Blog : thailand

Ruen Lek: A Modern Cottage Café Celebrates the Enduring Allure of Chanthaburi

Ruen Lek: A Modern Cottage Café Celebrates the Enduring Allure of Chanthaburi

/ Chanthaburi, Thailand /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut, Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Soopakorn Srisakul /

A home and café combination merges into the countryside vernacular of Chanthaburi, a province in Thailand’s eastern corridor bestowed with pristine forests, mountains and sea breezes. Designed for the Tropical climate prevailing in the area, it boasts the simplicity of extended eaves overhanging the walls. Together they provide protection from the elements keeping the interior cozy and cool in summer, while the gable front glazed using clear glass affords the view of a beautiful garden landscape.

Named “Ruen Lek”, the small contemporary home consists of two parts; a semi-outdoor café located downstairs and a living space upstairs with wrap-around balconies made for coffee or just chilling out.

The brainchild of GLA Design Studio, a Bangkok-based architectural practice, the home and café combination offers 110 square meters of usable space. It stands parallel to a nearby homestay destination called “Baan Lek Villa”, separated only by a center courtyard lying in between.

The upstairs living space with a garden view is enclosed by a wrap-around balcony made for coffee and floor seating ideas.

By design, the yard filled with greenery and fresh air provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life, while lush lawns hemmed in by healthy trees and shrubs create a cooling effect during warm weather.

A diagram of the first floor plan shows the positioning of the coffee shop, customer service areas and support facilities in relation to outdoor environments. / Courtesy of GLA Design Studio
A drawing of the second floor plan shows the living space with a home office enclosed by a wrap-around balcony made for relaxation. / Courtesy of GLA Design Studio
A front elevation view shows the small home and café combination on the right side of the property, separated from the main homestay villa on the left by a center courtyard filled with greenery. / Courtesy of GLA Design Studio

Thoughtfully devised to run cool in summer, the first floor is kept closer to the ground, slightly raised at plinth level. For good ventilation, the storefront and a side wall are fitted with bi-fold door systems that fully open from one end to the other, while the other side wall lined with a souvenir display shelf is glazed using clear glass paneling for visibility.

Awning windows at the top of the glass wall open to admit fresh outdoor air. Underneath them, glass paneling lined with a souvenir display shelf lets natural daylight shine through.

The coffee bar itself is set further towards the back with plenty of room behind it for cooking light meals. From here, the nearby “Baan Lek Villa” homestay can be seen across the center courtyard. Up front, a few sets of tables and shares are ready for customers who prefer relaxing and dining in the open air.

A place to hang out with friends, the coffee bar is set further towards the back, creating a sense of depth. There’s plenty of room behind the countertop for making drinks and cooking light meals.

Taken as a whole, the small café makes a good first impression as a peaceful place to enjoy a nice cup of bean juice, lean back and chill. Besides good local food, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, thanks in part to the crisp cool canopy of overhanging trees, native shrubs and vines thriving luxuriantly. Together they bring back memories of Chanthaburi in times past like the architects at GLA Design Studio intended.

The second floor contains a humble abode and office space with a large drafting table. Simple, well-lit and well-ventilated, the room is enclosed by a wrap-around balcony designed for sitting on the floor with legs hanging. The side entrance at the top of the stairs affords views of green spaces and, beyond, the Baan Lek Villa homestay. For privacy, the second floor of Ruen Lek is set slightly lower than that of the main villa.

The upstairs living space with a garden view is enclosed by a wrap-around balcony made for coffee and floor seating ideas.

For privacy, the second floor of the home and café building is set slightly lower than that of the nearby main villa.

Except for the glass façades on two sides, the walls are built of handmade bricks and the floors covered in fireclay handmade tiles sourced locally. For charm, good looks that blend into the community and local traditions, door and window casings and decorative materials are made entirely of real wood.

Morning light creates a warm ambience, enhancing the brown of wooden balcony floors and the orange of fireclay tiles on the home office floor.

From a design point of view, it’s a home that speaks volumes for a desire to be close to nature and a love of the allure of Chanthaburi’s unspoiled countryside. And the team at GLA Design Studio has succeeded in doing exactly that. The result is a cozy dwelling that’s a little bit modern, a little bit country mixed in one place that’s simple yet attractive, inviting and warm.

A center courtyard filled with shade trees and lush foliage separates the home and café combination from the nearby Baan Lek Villa homestay.
A way to connect with nature, the center courtyard is kept cool by shade trees and lush vegetation. Nearby, a driveway surfaced with gravel gives access to the main villa raised on piles.

