Blog : thailand

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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Mae Rim House: A Home on the Hill, Fresh Air and Memories of the Good Old Days

Mae Rim House: A Home on the Hill, Fresh Air and Memories of the Good Old Days

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Add Peerapat Wimolrungkarat, Something Architecture /

This house on the hill is a refreshing change to be taken seriously. Designed for four people to fit in comfortably, it looks out over the Mae Sa River in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District. It all began with a family wanting to get away from Bangkok and live somewhere out there in the countryside. As luck would have it, they had an old vacation home that needed repairs, and the rest is history.

Home on the Hill fresh air

It wasn’t long before they decided to put in a new house set amid the landscape of undulating hillsides filled with fond memories of the good old days. From a distance, the new place named Mae Rim House is built into nature, the perfect place to get fresh air and sunshine. Can’t beat that!

Home on the Hill fresh air
The open concept first floor offers plenty of ample space under double height ceilings. It holds a living room, dining room and kitchen. Upstairs, a footbridge provides access to the bedroom at the rear of the house plan.

Upon completion, the family had most of their furniture and furnishings shipped up here when they left Bangkok. They included collectibles that had been in family possession for some time and personal effects shipped home after an extended stay overseas. Take a quick look, and it’s easy to get how they felt a sentimental attachment to their possessions.

The dinning room affords a peaceful vista of the family’s old vacation home at the rear of the property.

Overall, home decoration is inspired by fond memories for the past. Amenities and features of the house are mostly in taupe or light gray with a tinge of brown. And that’s especially true for the ceilings, interior walls, sofas and other furniture items.

It’s a mix of old and new that blends perfectly with the dense green color of the surrounding landscape. The same applies to the comparative coolness of the house exterior that’s in shade for much of the day, a rustic ambience that’s in perfect harmony with nature.

Home on the Hill fresh air

The two-story, 500-square-meter home boasts the beauty of a large living room in the middle of the first floor. Elsewhere, smaller sitting areas are placed at intervals across the house plan.

But what makes it an interesting place to live is the double height ceiling at the center that promotes cross ventilation, keeping the interior cool and comfortable especially during summer months. At the same time, open concept design encourages smooth flow around the interior, from the kitchen to dining room to living room.

A topographic map shows the house location on the hill in relation to green spaces, roadway and nearby structures.
A drawing of the downstairs floor plan.
A drawing of the upstairs floor plan.

The result is a bright and breezy atmosphere, thanks in part to an array of sliding glass doors on one side of the house that opens to let nature permeate the interior. There’s also a ceiling fan on standby, too. It’s so cozy that they hardly ever use air conditioning.

Home on the Hill fresh air


The first floor holds two bedrooms with a view of nature. Designed for senior family members, they are positioned at either end of the house plan for increased privacy. The second floor is an entirely different story.

There’s an attic-style bedroom at the south end of the house plan that has been adapted to avoid stuffiness and promote good air flow. For lighting and ventilation, a trio of awnings and skylight windows are built into the gable roof.

Home on the Hill fresh air
The upstairs bedroom at the rear is accessed via a footbridge overlooking the void of space above the first floor that holds a kitchen, dining room and living room.

Home on the Hill fresh air

Inside the house, slanted ceilings that run parallel to top chords create a bigger space overhead making the entire bedroom feel spacious and airy. On the outside, the underside of overhanging eaves is covered with soffit panels for a neat appearance.

Home on the Hill fresh air
Bedroom walls are glazed using clear glass to soak up the views of lush wooded hills.
Home on the Hill fresh air
A cozy semi-outdoor gallery adjoining the bedroom is brightened up with foliage plants.

For indoor thermal comfort, the box-shaped home lies protected by an expansive gable roof with long eaves overhanging the exterior walls. It stands hemmed in by tall trees that keep the new family home in shade for much of the day.


The awning and skylight window customized to match the roof reduces the harshness of materials, plus it facilitates cross ventilation in the interior, keeping the house cool in summer.

Home on the Hill fresh air

What makes it fascinating is the far ends of the gable roof that extends quite a distance from the walls of the building. The resulting triangular shape of the second level is designed to avoid making the house look too big or too tall, so as to blend with all that exists in the neighborhood. After all, it’s everlasting harmony that’s the foundation of good design.

Home on the Hill fresh air

Architect: WOSArchitects (

Interior Designer: Estudio (

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Baan Suan Athisthan: A Contemporary Vernacular Home in Sync with Nature and Community Life

Baan Suan Athisthan: A Contemporary Vernacular Home in Sync with Nature and Community Life

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rithirong Chanthongsuk / Styling: Salisa Viraporn /

A contemporary vernacular home aptly named “Baan Suan Athisthan” stands surrounded by lush green trees and bushes in Chiang Mai. The term “Baan Suan” is Thai for an orchard home. You got the idea. It’s a living space that merges traditional knowledge and skills with modern design principles, technology and materials. The result is a well-thought-out two story house plan filled with style and personality, plus useful features fitting perfectly in a coherent whole.

