is not only about humans sharing a living space with their canine companions. It’s also about creating functions suitable for their physical and mental health. Every little thing counts. The top half of the main gate is made of perforated metal sheets that allow dogs to see outside. The deck bench seat and stairs have steel railing that protects against slip and fall accidents. The floors are non-carpeted to reduce dust and allergens in the home. As a precaution, rough floor tiles are used instead. Curtains are made of washable material that’s easy to keep clean. Meantime, window sills are set lower with safety grazing to allow dogs to look outside.
In developing his design concept, the architect said: “Because the house faces due south, the front façade sees the most hours of sunlight during the day. So we put the building in the east side of the land with the bedroom at the rear to avoid heat buildup inside and for better privacy..
“To cool down the interior living spaces, the bathroom is placed along the side to provide a buffer against the harsh afternoon sun. This in turn keeps the bathroom dry and protects against humidity damage. For practical reasons, an air brick wall is chosen to allow southwesterly winds to enter and circulate inside. Nearby, an additional layer of protection is provided by a full-grown rose apple tree.”
Asked what it’s like to live here, the couple said: “Overjoyed! We’ve made the most effective use of indoor and outdoor spaces, especially the main living room. The late afternoon is usually spent with the dogs in the under-floor room where fresh air is plentiful. Sometimes we take them out for a walk, go swimming or make a bird watching trip to Bang Pu, which is only 10 kilometers away. The seven dogs make living here a pleasure. Each one of them has its special doggie nook. We know they are happy to be here, too.”
Her beloved Thai-style home was damaged by massive flooding that inundated much of Thailand’s Central Plains in 2011. Love never dies. The owner had it torn down to make room for an entirely new home with all the charm and character of Thai-style residential architecture.
“She requested stilt house design with three bedrooms,” said Pises Isarangkool Na Ayutthaya, one of the architects on the team. “Much of the timber was recycled from the old house and put to good use in the new, and she didn’t want air conditioning at all.”
Fulfilling the owner’s needs, the team of architects came up with house-on-stilts design with extended overhangs. It was crafted of a mix of concrete and steel beams for durability. Proper building orientation allowed the new home to reap the full health benefits from cool breezes blowing in all day from a nearby canal. The architects put in large openings, such as sliding doors and windows, along the sidewall facing the waterway. In the meantime, air vents are put in on the opposite side to facilitate natural air circulation in and around the building. In so doing, they were able to eliminate the needs for mechanical air conditioning entirely.
To ensure nothing goes to waste, timber and other leftovers from the old house were adapted for reuse in new purposes, such as ceiling panels, windows, handrails, and benches, even kitchen cupboards. Reclaimed timber with weathered looks not only added classic appeal to the new house, but also served as sentimental reminders of the old building that had been the family home for many years prior.
The new house may look anything but traditional. But like Thai-style homes of the past, this one is designed for the Tropical climate and well positioned to maximize certain aspects of natural surroundings, from street appeal to views of the nearby waterway.
A handsome new home is starkly juxtaposed with a quaint old house on the same piece of real estate. The agreeable contrast is the brainchild of two longtime friends: Apinan Makchuay, the owner and engineer, and Kayi Nuichan, the architect.
Apinan has always wanted to put in new house here. He felt it was the most comfortable place to live. The two buddies have worked together to satisfy the housing needs of their clients. This time they put their heads together to satisfy their specific lifestyle needs.
Kayi came up with house-on-stilts design to emulate the existing old-fashioned home his friend already had. He wanted Apinan to feel easily adjusted to new conditions that came with new design. The result was a combination of tradition and modern design trends. The new house has a double-layer roof designed for the Tropical climate, while the interior is separated into different modules conveniently linked by a patio. It’s made light and airy in keeping with the main attribute of stilt houses common throughout the Tropics.
Like old times, the owner spends the daytime on the poolside patio and only goes into the rooms at nightfall. As the puts it, that is the traditional way of reaping the full benefits of the Tropical climate.