Architect: GLA Design Studio

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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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Studio Miti Office: A Townhouse Tastefully Renovated as Design Studio Showcasing Material Savvy

Studio Miti Office: A Townhouse Tastefully Renovated as Design Studio Showcasing Material Savvy

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Nantiya, Weerawat Sonriang /

It all started with a 30-year-old, three-story townhouse and a company of architects Studio Miti in need of a new home. Like a fortunate stroke of serendipity, they found exactly what they had been searching for, a building with a wide, six-meter frontage abutting the street, an architectural quality attribute that gave it a decided plus.

The new building facade consisting of lightweight concrete blocks in slate gray is built of a framework of iron securely anchored to the original supporting structure of concrete masonry construction. The building’s principal face can open and shut as needed to regulate the amounts of natural daylight and fresh outdoor air streaming into the rooms. More than anything else, it’s design that meets engineering standard requirements and specifications for safety and durability.

Needless to say, it’s hard to find anything like it nowadays. More importantly, it’s located in an easily accessible community area with a variety of amenities, eating places and businesses serving surrounding populations.

Studio Miti management obviously saw the potential of it developing to future success. And that’s what gave them the inspiration going forward. They set off without delay to breathe new life into the old townhouse, transforming it into a modern design atelier that’s the home of the company’s finest 20-strong staff.

Their secrets lay in creating an exciting new external envelope covered with lightweight concrete materials. And the result of all this is a pleasing visual appearance unlike anything out there. Architecturally speaking, it’s an interesting amalgam of color, texture and the perception of shape and size that inspires admiration.

studio miti office bangkok

studio miti office bangkok
A set of wooden steps rises past a trough where leafy plants grow leading to the reception room on the ground floor.

Ground floor interiors afford comfortable workspaces designed to boost productivity, with communal facilities such as small meeting rooms and client reception areas neatly arranged throughout the building. There’s also a casual dining area with a kitchen and pantry, not to mention recreational spaces with a ping-pong table and quiet nooks to chill out.

Taken as a whole, it’s design that speaks volumes for the company’s operating principles — investing in a conducive work environment so as to reduce stress and improve concentration. Likewise, it makes perfect sense to ensure its design team can stay focused on the task at hand.

studio miti office bangkok
The corridor is separated from a meeting room on the ground floor by a folding glass door system, a clever tool that defines boundaries in a way that’s easy to understand.

studio miti office bangkok

With the folding glass door system stowed away, the ground floor serving multiple functions as a meeting room, storage room and recreational area instantly transforms into one big open space.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to the main meeting room reserved for formal meetings or when work needs total concentration. There’s a customer reception area nearby that makes a great first impression, with facilities for online video conferencing, a dining room and areas used for recreation.

Different from what’s usual is the building façade that can open and shut as needed to regulate the amounts of natural light during the daytime or admit fresh outdoor air into the room in the late afternoon, a clever hack to save big on energy bills.

The stairway leading to workspaces on the upper floors remained where the old, tired looking stairs had been prior to renovation, only slightly altered to give it a look that belongs to the present.
studio miti office bangkok
A glass-wall and sliding-door system provides visual continuity from inside the room to the balcony hemmed in by the front façade that can open and shut as needed for privacy, light and fresh air.
studio miti office bangkok
Wooden bookshelves of a modular nature are the epitome of imagination and resourcefulness. They stand ready to be taken apart and reassembled elsewhere if needs be.

studio miti office bangkok

The third floor holds ample workspaces with a mezzanine just below the high-pitch roof. Together they boast the comfort of a high-ceilinged room made light and airy by design. For lack of a better word, it’s the pride and joy of some 20 staff members working here as a team.

Of all parts of the building, the roof received the most extensive renovation. To get where they wanted to be, the architects had the old roof torn down to make room for a new high-pitch upper covering.

This gave the interiors much more space overhead, more natural light and aesthetic appeal. Plus, new ceilings built flush with the underside of the roof add real character to the room, while the mezzanine provides extra storage space just below the roof.

studio miti office bangkok
Third-floor workspaces are light and airy by design, thanks to high ceilings aligned with the underside of a new high-pitch roof. Plus, there’s plenty of ample space providing neat storage solutions on the mezzanine just below the roof.

All things considered, it’s about creating a workspace that bodes well for the good health of all members on the team, while inspiring productivity and job satisfaction. These qualities can only come from having access to a conducive work environment, the ability to stay focused on work and freedom from noise and distractions.