Vernacular Home Nature
A tree and lush vegetation add a light and pillowy texture to the front yard. The roof is covered with terracotta tiles sourced from neighboring Lamphun Province.

Located at Tambon Mae-Tha in the District of Mae-On, the house makes good use of indigenous knowledge systems and experiences unique to the locality, albeit adapted to suit new conditions and the look that belongs to the present. It’s part of a whole range of professional pursuits that homeowner and architect Supawut Boonmahathanakorn is engaging in.

He has worked at Mae-Tha for a long time, getting involved in all kinds of development efforts. It’s easy to get why he’s become a respected member of the community. We swung by Supawut’s beautiful vernacular home recently and loved every minute of it.

A Home That Blends into the Surroundings

Supawut came to Mae-Tha some eight years ago to work in community planning but ended up falling in love with it. Over time, a friendly, harmonious relationship with locals culminated in a decision to purchase a piece of land with the intention of building a home there.

What he had in mind was the kind of home that would fit, geographically and culturally, into the context of the rural vernacular habitat. And it climaxed with an impressive event in the form a thoughtfully devised wooden home with functionality and comfort fitting into a rural house plan.

Plus, correct building orientation protects it from inclement weather, creating a cozy and inviting living space that syncs with the rhythm of nature.

Vernacular Home Nature

It’s the product of design thinking that started out with the simple drawing of a wooden home plan. As might be expected, he wanted it built the old-fashioned way. The house is now complete.

The principal front of the home looks out over a rural road and, beyond it, a panorama of Doi Khun Tan, a scenic mountain range straddling the border between nearby Lumphun and Lampang provinces to the south.

To deal with intense sunlight coming from that direction, a tree is put in the front yard to provide shade and protect the home from harsh glare. In the meantime, a specious porch along the outside of the house performs a dual function as semi-outdoor sitting room and a layer of protection saving the interior living spaces from sun damage.

By design, it’s the cool front porch that makes the house stand out from other vernacular homes in the neighborhood.

Vernacular Home Nature
Bamboo poles alternating with barbed wires reduce the harshness of precast concrete fence posts. They provide a weather-beaten look that blends smoothly with the wooden home on the property.
Vernacular Home Nature
An array of awning windows allows natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home. Plus, they prove a perfect complement to clean line design on the building’s external envelope.

To blend in harmony with the community, the house is kept roughly the same size as its neighbors. Plus, it makes perfect sense to build a good rapport and avoid being seen as different from what is usual or expected.

To create a quiet and secluded living space, Supawut puts a tree in the front yard that’s still growing at the time of this report. At the same time, appropriate adaptations make the interior spaces cozy and comfortable. Among them, a “Tai Thun” or the open lower level space has since been enclosed by the walls for privacy and security since the homeowner doesn’t live here every day.

Combining Old and New

For strength and durability, the house is built on concrete foundations. The beams and joists supporting the house floor are crafted of steel to significantly speed up the overall construction process.

The floor itself is made of hardwood. The same applies to the beams and joists supporting the porch along the outside of the building. All types of timber used in this project are recycled from three old homes. They are chosen for their color and ability to suit different applications.

For good looks, teakwood is used as showpieces and wall panels, while the floor is crafted of solid hardwood in varying tones.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The front door opens to a vista of herb gardens and, beyond, a seemingly endless line of mountains.
Vernacular Home Nature
A roofed well casing made of concrete syncs with gardens filled with herbs indigenous to the Northern Region.

In keeping with local traditions, the house’s external envelope is unsophisticated and easy to understand. Unlike traditional vernacular design, the roof eaves overhanging the exterior wall are left exposed, leaving the ends of roof rafters visible.

Neither is there a gable decoration, aka the “Ga-lae” that’s symbolic of homes in the Northern Region. But nevertheless, it’s a beautiful wooden house, one that’s easy on the eye and blending perfectly into countryside vernacular.

The house entry area boasts split-level design that provides a place to sit while putting on and taking off shoes upon entering. There is an element of surprise, though. The second floor is accessible via a spiral staircase made of steel, an unusual feature for the traditional style home of the Northern Region.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The dining room and kitchen that lies furthest in is well-lit by natural daylight streaming through side windows and the front porch. Directly overhead, exposed floor joists supporting the upstairs room are clearly visible.
Vernacular Home Nature
Double height ceiling ideas make the downstairs sitting room feel airy and comfortable. Sliding glass doors open for good ventilation and lighting.
Vernacular Home Nature
A nook with a small desk provides a flex workspace that’s airy, open and welcoming.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The downstairs bathroom is an extension of the house plan, accessible via a semi-outdoor room roofed over with corrugated translucent material for lighting, a clever hack to keep the bathroom clean and hygienic.

Vernacular Home Nature
The front porch roofed over with a translucent material performs a dual function as semi-outdoor sitting room and additional protection preventing sun, wind and water from entering the home.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to a “Tern” in the vernacular of the Northern Region meaning an indoor raised platform. In a way, it serves as window into the past. Supawut explained that traditionally in former times, the area was used as living room during the daytime, and sleeping space in the nighttime for unmarried sons.

