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!
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.
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.
The roadside entrance is in back, so the house fronts on the canal, Thai-style.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Out of the edge of a sun hemp field rises what looks to be a traditional huean isaan (Northeastern Thai house). But this home, set in a shady, woodsy atmosphere, fragrant with the aromas of a Thai house and the fun-filled rhythms of Thai family ways, is fully adapted to contemporary ways of life.
After Sakda and Orapin Sreesangkom had lived 20 years in a condo, they designed this eco-friendly house to find an adaptation of Thai family life that could suit the modern age, and to build environmental awareness in themselves and their children.
The ground floor design echoes the traditional tai thun lower space found beneath Thai houses. A porch reaches outwards to fill the usual roles: entertaining guests, socializing. Up close you’ll see it’s more like 3 houses connected by one deck, each one with wide eaves blocking sun and rain, but with a twist: the underside insulation is “rammed earth,” La Terre’s innovative cooling solution that rapidly absorbs and diffuses heat and is made from organic, renewable materials. Sakda and designers Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architects shared the same vision.
The huean isaan takes over in spirit, though, with its outward image evoking a cultural memory reflected in the playfulness of the three boys, Chris, Gav, and Guy, bringing cheer to every corner of the house: playing in the attic, sliding down polished planks beside the stairway, and everyone’s favorite: the sky deck, accessible from anywhere in the house.
The heart of the home is the living room: it’s spacious, with bar counter, dining area, and sofas for relaxing, sized 7 X 11 meters, and with no support pillars blocking the view within. It was designed to mirror the look and function of the tai thun, a space that brings everyone together to do whatever they like to do best, as individuals or a group.
The building foundation supports a raised deck all around the house. This keeps slithering things and garden creepy-crawlies from coming into the house, at the same time creating good ventilation below. The extra area for sitting, stretching the legs, or walking out into the garden is one more bonus.
Sakda’s deep attachment to the traditional huean isaan it what brought this all about. That, and the family’s courage in leaving the convenience of condo life behind them to design, build and live in a completely different way, growing their own garden, and creating a new home that could be passed down to the next generations.
This Lanna Thai house of wood is built based on ancient local traditions. It has a simple, relaxed, and open look. Natural breezes blow all day long through its exquisite form, full of the charm of conservation-friendly Lanna craftsmanship.
The owners named this house “Tathata,” which means “just the way it is,” to express their love of simple country life. “We’re Bangkok people, but love the atmosphere and way of life here in Nan. After coming to work at Nan Hospital, we decided to live here and looked around for where to build till we finally found this property,” says Dr. Tong (Natthathon Kharaphongsathaphon), who owns the house with Dr. Kate (Jittraphon Khwamkhnueng). Their place is on a road convenient to Nan Hospital, in a quiet, natural setting at water’s edge. For design, they hired Geng (Nanthaphong Lertmaneethawisap), of Arsom Silp Community and Environmental Architects.
Geng told us, “The doctors liked the cultural and artistic dimensions of life in Nan, as well as its traditional wooden architecture. The house is only a few kilometers from the city, but in a perfect natural setting, easy breezes blowing around the clock. From the beginning, the words “little house in the big forest” popped into my head. The doctors and I agreed we should take special care of the plants on the property, and we managed to preserve all the trees.”
The doctors wanted the new design to use carefully selected old wood in ways that would preserve traditional Lanna craftsmanship, and wood was taken from 5 traditional Nan Province houses with a lot of colorful history among them. The traditional wide area beneath the house, or tai thun, was designed for receiving guests, and of a piece with a deck connecting it to the kitchen and other sections of the house.
The area around the stairwell is open, so light comes in from above. Walking up, you first come to the altar room, then a living area, and furthest in, the bedrooms. “We tried to build the house airy and open while providing for privacy, safety, and a clear division of space according to use.
“Towards the end, while supervising the work I started to learn the craft techniques. I sawed wood, used a chisel, and sharpened bars myself. I even did some of the kind of self-reliant agriculture everyone used to do, raising ducks, geese, and chickens, and growing garden vegetables. Doing this was a revelation: it was entertaining! And it all takes physical effort, so there’s no need to go to the gym,” said Dr. Tong.
This home successfully applies traditional Lanna themes to present-day life. It’s a dream house that has become a reality in the natural environment of Nan, somehow seeming ordinary while being as beautiful a home as we’ve seen.