To achieve the desired results, all the workspaces and functional areas are warmly cocooned inside a solid external envelope made of lightweight concrete materials. Yet they feel connected to the elements of nature, thanks in part to large openings in the front façade that let natural light and fresh air stream into the rooms on the second and third floors.

studio miti office bangkok

An opening in the mezzanine reinforced by a steel I-beam system provides visual continuity from above and below.

Not only that, all the arrangements in place also allow the architects to experiment with exciting ideas and innovative materials never before seen, among them a new kind of lightweight concrete materials for wall construction.

The building exterior showcases the ridges and grooves in concrete blocks cut open and left exposed to the weather, thereby allowing time to leave its imprint.

In Studio Miti ‘s most recent experiment, they decided out of curiosity to split an ultralight concrete block in half, only to discover that it contained ridges and grooves on the inside creating light and shadows. They then proceeded with installing the ultralight blocks inside out, thereby showcasing the beauty of imperfections of materials on the building’s exteriors.

It’s sort of going in the opposite way of what usually happens.

The result is charm, good looks without embellishments or decoration of any kind, one that creates an interesting light and shadow play when touched by light. Plus, it’s a spectacular sight that changes with the time of day.

In the fewest possible words, it’s a renovation that conveys a great deal about Studio Miti ’s belief, which says that, first and foremost, it makes a lot of sense to be material savvy. Better yet, it’s prudent to investigate the material before using it. Why? Because knowledge of materials and how they perform in real situations is essential to creating architecture.

A side-elevation view of Studio Miti’s new home shows the exteriors adorned with lightweight blocks in slate gray, a feature that gives it distinctive character.
Studio Miti Bangkok
With the façade closed, the building looks perfectly solid, transforming Studio Miti’s new home into a piece of architecture in a class of itself.


Architect: Studio Miti (

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ISAN Cubism: A Revival of Isan Folk Art through Exquisitely Beautiful Ceramic Buddha Images

ISAN Cubism: A Revival of Isan Folk Art through Exquisitely Beautiful Ceramic Buddha Images

/ Khon Kaen, Thailand /

/ Story: Natthawat Klaysuban / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of ISAN Cubism /

An exquisitely beautiful collection of Buddha figurines reminiscent of stone Buddha images in earlier times has restored Isan vernacular art to life. Let’s go and check out some of the extraordinary works of art that take pride of place in the hearts and minds of the people of the Northeast of Thailand, aka the Isan Region. There is a difference though, as to what kind of material they are made of. One thing is for sure, the result is the beauties of Isan folk art that inspires delight and great admiration. The tranquil figurines are skillfully handcrafted of ceramics glazed in smooth, shiny cool-toned green and blue hues. Truly in a class of itself, the stunning product line is already very well received among aficionados of fine art and sculpture countrywide.

ISAN Cubism
A collection of ceramic Buddha figurines is a work of art in several cool-toned colors by Isan Cubism. It’s being very well received in the art scene.

The project is a collaboration between Dr. Kham Chaturongakul and Dr. Nuttapong Prompongsaton, associate professor — both of whom faculty members of the Department of Industrial Design at Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Architecture.

Together they co-founded the brandISAN Cubism by integrating the elements of vernacular art indigenous of the Isan Region in exciting new designs, plus using materials and techniques that best fit in with the present time.

Dr. Kham Chaturongakul (left) and Dr. Nuttapong Prompongsaton, associate professor. Both are faculty members at the Industrial Design Department, Khon Kaen University’s School of Architecture.

The ceramic statuettes with a polychromatic overlay are admired for their powerful storytelling about the richness of Isan culture and traditions. For this reason, the brand ISAN Cubism comes in handy as a vehicle of ideas to showcase an intriguing combination between the traditional and the modern.

Cubism, created by Pablo Picasso, is a style in art using simple geometric forms as a means of expression, as opposed to traditional modes of representation and concerns.

ISAN Cubism

Precisely, ISAN Cubism is about the relationship between religion and humanity in the contemporary world. That being the case, the omnipresence of Siddhattha Gautama the Lord Buddha is constantly felt in society today, and hence the images of him are never far from our everyday lives.

Depending on our religiosity, the statuettes of the Buddha play multiple crucial roles in the current environment. For the followers of Buddhism, they are objects worshipped and treated with deep respects. For others, they can be anything from materials used in the furnishing and decoration of homes, to symbols of pleasure and calm rather than being treated with due seriousness. The list goes on.