For good lighting and ventilation, the room isn’t enclosed by the walls. In times past, all family members would be out tending rice in the paddy field all day. There was hardly anyone home. And by the time the sons matured into adulthood, they would be married off and started a family of their own. Since the daughters remained in the family, they were entitled to a room of their own.

Vernacular Home Nature
A window into Northern culture in times past, the raised platform or “Tern” in the dialect of the region provided space for a living room during the daytime, and sleeping space for unmarried sons at night. Like old times, it now serves as a sitting room with throw pillows and floor seat cushions for sitting and leaning on.

In keeping with traditions, the Tern in this contemporary home is without furniture, an evidence that sheds light on a culture in which people sit on the floor. For Supawut, it’s a quiet nook to lean back, chill out, enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape.

Double Height Ceilings for a Bright and Breezy Atmosphere

A void of space between the first and second floors further increases ventilation in the home. It serves as engine that drives cross-ventilation, drawing fresh outdoor air from downstairs and forcing it to exit through wall openings and vents upstairs.

By making appropriate adaptations to traditional house design, Supawut was able to create high ceilings that give the home a lively and cheerful atmosphere. The result of all this: a contemporary home that’s more cozy and comfortable than the original vernacular homes in former times.

Vernacular Home Nature
An upstairs awning window and a gable vent allow natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home.
Vernacular Home Nature
Timber conceals the steel framework supporting the roof, creating a harmonious look in the interior living space. The coverings are made of reclaimed hardwood in various shades of earth color. The wall on the right is crafted of cement boards with sand swirl texture painted a cool-toned white.
Vernacular Home Nature
A void of space between the first and second floors makes the house feel light and breezy, while windows open to bring the outdoors in.

Technically speaking, the house is an interesting amalgam of the modern and the traditional. The architect started out with ideas for a modern house plan, and then added vernacular features to it with the help and advice of local elders highly skilled in traditional carpentry and woodworking.

Ironically, the elders were reluctant to participate at first. But after working with Supawut for a period of time, they came to accept it as one of their proud achievements.

Vernacular Home Nature
The neat and tidy bedroom embraces simple living. Shelving and cupboards perform a dual function as storage space and double insulated walls.
The contemporary upstairs bathroom is small yet complete with modern conveniences. The wet and dry areas are clearly defined, while the bathtub and shower room in cool-toned whites match the toilet and nearby rectangular wash basin.

As for building material adaptations, the walls are built for the most part of cement boards painted a shade of earth tones reminiscent of vernacular homes in bygone times. A light hue is chosen to create a bright and optimistic appearance on the front porch and entry area. The second floor is built strong to give it the maximum ability to take loading, especially the wet area where the bathtub is located. There are multiple vents that allow warm air to exit, resulting in a well-lit, well-ventilated interior. In the meantime, the open-concept floor plan makes the home feel spacious and improves traffic flow.

The house sits on concrete foundations designed to protect against water damage. Post bases built of concrete keep timber frames and columns dry. The joists and beams supporting the house floor are made of steel to significantly reduce construction time and save money on timber costs. Where appropriate, the open ends of steel beams are boxed in using wood plugs for a neat appearance and keeping insects out.
For a neat appearance, wooden knobs conceal the pins that secure mortise and tenon joints in place, a preferred technique to build strong timber framing. The architect sought advice from an artisan/village elder skilled in traditional carpentry to do this. Reclaimed four-sided posts and round log beams fitting together like wooden toys add visual interest to the interior.
The roof over the front porch is covered with a corrugated translucent material that reduces the amounts of light passing through. The load-bearing posts, beams and joists are made of hardwood for durability. Rafter tails are cut at an angle for a lightweight look and maximize the drip-off distance from the building. Plus, it allows rain gardens to make the most of runoff water.

The new contemporary vernacular home is named Baan Suan Athisthan for a good reason. The word is Sanskrit for a resolute mind or strong will to find inner peace and happiness. Like so, Supawut created this awesome place to be a home of peace, one that seeks reconnections with the natural world and the community to which it belongs.

More than anything else, it’s a little humble abode that provides a learning environment for kids, plus a close and harmonious relationship with others in the neighborhood.

The homeowner and project architect, Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, of Jai Baan Studio.

Owner/Architect: Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio (

Building contractor: Banjerd Atelier

Woodwork artisan: Pongsakorn Yuennoi, aka Sala Kew

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“บ้านสวนอธิษฐาน” บ้านไม้พื้นถิ่นร่วมสมัย

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LAAB Is More: A Small Living Space That’s Anything but Ordinary

LAAB Is More: A Small Living Space That’s Anything but Ordinary

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Poto Architects and Blind Space /

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Here’s a small house that chronicles a series of events and experiences of a multigenerational family in Chiang Mai. The humble abode that’s anything but ordinary is nestled in a residential compound shared by relatives living in ten separate households. The new home on a budget is the brainchild of Studio Sifah, a homegrown architectural practice admired for their knowledge of the social and cultural environment in the Northern Region and ability to apply that information in a meaningful way.

small house chiang mai
The house entry area is glazed using clear glass that provides a welcome contrast to nearby solid walls for privacy protection.