The new house comes complete with three bedrooms, living room, workspace, dining area and kitchen. To shade it against the sun, the two friends managed to keep many existing trees on the property. Over time nature regained its place adding a soothing tropical ambience the old-meets-new scenario.
The house with a distinctive atmosphere took a long time in the making. It’s clear the two buddies have wanted it to be an enchanting place to live — one that’s perfect beyond words.
The allure of an enchanting Tropical ambience is reason enough for a couple from far away to call Thailand home. This modest house belongs to Alisa Tang, a journalist with Thomson Reuter, and her other half, photographer/graphic designer Landry Dunand.
Call it serendipity, perhaps? US-born Alisa returned home to the learn more about her Thai roots, but ended up staying after falling in love with Bang Nam Phueng, a Bangkok suburb renowned for a green lifestyle and plenty of smiles. What a difference a location made! It didn’t take long before the couple decided to put in a home and got it ready in time to welcome their baby girl.
The house on stilts blends well with the Tropical climate and ambience of an orchard by the water’s edge. Living spaces are assigned to the upper floor, while the lower level is set aside for Landry’s photo studio and still has plenty of room left.
The absence of mechanical air conditioning or even TV speaks to a strong resolve to contribute in their small ways towards reducing carbon footprint. The signs of sustainable living are evident in a sawdust toilet and the use of solar energy for water heating. Bicycles provide clever alternatives to spending time wasted on long commutes.
The wooden house was crafted by local carpenters, who were expert in building orientation for the hot and humid climate. With a knowledge of wind and sun directions, they were able to align it to reap every health benefit the already serene location had to offer. High ceilings made for a comfy, airy interior, while thermal comfort gave it a warm and inviting appeal. A secret to growing a happy family, this modest home is one that takes sustainable living to the next level.
Because of unique landscape and climatic factors, our ancestors in Southeast Asia designed and built stilt houses, and they came in a variety of styles. From houses in Inle Lake to earthquake-resistant structures in Indonesia, from a “bomb village” in Laos to the traditional Thai house, the stilt house is one way people have come to live with nature. Let’s check it out!
Stilt Houses in Inle Lake / Myanmar
The traditional houses in Inle Lake, Shan state, Myanmar was built by local people. There is a population of 70,000 people living in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself. Housing there provides some good examples of how people live with water.
Bahnar Rong and Ede Long House / Vietnam
The Bahnar, Giarai, and Ede are 3 ethnic groups who live in the central highlands of Vietnam, and their houses are extraordinary examples of native architecture. In the center of their communities, the Bahnar and Giarai build strikingly tall houses called “Rong,” to show off the status of the village, while the Ede build very long houses which serve extended families. Each type of structure sits on low stilts and is made of wood and bamboo.
Tongkonan, South Sulawesi / Indonesia
The distinctive point of these “stilt houses” is not stilts, but rather their unique roof shape, which originated in an ancient royal Chinese boat design. The wooden construction used to assemble the house with tongue and groove techniques without nails. Most of them have been built more than one century. The Tongkonan custom house has been listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site since 2010.
Nias Traditional House, Bawömataluo / Indonesia
Nias Island has some oval-shaped, steep-roofed wooden houses on stilts. These structures, able to withstand powerful earthquakes, are built without the use of nails.
Bomb Village / Laos
Unexploded bombs were recycled as many ways in the Hmong village of Phonsavan. You’ll see innovative ideas for how to bring this weapon into everyday use in such items as boats, flower pots, garden decoration, and house stilts. Oh, didn’t you know? Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. During the Vietnam War 270 million cluster bombs were dropped in Laos, and about 80 million of them did not explode.
Traditional Thai House / Thailand
Now, back to the past: there are many reasons traditional Thai houses have often built facing out towards rivers, or even over them. Raising a house on stilts provides semi-outdoor space underneath, which can be used for storage of tools or agricultural equipment, eating meals, social activities, or to avoid being flooded out during the rainy season.