That being said, the traditional lines, shapes and forms characteristic of Buddha images in former times are reduced in favor of a more streamlined design plain and obvious in this collection of modern-day statuettes. It’s a rethink that enables them to perfectly merge into the circumstances that form the setting of today’s events and ideas.

ISAN Cubism
A vase for displaying cut flowers is known as “Roop Taem” or “Hoop Taem” in the vernacular of the Northeastern Region, a term for color paint art and painting executed directly on a wall.

As the two professors see it, Isan vernacular is chosen as the vehicle of artistic expression in this collection because of its richness in folk elements of design, a genre of visual art and sculpture developed at the time the region was regarded as a remote frontier ungoverned by bigger, more powerful city states.

In exact terms, it’s this quality that makes Isan folk art original and unique in its own special way. Among others, there’s a sincere direct rawness to it that differs from the more refined profile typical of those of Lanna and Ayutthaya kingdoms in former times.

In a nutshell, Isan art is the works of traditional craftsmanship, made by villagers using materials and technique available within the locality, wood and clay included.

Their version of Buddha statuettes may be a far cry from awe-inspiring masterpieces intricately carved by royal court artisans highly skilled in a trade. But, unlike the elegance in appearance that we’ve all grown accustomed to, Isan folk art remains a medium of expression that’s easy to understand, one that’s created using simple clean lines and four-sided plain figures.

The two professors see a similarity of characteristics between Isan art and cubism ideas that originated in Europe. To them, the beauty of simplicity of Isan vernacular art is key to unlocking the door to endless possibilities.

Imagine what would happen if Isan folk art could transform into lifestyle products made easily accessible to today’s generation. Keep the vibrant colors that the villagers have long cherished, plus the rawness feel unique to each and every one of them. That’s what adds charm and character to folk art products.

ISAN Cubism

The brand ISAN Cubism started out with the manufacture of vases for displaying cut flowers. Gradually Nattapong developed an interest in Buddha statuettes, having been surrounded by religious populations. He soon came up with his first collection of Buddha figurines based on wooden models that people made and then donated to temples as the expression of reverence.

ISAN Cubism

Dr. Kham and Dr. Nuttapong said that other countries have their own versions of human figurines, too. The most famous among them are Daruma Dolls of Japan, and Matryoshka, aka Nesting Dolls, of Russia.

They opined that Isan folk art had the potential to develop into something in the future, which can be anything including materials for the furnishing and decoration of a room, or any place on earth.

And you don’t have to be Buddhist to do that, either. Buddhist art is a visual art. It’s the way of seeing things around us and interpreting them through an artistic perspective. And this exquisitely beautiful collection of ceramic figurines is designed to do exactly that.

ISAN Cubism

Artist: ISAN Cubism (

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Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai: A Hotel at Nature’s Edge Embraces a Mix of Modern and Traditional

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai: A Hotel at Nature’s Edge Embraces a Mix of Modern and Traditional

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Nantiya /

A hotel chain widely recognized in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District for the past 15 years has opened a new branch in Muang District in what is seen as a major expansion of luxury, comfort and style. Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai advocates living next door to nature while showcasing an intriguing combination of modern design with rich culture and beautiful traditional crafts. Its design concept keeps firmly to the belief that being in nature provides deep relaxation. And the result of all this is a resort hotel that’s environmentally conscious, plus it’s tailored to the needs of specialized segments of the market.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai

Needless to say, the hotel landscape is out of this world. Like taking a spellbinding journey into the woods, Proud Phu Fah Chiang Mai is a perfect escape away from the crowds, where the air is filled with the continuous murmuring sound of water flowing and leaves rustling in the trees creating detailed mental images of the beautiful northern landscape.

The brainchild of Full Scale Studio, a homegrown architectural practice, Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai embraces reconnections with the natural world. It consists of a pair of three-story buildings thoughtfully devised to merge into countryside vernacular, at the same time reaping the full health benefits of sunshine and fresh air.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The sound of a babbling brook amid lush green vegetation reconnects Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai with its natural surroundings.

The main idea is to let the aroma of nature permeate through the landscape. Such is manifested in a pair of well-maintained giant rain trees providing shade and a focal point in the center courtyard. By design it has become a favorite place of relaxation and rejuvenation among hotel guests.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Lee Kuan Yew trees (scientific name: Vernonia elliptica DC) growing luxuriantly inside a protective barrier provide natural privacy screens for hotel rooms.
Well-maintained trees keep the center courtyard in shade for much of the day.