It all starts with a young man wanting to put in a home close to his aging parents on a large property where a group of close-knit families also live. It looks the epitome of experiences in communal living, a system whereby family relatives help and support one another come what may.

small house chiang mai

Point taken. The architects respond with a contemporary home built of concrete and steel framing. There’s a pleasant surprise. Its modern exterior belies the unblemished charm of rustic life hidden inside.

More so than anything else, the house plan is thoughtfully devised to preserve a culture unique to the Northern Region, the way of life by which people sit on the floor as they gather to enjoy a main dish called “Laab” just like their ancestry did in times past.

Here, though, the zesty meaty meal served with a salad and sweet rice is more than just food. It’s a way of life. It’s the living embodiment of a food culture that unites the people across vast swaths of land on this side of the world. Long story short, it’s only appropriate that the house is named “Laab Is More”.

small house chiang mai
The patio leading to the front door is taken up a notch with custom-made interlocking concrete blocks that can be dyed to create qualities and features resembling old-fashioned bricks.

Sharing his design thinking, the architect said the homeowner was looking for a house plan that would jealously guard his privacy in the company of family relatives living close by. It was quite a challenge even for experienced architects since it was a little too close for comfort, so to speak.

Eventually, the design team decided in favor of a 165-square-meter home enclosed by solid walls, each strategically positioned to save the interior from being seen or disturbed by outsiders. It’s a well-thought-out plan that maximizes space utilization to protect privacy and promote the close family bond at the same time.

In essence, it’s a design that combines the modern and the traditional. The house’s contemporary appearance goes hand in hand with the homeowner’s love for old-fashioned lifestyles that promote a culture in which people sit on straw mats as they enjoy a good meal together as family.

small house chiang mai

small house chiang mai

With respect to construction, the small house plan is enclosed almost entirely by solid walls with tall transom windows at the top for lighting. There’s one exception. The entry area is glazed using clear glass to create a bright and cheerful atmosphere. Serving as a buffer between indoor and outdoor spaces, the hallway at ground level connects to a slightly raised platform holding a spacious living room with functional areas nearby.

In keeping with long-established traditions, there is no wall separating the living room from the bedroom that lies furthest in. The only room dividers that exist are the ones that set the bedroom apart from nearby bathroom and workspace at the farthest end.

small house chiang mai

The principal floor holding the open bedroom is raised at plinth height, providing sleek, convenient seating space and hence no need for furniture.

Nearby, the lower sitting room offers space for a kitchen pantry design and coffee bar. From here, the concrete floor spreads out to connect seamlessly with a large outdoor patio used for family gatherings and dining al fresco. The patio has room for food preparation with a wash basin and utensils for cooking large meals and entertaining houseguests.

small house chiang mai
Split-level design shows in the main living space elevated at plinth level 50 centimeters from the hallway floor. Together they provide a convenient place to sit shooting the breeze. Plus, they evoke fond feelings and a sentimental attachment to the culture passed down through generations.

small house chiang mai

From the look of things, it’s material honesty that gives the house a good first impression. For strength and durability, the foundations and structural framing are built of concrete to carry the weight of posts, beams and the roof truss crafted of steel. Albeit built of modern materials, the entire floor plan makes reference to traditional vernacular design unique to the Northern Region.

small house chiang mai

Built on a budget, the house makes good use of locally available materials adapted for a new use and contemporary design. They include the walls built of bare concrete blocks and aluminum frames for doors and large transom windows at the top of the wall.

The ceiling is built of ordinary plywood panels, while wooden furniture in the interior gives the home a warm and welcoming atmosphere. For ventilation, there are no soffits beneath the eaves that connect the far edge of the roof to the exterior wall.

small house chiang mai
A spacious backyard patio provides ample space for gatherings, cooking and dining al fresco.

small house chiang mai

The multigenerational family property in itself is rich in history and strong spirit. And the newly added small house is designed to embrace the same positive attitudes that have been the family’s core values through time. It’s a layout with the power of storytelling about a sentimental attachment to northern vernacular culture, in which sitting on the floor is the norm.

A perspective drawing illustrates the dimensions and texture of materials used in the project, plus spatial relationships between indoor and outdoor rooms.
An open perspective drawing gives the illusion of spatial depth in the split-level house plan. The main living area floor is elevated at plinth height above the entrance hall floor.

The property is home to an old rice granary that has stood the test of time as an inextricable part of the family’s history and culture. The building used for storing threshed grain in times of old now serves as the symbol of farm community living and the close family bond.

As things change, it finds a new purpose as venue for socialization. It’s a place to sit together, talk together and eat together as family. And the lime and herb meaty meal called “Laab” comes in handy to cement the family ties, creating a healthy and strong society going forward.

small house chiang mai
The house façade, left, as seen from the old rice granary now used as work area.
The old rice granary has since been adapted for a new use as food preparation area shared by relatives living in the same compound. Just like old times, it serves as the heart of family life where people assemble, eat a meal together and enjoy a casual conversation.

The old granary provides a focal point on the property. It gives the architects the inspiration they need to pursue their design goal.

And the result of all this? A house plan that celebrates communal living and a food culture where “Laab” is more than just food. It’s a way of life that connects everyone in the family just like the old rice granary did in times past. Now it’s easy to get why they name this house “Laab Is More”.

Owner: Jessada Nan-snow Peata

Architect and Interior Designer: Studio Sifah

Structural Engineer: Pilawan Piriyapokhai, Jar Pilawan

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The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster: Rice Granary Adapted for a New Use as Café amid the Rice Fields

The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster: Rice Granary Adapted for a New Use as Café amid the Rice Fields

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand/

/ Story: Ektida N. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

Here is a café and roastery with an ear-grabbing name. The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster stands in the middle of the rice fields of Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District. A metamorphosis of purpose, it’s performing a new function as café with panoramic views of the stunning mountain landscape. The brand may be hard to say, but it certainly holds the attention of listeners while its rustic appearance merges into the farmhouse vernacular symbolic of the Northern Region.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

The room of this Chiang Mai café in itself has only 21 square meters of space. At the outset, that was a difficult situation that tested the ability of the design team at Yangnar Studio, a homegrown atelier based in Chiang Mai. But they stepped up to the challenge by creating a functional business space, in which everything on the premises was fused into a single entity.

And the result of all this? A piece of vernacular architecture worth remembering. It’s a wholesome destination for coffee lovers that fits right into its surrounding farmlands and the reality of simple life in the countryside.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Built by locals using local building materials, the small coffee shop merges beautifully into farmland vernacular.

To begin with, the project owner wanted an oasis of calm where customers could sit back and relax as they enjoyed a good cup of coffee with nothing to obscure the view of the landscape. The design team responded with a three-part plan, including a small coffee shop at the front, followed by a cozy sitting area under a bamboo pavilion, and a restroom building at the farthest end.

Here, a 360-degree-view that changes from season to season can be seen all year round. Like a wallpaper from nature, it’s a design that seeks to connect more closely with the natural world for lighting and ventilation. Hence, there’s no need for air conditioning, which translates into huge savings and contributing in its small way to a sustainable future.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Going in the reverse direction, slat wood wall paneling is installed on the inside while supporting vertical beams or columns are on the outside.

In terms of design, the coffee shop gets its inspiration from old rice granaries commonplace in this part of the country. The interior holds a coffee bar service/ordering area complete with an assortment of bakery goods. Nearby, a west-facing bakery room provides insulation against hot afternoon sun, thereby keeping the bar and customer seating area cool and comfortable.

Plus, double height ceilings add a light and airy atmosphere to the room. From the outside, what looks like a two-story building is in fact a cross ventilation system which relies on wind to blow cool outside air into the room through one side, while warm inside air is forced out through rooftop vents and outlets on the opposite side.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Extended eaves overhanging the exterior walls offer protection against too much sun and rain.
The building’s external envelope crafted of bamboo splits creates a more open and airy atmosphere in the room, plus it protects against humidity damage.

The little café amid the rice fields is built by artisans skilled in traditional carpentry using timber and other natural ingredients readily available in Chiang Mai, except for the load-bearing foundations that are made of poured cement or concrete to protect against soil moisture damage. As is the case with rice granary construction, slat wood wall paneling is installed on the inside while supporting vertical beams or columns are on the outside.

Apart from retaining much of its architectural heritage, the reverse exterior walls add visual interest that merges with a massive gable roof designed for sun and rain protection. In the fewest possible words, it’s a picture of modern countryside ideas blending together beautifully into one cohesive whole.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

To make customers feel comfortable, this Chiang Mai café amid the rice fields has patio and outdoor furniture that can be set up anywhere under the bamboo pavilion canopy. It’s a relaxation room that conveys a great deal about the humble origins of mankind and their responsibility towards nature.

To reduce the chance of exposure to harmful substances, the bamboo shades and blinds are not chemically treated to extend their longevity of life cycle. It’s a design based on the belief that everything changes and everything will be replaced when the time comes.

A drawing of the floor plan shows functional spaces in relation to the trees and shrubbery thriving on the property.

The same applies to the method of construction that’s simple and straightforward. Take for example the bamboo pole footings that are wrapped in plastic bags for protection against humidity damage. Or the overhead black mesh rolls that create diffuse light and protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays. They, too, get changed from time to time to ensure customer comfort and satisfaction.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
For a full view of the landscape, the three buildings are set in a direction parallel with the elongated plot of land.

Architect: Yangnar Studio (

Lead Architects: Dechophon Rattanasatchatham, Apiwat Chainarin

Construction Supervisors: Rungroj Tansukanun, Metee Moonmuang

Builder Team: Yangnar studio builder team, Yaiwood

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Rupu House: White Geometric Design Bespeaks a Close Family Bond and Privacy at Home

Rupu House: White Geometric Design Bespeaks a Close Family Bond and Privacy at Home

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Nantiya Busabong /

It all began with a thoughtful son’s wish to build a new home and be close to his aging father. And Jun Sekino of the atelier JUNSEKINO Architect and Design was on hand to do precisely that.