Front and center, well-thought-out planning ensures that all the rooms have access to the best view of the natural surroundings. The first building, called Building A, is directed at a 45-degree angle to soak up a wonderful panorama of the mountains, while the second, known as Building B, is set along the 90-degree line for a beautiful orchard view.

Where appropriate, new trees offering fragrant flowers are added to the existing contiguous woodlands, resulting in uniform composition.

Architecturally speaking, it’s a project that emphasizes the use of concrete, brick and wood directly sourced from the locality as the building materials of choice. Aside from giving a sense of identity and cultural heritage, they double as storytelling tools conveying a great deal about the love of nature and preservation of traditional crafts.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Where solid walls are not suitable, perforate walls are built of breeze blocks in various contemporary styles to promote natural air circulation on the premises.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
A gallery along the outside of the building is designed to connect with nature.

An example of this is Minimal Lanna, a type of room that advocates Minimalism in art infused with a mix of traditional crafts and modern interior design.

The room has furniture beautifully crafted of teakwood, ceramic tiles, and ceramic washbasins with kid design custom-painted by the property owner, plus decorating items in a variety of finishes handcrafted by local artisans and contemporary artists in the region.

Overall, it’s a design that places great emphasis on the beauty of simplicity and the use of soft neutral tones for deep relaxation.

A type of guest rooms called Minimal Lanna advocates Minimalism in art with an interesting combination of local crafts with modern furnishing and decoration.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The Honeymoon Grand View room on the third floor of Building A boasts the beauty of split level design in descending order starting with the bathroom, bedroom, living room and finally the balcony.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The Honeymoon Grand View room on the third floor of Building A has a bathtub in the open air with an unbroken view of nearby wooded hillsides.

To reduce the harsh texture of concrete construction, red bricks come in handy for multiple applications. Among other things, the external envelope of Building B consists of brick walls inspired by the craft of basket-making known as “Lai Song” patterns in the vernacular of the Northern Region.

Like poetry in motion, the reflection of sunlight on the walls creates interesting sights and shadows that change from morning to evening.

A guest room on the first floor of Building B has a private onsen, or hot spring pool with a refreshing garden view.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Perforate building facades in different colors and textures add interesting dimensions to the architecture of the hotel and landscapes.

For indoor thermal comfort, where appropriate perforate walls are built using contemporary cement blocks with holes in them that serve as engine driving natural air circulation and letting natural daylight stream into the interior.

In a way, they form an integral part that blends seamlessly with the landscape enlivened by the sounds of a babbling brook amid a forest garden with walkways made for relaxation. Together, they go to work connecting Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai with the idyllic natural setting.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Brick walls in stunning earthy hues inspired by weaving techniques known as Lai Song patterns blend harmoniously with lush vegetation in the immediate surroundings.

Architect: Full Scale Studio, Tel. 08-9154-1758

Landscape Architect: H2O Design Co., Ltd, Tel. 08-1531-1871

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Uthai Heritage Hotel: From Old Schoolhouse to Boutique Hotel off the Beaten Path

Uthai Heritage Hotel: From Old Schoolhouse to Boutique Hotel off the Beaten Path

/ Uthai Thani, Thailand /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Supergreen Studio /

Like going back in time, a new boutique hotel has opened in beautiful small town Uthai Thani, one of the last few unspoiled places in the countryside. Named “Uthai Heritage”, it’s an off-the-beaten-track place of accommodation nestled in a peaceful neighborhood untouched by urban development.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Formerly the home of “Uthai Withayalai School”, the property was tastefully renovated as a boutique hotel in a class of its own. It was meant to be an alternative travel destination for those wishing to escape the popular tourist traps. An amazing hidden place people often miss, Uthai Thani lies to the north of Kanchanaburi and west of Nakhon Sawan, a major city 250 km north of Bangkok.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

By way of introduction, the school was fully operational from 1957 until 1995. The difficulties that ensued from a decline in economic activity and environmental neglect resulted in it gradually falling into disrepair. But the owner was determined to keep the two-story buildings on the property in working order by checking and repairing regularly.

The owner felt a sentimental attachment to the wooden schoolhouse. After everything has changed, he thought it wise to give it a complete makeover, transforming it into a boutique hotel. In a way, it contributed significantly to the preservation of the historic identity of his neighborhood and, at the same time, attracted new tourists to the area by providing affordable hotel accommodations.