Jun Sekino, the architect who designed it, said that originally the plan was to put in an add-on to the existing family home. Later there was a change of plan.

The owner preferred to build a new home on the opposite side of the street from his dad instead, so the design was revised in order to fit an entirely different context.

The result was a white geometric home of outstanding beauty – one that’s simple yet attractive and fully functional. It’s the product of a 360-degree turn.

And after making all necessary adjustments, the architect aptly named it “RUPU HOUSE,” a made-up term coined from the Japanese word for the action of rotating around an axis.

Built on 200 square wah of land (roughly 0.20 acre), the new two-story home offers 680 square meters in total.

It stands surrounded by greenery that’s kept further away at appropriate distances to create a well-lit, well-ventilated living space. The first floor contains functional areas including an open contemporary kitchen with dining space at the center.

There’s a sitting room tucked away in a quiet corner for relaxation. Nearby a semi-outdoor space is reserved for entertaining guests. It lies enclosed by the glass walls of the dining room and sitting room. Glass walls enhance visual continuity and the aesthetic appeal of the home.

By design, the semi-outdoor space on the ground floor is the heart of family life, said the architect. It’s easy to get why this cool and airy area has become the homeowner’s favorite niche.

The second-floor deck keeps it in shade for much of the day. It offers ample space perfect for entertaining.

Despite the house’s modern appearance, the semi-outdoor room evokes pleasant memories of comfort provided by the wooden house on stilts of former times. It’s an ideal place for receiving visitors without disturbing the peace in other parts of the house.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to the quiet and secluded second floor that contains three bedrooms. The master bedroom belongs to the homeowner, while two slightly smaller ones are reserved for kids. That’s what the future looks like.

To create a light and airy feel, the spacious master bedroom boasts high standards of comfort with a big bed at the center, a walk-in closet and en-suite bath. But what makes it exceptionally good is the double height ceiling, which gives enough room for a private office on the mezzanine floor.

It’s a layout option inspired by duplex design, a peaceful place in which to work undisrupted. According to Jun Sekino, it’s like having a beautiful office apartment hidden inside the home.

The overall effect is impressive. White geometric design adds interest and a sense of excitement to the house’s external appearance. As Jun Sekino puts it, there is an unadorned beauty plus clean simple lines that fit an easy lifestyle, and that’s exactly the way the homeowner likes it.

Technically, it’s meant to be a simple one-mass unit of construction with a high-pitch shed-style roof, a geometric shape without terra cotta tiles and minimal detailing. And the same treatment applies evenly from top to bottom.

To create a soothing ambience, the concrete exterior home is painted white, a single-color trend toward simplicity in design.

Its shed style roof and external envelope are characterized by regular lines and shapes. This is summed up in the vertical awnings that overhang the walls of the building on all sides.

Together they go to work keeping the sun and rain off the façade, windows and doorway on the ground floor. They also double as a design strategy to break the fall of vertical lines that run from the rooftop to the ground floor.

To improve visual and spatial continuity, the windows, doorway and most of the walls at ground level are glazed using clear glass panels.

The second floor is treated differently. Where appropriate, windows are installed only in the direction that’s not exposed to strong sunlight. Meanwhile, the external walls that face the sun have no wall openings at all.

These solid walls, in turn, make the white geometric home even more noticeable from a distance. As for the interior living spaces, a mix of wood and stone masonry is preferred for its ability to reduce the stiffness of strong geometric shapes.

Looking back over the years, Jun Sekino could still recall that concrete roof construction was the hardest part of the entire project. Steel-reinforced concrete roof building required special skills to ensure the remarkable smoothness of the outer surface and prevent leakage.

Apart from that, other challenges included window fittings, which also needed specialized skills and craftsmanship to make sure they don’t leak when it rains.

All things considered, it’s a home project that brings deep pleasure derived from Jun Sekino’s abilities to accomplish a mission. The concrete exterior is smooth and with no apparent gaps or cracks of any kind. It’s a home carefully thought out to age gracefully.

Like so, the homeowner will be able to repaint the house when necessary without worrying about too many practical details. The new home offers a calm and cozy atmosphere with plenty of room for entertaining and the opportunity to be close to his aging father.

It’s a heartwarming moral story of unbreakable bonds.

Architect: JUNSEKINO Architect and Design

Interior designer: JUNSEKINO Interior Design

Contractor: M.W.K. Construction

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/ Bangkok, Thaialmd /

/ Story: room Books and Living Asean Editorial Staff /

/ English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Baan Lae Suan Fair Press Room /

A collection of inspiring quotes and flashbacks to the room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023,
at the Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The latest architecture event “room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023” took place last Sunday 6 August. Convening a group of well-known experts from three countries, the annual conversation was on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.”

It’s the star of the show at this year’s Baan Lae Suan (home and garden) Fair Midyear.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The panel included M.L. Varudh Varavarn of Vin Varavarn Architects Ltd., Bangkok; Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of JaiBaan Studio, Chiang Mai; Japanese architect practicing in Vietnam Shunri Nishizawa of Nishizawa Architects, Ho Chi Minh City; and Antonius Richard of the design atelier RAD+ar, Jakarta, Indonesia, with Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon as special guest speaker.