It was a metamorphosis of purpose that saw most of the classrooms transform into hotel rooms while others were remade as reception halls and venues for social activity, including a café and nearby cozy swimming pool.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Architecturally speaking, the renovation project was thoughtfully devised to ensure the old wooden structure remained intact. At the same time, a solid framework of steel was added for long-term strength and durability performance.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

To showcase the small town’s history and cultural identity, old building parts were kept in perfect conditions, including door and window shutters as well as the old school flagpole and the signboard at the front. At the same time, they were meticulous about making the strengthening structure and materials fit right in with the original wooden buildings.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

The overall effect is impressive. For increased privacy and soundproof qualities in the rooms, the walls are built of brickwork and plastered to form a neat, smooth surface. The new boutique hotel boasts the simplicity of a U-shaped floor plan with lush green lawns at the center hemmed in by native plants and well-designed corridors and connecting spaces.

Time has left its imprint. A friendly message on the stairway wall calls to the mind fond memories of old school days.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Because heritage matters, the old flagstaff remains where it has always been as storytelling artifact. Where necessary, new units of construction are added to the existing building plan to support and facilitate new business operations. They include new hotel rooms and hallways providing access to places on the premises.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel
Parts of the original framework are preserved for their power of historic and cultural storytelling.

It’s a comfortable place, allowing people to feel relaxed and at home. Air conditioning is there, although it’s used very little by guests who prefer reconnections with nature and the sound effect produced by rain and leaves rustling in the breeze. If a journey in time is your cup of tea, you’ve come to the right place.

Uthai Heritage Hotel
Like a journey through time, the U-shaped schoolhouse transforms in to an attractive boutique hotel with lush green lawns hemmed in by native plants.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Architect: Supergreen Studio

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Winding Villa: A Mountain Retreat Where Curve Design Syncs with the Rhythm of the Wild

Winding Villa: A Mountain Retreat Where Curve Design Syncs with the Rhythm of the Wild

/ Nakhon Nayok, Thailand /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

Here’s a gorgeous modern home nestled in the wooded hills of Nakhon Nayok Province, roughly an hour’s drive from the capital. It’s a good-sized home built on 12 Rai of valleylands (just shy of 5 acres). The surroundings are naturally beautiful no doubt, and the design team at Stu/D/O, a Bangkok-based architectural practice, is determined to leave everything in its pristine condition. It involves detailed environmental assessment to reduce human impacts on ecosystems and, at the same time, create a wholesome atmosphere for relaxation.

Winding Villa

The vast expanse of the forests is vital headwaters to many tributaries and rich in ecological corridors that are key to the survival of the region’s native fauna. And that takes priority over any other matter concerning the siting of the home.

Like so, the building is made less visible to avoid disrupting the ways of nature. It’s a house without fences by design that accepts things as they are. So wildlife can wander leisurely by, plus existing trees on the property remain where they have always been to minimize the impact on the environment.

Winding Villa

Mimicking the contours of the landscape, a semi-outdoor pathway connects the carport to the villa.

Winding Villa

Winding Villa
The center courtyard is hemmed in by the circular concrete wall with curved concrete roofing.

That explains why the elements of the landscape are integrated into the home plan. It’s a design that considers human needs in connection with other things in the environment. And the house’s appearance reflects this line of thought.

Like poetry in motion, graceful curves wind around a stand of trees, six of them in all, creating good design flow that’s in sync with the rhythm of the wild. Curved concrete barriers prevent an encounter with wandering wildlife and provide safe outdoor room for the home with a center courtyard.

Winding Villa

Ample semi-outdoor room for relaxation by the poolside.

Within the confines of the place, a beautiful two-story house plan is created. Freeform curves fill the ground floor where a sitting room and kitchen space flow together as one. There’s a workshop cum hobby room nearby. Together they take up one side of the floor.

At the center court, a swimming pool connects to the semi-outdoor sitting room along the outside of the home. There are housekeeper living quarters and service areas at the opposite end.

Winding Villa
Curved lines adorning the sitting room give off good vibes.

The freeform concrete structure on the ground floor differs strikingly from the rectangular-shaped second floor that sits on top of it. It’s the perfect stark contrast where geometric rigidity meets graceful fluidity.

There is the beauty of humble materials such as timber cladding that adorns the exterior walls on all sides. The second floor contains bedrooms with personality that varies from room to room.

Winding Villa

Winding Villa
The façade covered in timber cladding visually reduces the size allowing the villa to blend into the wooded hillside.

Taken as a whole, it’s a salubrious place made for relaxation, a country villa thoughtfully devised to incorporate environmental considerations into the design process. And it’s done with respect for nature.

Drawing of ground floor plan. / Courtesy of Stu/D/O



Drawing of second floor plan. / Courtesy of Stu/D/O

Winding Villa

Owner: Daniel Easson

Architects: Stu/D/O Architects (

Design team: Apichart Srirojanapinyo, Chanasit Cholasuek, Thanut Sakdanaraseth, Pitchaya Kointarangkul

Prime Contractor: Double Click Construction

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Baan Noi Doi Hang: Little House on the Hill Boasts the Beauty of Work-from-Home Design

Baan Noi Doi Hang: Little House on the Hill Boasts the Beauty of Work-from-Home Design

/ Chiang Rai, Thailand /

/ Story: Nattawat Klysuban / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

It’s amazing how a small space can make a big difference. Here’s a little house on the hill located at Tambon Doi Hang in Chiang Rai’s Muang District. It’s only 35 square meters, which is no bigger than an average condominium unit in the city. But it’s location, location and location that makes it a stunning place to live. The homeowner couple wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and live somewhere out there in the countryside. Like a stroke of serendipity, their wish came true.

Little House on the hill

Theirs is a tiny home built into nature. It sits beautifully ensconced in the misty morning air and, beyond, forested mountains can be seen from miles around. It’s a calm living space designed for a remote work-from-home job and hence no time is wasted in daily rush-hour commutes.

Plus, they get to choose a way of life tailored to their needs. It’s a lifestyle pared down to the essentials thanks in part to a simple house plan, in which every square inch serves a purpose for which it’s intended.

Little House on the hill

The homeowner couple are natives of Bangkok. They had lived in other places before moving out to this northernmost corner of the country. So they pretty much had a clear picture of what they wanted in a new home plus the functionality and the size that would be right for them. They tossed the ideas around with a team of architects. And the overall result was impressive.

Little House on the hill

It’s a small house designed for two people to fit in comfortably, with a bedroom, workspace, bathroom and a kitchenette with coffee bar. It even has a closet and outdoor rooms for relaxation and al fresco cooking and dining.

Basically, it’s a small living space with many advantages. To begin with, it’s a way to avoid expensive cost overruns. It’s easy to keep clean and maintain in good condition, which translates into more time being devoted to something else more important.

Little House on the hill

A large countertop made out of hardwood is perfect for preparing favorite meals and beverages.
The closet with shelves attached to a wall has a wash basin nearby for extra convenience.

The house on a hill is positioned along the east west axis with the view of a lush landscape. The north and south sides have long eaves overhanging the walls that shield the bedroom from exposure to intense afternoon sun.

For health benefits, the architect puts in a front porch under the gable to create room to sit sipping coffee in the morning and to cook stakes in the late afternoon. The house plan is made in this way for good reason; the outdoors can impact human wellbeing. So it’s a good idea to step outside and connect with nature to reduce stress or just lean back and chill.

A floor plan illustrates relationships between spaces. / Courtesy of IS Architects
A drawing illustrates front and side elevations of the house built on sloped ground. / Courtesy of IS Architects

Little House on the hill

Little House on the hill
Multiple swing door systems are glazed using clear glass to soak up the views of lush countryside.

Like a good neighbor who cares about the community, the house was built using locally sourced materials by local builders and artisans highly skilled in woodworking and masonry.

The ingredients obtained from the locality included roofing materials, reclaimed hardwood, and cement for textured plaster walls. The builders were tasked with work according to their specialized skills so as to add countryside flair to the home.

A steel bracket connecting the house post with concrete footing helps protect against moisture damage.

Like everything else, the Northern Region is not without its challenges. It’s no stranger to air pollution caused by seasonal agricultural burning. To be prepared for all eventualities, the architect makes sure the doors and windows are impervious to dust and dirt when that happens.

Well-made swing door systems and awning windows are chosen for their effectiveness in keeping dust out. At the same time, attention to detail ensures there are no gaps between the window pane and the frame when shut.

A teakwood post supports the roof truss consisting of beams and common rafters, a collaboration between the project architect and experienced local builders.

On the whole, the little house on the hill is designed to blend perfectly with the circumstances that form the setting of the area. It’s a product of thoughtful planning by the project architect and the homeowners. And the result is a humble abode that syncs with the rhythm of life in the highlands region of Chiang Rai. Priceless!

Little House on the hill
A bird’s-eye view of the little house on the hill in relation to lush greenery in the surroundings.