Chana Sampalang, President of ASA (The Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage), officiated at the opening of the room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023 on Sunday 6 August at BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

The Design Talk centered around the shared interest in design that’s friendly to the environment and conducive to social development in both urban and rural areas.

And the Deputy Governor of Bangkok came in handy to touch upon the subject of official policy tools and collaborations with various efforts at developing public spaces and improving the quality of life for people in Bangkok.

Essentially, the conversation is about building strong networks that will enable us to stay tuned to things happening in the city and communities across the country.

It’s seen as a confluence of ideas between architects and people from different disciplines inspired to create a sustainable future together.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The conversation event started with Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon, who spoke on “Urban Development Policy: Thoughts on response from and interactions with residents from different backgrounds.”

He shared a great deal of careful thoughts and his vision of a “livable city,” which he defined as one capable of accommodating people from all walks of life.

It’s the place where residents live together in harmony. In other words, it’s the type of surroundings where people participate in creating sufficient open spaces that lead to improved quality of life.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Sanon plays a part in furthering policy objectives and collaborating with multiple agencies working towards common goals. Front and center are projects aimed at improving the public spaces deemed crucial to the quality life of people in the city.

Apart from providing all the conveniences, a good city must offer the opportunity for people to live together happily. A “Livable City” can be defined as one that’s open for everyone to participate in the development process.

When people feels a sense of involvement and affiliation to a place that’s suitable for them, they have high hopes of making it better both for themselves and for others.

The next speaker, M.L. Varudh Varavarn of Vin Varavarn Architects, Thailand, touched on the subject of “Public Architecture and solutions to the problems brought on by the gap between people in society.”

He emphasized that architects had an important role to play in helping to reduce social inequality. They had the knowledge and skills in the art and technique of designing and building and they could use them in the best interests of the people.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

M.L. Varudh and Vin Varavarn Architects have won acclaim serving clients across a wide range of industries. Lately his focus has shifted towards designs that help solve problems in the society.

They ranged from schoolhouse planning thoughtfully devised to deal with earthquake risks, to low-cost housing opportunities for overcrowded city neighborhoods.

All of them speak volumes for the principles governing Vin Varavarn Architects’ ideas and design strategies.

Essentially, it’s about creating the right design that’s capable of bringing about a change for the better for the people and the society as a whole.

And then Shunri Nishizawa, of Nishizawa Architects, Vietnam, talked about “Residential Design in Response to the Prevailing Climate and Limitations in Different Contexts.”

He sent a strong message about the need to create living spaces that harmonize with the circumstances that form the setting of a place. Upon reflection, the relationship between man and nature is impossible to disentangle.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Shunri Nishizawa has practiced in Vietnam for over 15 years. He believes that an architect is duty bound to have a complete understanding of the context surrounding a project being developed.

This can be anything from humans and animals, to plants and the natural environment, plus the cultural context and so forth.

All of them must be treated with equal respect if we are to create a piece of architecture that adds a good complement to the surroundings.

Nishizawa Architects’ finest works to date have made living with nature front and center.

Besides harmony with the natural surroundings, the designer group attaches special importance to choosing only materials that are right for the context of a place. That’s the role of an architect the way he sees it.

Sharing similar opinions was Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jai Baan Studio, Chiang Mai, who touched upon “Rewilding the built environment: Interweaving urban and rural designs through non-human life.”

He laid greater emphasis on biophilic design that called for rewilding the built environment and the restoration of all aspects of the physical world.

At the very center, the health of the natural environment is as important as that of humans, perhaps even more so.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Supawut and Jai Baan Studio are renowned for their nature-inspired design, effort at environmental conservation and ability to connect with a sizeable proportion of the rural population.

Through multiple collaborations with property owners, Supawut is able to promote a good understanding of the connectedness between man and nature.

He gets his message across to the public that “time” is of the essence when it comes to restoring the natural environment to health.

His outstanding works include a project that transforms unused land into a green oasis in the city. It’s achieved by rewilding, a process of reintroducing native trees and plants, thereby creating natural habitats for birds and other organisms native to the Northern Region.

As “ambassador” speaking on behalf of nature, he proves the point that the relationships between humans, animals, and ecosystems are inextricable.

Last but not least, architect Antonius Richard of RAD+ar, Indonesia, spoke on the topic of Different aspects of design in response to the environment and surrounding circumstances.”

He shared many useful techniques to incorporate natural elements in contemporary design. Plus, it’s a discussion alive with insights into design features unique to Tropical regions.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Mr. Richard spoke on the topic of integrating elements of nature in architectural design with respect to circumstances unique to Indonesia.

For the most part, his works deal with experiments undertaken to test the performance of new design in real life situations.

His experience encompasses a wide range of designs, from small projects such as cafés and restaurants, to homes and offices, to big projects such as commercial spaces and mosques that are designed to accommodate a large number of people.

Regardless of size, they share one common feature – a strict adherence to sustainable living ideas and design that’s compatible with the environment. It’s the quality that has served as the signature of Mr. Richard and his group of architects, designers and thinkers from day one.