Architect: IS Architects (

Lead Architect: Pawin Tharatjai

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CHOEI: A Contemporary Round-Top Stool Revival by Rumbá Bor

CHOEI: A Contemporary Round-Top Stool Revival by Rumbá Bor

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut, Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Rumbá Bor /

“There is no escape from plastic as long as we can’t decide, once and for all, to stop using it. If a product works great made of plastic, at least we should make it strong and long-lasting. That’s basically where design comes in handy to achieve desired results – good quality products that can be used over and over again.”

choei stool rumba bor

So said Rumpa Paweenpongpat, designer and founder of the Rumbá Bor brand. Rumpa likes to be referred to as a curator rather than designer. Only recently she stumbled across an injection mold used to make plastic stools at a factory manufacturing household goods.

The factory owner who originally created the intricate design had since stopped making the product. But for Rumpa, it was a real treasure, a work of tasteful aesthetic design deserving serious attention.

choei stool rumba bor

Her success was no fluke. Rumpa soon made a refreshing change from what we’ve seen before. By switching to a new material, repacking and rebranding strategies, she turned an ordinary stool into an exciting new experience, a good quality product under brand name “Choei”.

Now it can be found practically everywhere, albeit different in appearance thanks to the new improved material being used. Plus, there’s an artistic flair in the product that allows it to blend perfectly into the circumstances and ideas at the present time.

The first collection of the Choei brand comes in two different colors depending on the materials used in the making. One model is named “Sakoo” for its off-white color resembling the creamy chewy tapioca balls in Thai-style rice pudding. It’s made of a mix containing 50 percent recycled polyethylene plastic, aka PP for short.

choei stool rumba bor
The “Sakoo” model comes in off-whites with a yellowish tinge resembling the creamy tapioca balls in Thai-style rice pudding. – from Choei.

The other model, named “Kathi” for its coconut milk color with a gray tinge, is made of 100 percent recycled polyethylene. It’s the material of choice for obvious reasons. Polyethylene is tough, abrasion-resistant, and capable of withstanding wear and tear over a long period of time.

choei stool rumba bor
The “Kathi” model boasts the calm of coconut milk color, a beautiful white with a gray tinge. – from Choei.

Sharing her inspiration, Rumpa said: “It makes perfect sense to switch to PP for it’s the most common type of recycled plastic. In comparison with other types of plastic, polyethylene requires less energy to recycle and it gives stronger, better quality products.

“The Choei stool is a piece of decoration you can sit on. It might seem self-contradictory to say that from the start it wasn’t meant to be used for sitting. Rather, it represents a revival, an improvement in the condition and strength, which gives it a value that’s original and unique in its own special way.

“You can test it, or give it a twist. But front and center it’s about aesthetic pleasure. From the design point of view, it’s challenging and rewarding to be able to turn a mass-produced good into a product that has found a niche in the market, a specialized segment of the market, so to speak.”

choei stool rumba bor

Choei is the first product line from Rumbá Bor. On one hand, it seems quite a departure from the norm. On the other hand, it’s so ordinary that’s out of the ordinary, a quality that people tend to overlook. It’s exactly the message that the brand is trying to get across, to make people understand.

As Rumpa puts it: “We are interested in ordinary everyday things. Even mundane objects have the power or quality of giving delight. The point is that there is beauty in simplicity and mundaneness, too. There is always kitsch, or sentimentality, about a simple product that most people don’t see.

“It’s run-of-the-mill things we see every day that intrigue us. Examples include breeze blocks, even those balusters on staircase railings in people’s homes, to name but a few. The Choei stool belongs in that same category oftentimes regarded as old-fashioned and out of style.

“But, we can take it out of its humdrum existence simply by applying a new coat of paint and making the intricate design details stand out again. In this way, the improved product will emerge a refreshing change worthy of serious attention.

“Ordinary things can be adapted for a new purpose and made more attractive in ways that people can relate to. The Choei stool has that intricate detail and potential that people seem to have overlooked.”

choei stool rumba bor

In essence, the Choei brand is about appreciating of the good qualities and value of the resources that we have and being able to use them wisely. Original design can be adapted to suit new circumstances. A product can be made tough and long-lasting by using a better quality material.

The Choei brand isn’t about trying to change the world overnight. Rather, it’s taking one baby step at a time. Already, this little round-top stool with flowy design legs has sparked up a conversation about it, apparently a step in the right direction going forward.

choei stool rumba bor

Hush-hush! There’s a currently circulating story that Choei is coming up with a new set of colors soon. So stay tuned.

Designer: Rumbá Bor (

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