More about architecture and design for better living, plus ideas for a sustainable society and conserving the environment, known collectively as the “Betterism” concept, are waiting to be discovered. Follow us and room Books for more!

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

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Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Jai Baan Studio: Striking a Balance between Human Needs and Nature Conservation through Thoughtful Environmental Design

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Jai Baan Studio: Striking a Balance between Human Needs and Nature Conservation through Thoughtful Environmental Design

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Story: Lily J. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Jai Baan Studio /

For Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio, it’s easy to get why humans crave the touch of nature in their lives. It shows in what they’ve been doing all along — from ecotourism that combines travel with conservation, to an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city that happens from time to time. Why not? Out in the country the atmosphere is salubrious and the natural landscape pristine. Priceless!

But from the opposite point of view, what’s generally regarded as good also has the potential to inadvertently do harm to nature.

Not to mention the uncontrolled urban growth that can lead inexorably to unwelcome change in such a way as to impair the values and normal function of a rural community.

That’s where the designer group Jai Baan Studio led by Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, comes into play. Interestingly, they are determined to pursue a goal in creating designs that strike the right balance between satisfying basic human needs and protecting nature from harm, thereby adding to its ability to replenish.

To them, it’s a quality achievable through well-thought-out planning, a conception of design that prioritizes wisdom, prudence and function over form that brings aesthetic pleasure.

room and Living Asean have the honor of presenting Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio. It’s a group of architects, planners and thinkers specialized in design that expresses our common humanity and the need to reconnect with the natural environment.

Mr. Supawut will be one of our guest speakers at the annual room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023. The event will take place on Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan (Home and Garden) Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bangna, Bangkok, Thailand.


Supawut Boonmahathanakorn

Q: What’s the basic principle of Jai Baan Studio? In other words, what’s important in the course of action you’re pursuing?

A: We regard restoring nature as the most important endeavor of our time. In doing so, we make every effort to “rewild” of the environment, be it built or natural.

We look for effective ways to restore balance in nature, thereby bringing the ecosystems back to health. In essence, it’s not about designing just to satisfy basic human needs alone. There are other things worthy of consideration, too.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Adishtan House / Here’s a thoughtful residential design that strikes the right balance with nature. It’s not devised as a response to homeowner needs alone. Rather, it’s a house plan that speaks volumes for everything that Jai Baan Studio stands for, an approach that takes the totality of the circumstances into consideration.

In the past, when people built something, they seemed to have a worldview that’s different from ours in this day and age. Back then, people didn’t separate things into different parts as is the case with works of architecture at the present time.

Their perspectives on life are evident in structures that conveyed a great deal about who they were and their relationship with the context of a place. Likewise, that’s what inspires us with a vision to pursue a wide range of contemporary design.

Among other things, we look at creating commercial spaces that are responsive to customer needs. At the same time, we look for design that strikes a balance between human needs and nature conservation. That’s important to us.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Adishtan House



We feel that the world is at a crisis point in history, a period characterized by mass extinction events brought on by the loss of habitats across a wide geographic area. It’s a time of intense difficulty that we are facing.

Yet, we feel that architects, designers and thinkers have a role to play in bringing public attention to the danger in a more perceptible way.


This is because the Earth’s surface, as we know it, has undergone transformation in so many ways. At the same time, human impacts on the environment continue with no end in sight.

Intentionally or not, the spreading of urban developments has had tremendous negative effects on the surroundings, both urban and rural.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Homjai House / By finding a balance between basic human needs and the context that forms the setting of a place, the architects at Jai Baan Studio are able to produce a home plan consistent with community values in society and the natural surroundings.

That said, it’s important for us to be able to speak on behalf of nature — living organisms, humans, animals, insects, plants, and let their voices be heard.

Mind you, the flora and fauna of the land have needs just like we all do. Hence, it’s good to do our share of the joint effort at restoring the balance of nature.

This brings us to the term “rewilding” the environment, which in essence is about restoring ecological systems to a stable equilibrium. That’s the message that we’re reaching out to communicate with our clients.

Homjai House


Q: How do you respond to the rise of urbanization and the consequences of land change in areas where you work?

A: Urbanization is a process that’s happening every day. We’re constantly making partial or minor changes to the city we live in.

Over time, it expands into outlying areas and small towns in the countryside. Even in the remote corners of the country, changes are taking place there, too.

Our office is located in Chiang Mai, but a sizeable proportion of the population is originally from Bangkok and other provinces across the country. They have come to call Chiang Mai home trying to fulfill their dreams of living in close touch with nature.

It’s an interesting phenomenon in which people feel a powerful desire to live a healthy lifestyle embraced by nature. They come in droves, and that’s what gives us architects new challenges.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Nunienoi Wetland / For the architects, designers and thinkers at Jai Baan Studio, animal needs are just as important as those of humans. For this reason, this wetland in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai is “rewilded” to its natural uncultivated state. The area is home to birds and animals great and small that are indigenous to this region.

The solution to the problems lies in whether we can find a balance between the form and function that people want on the one hand, and sustainability and quality of life on the other.

Suddenly, it dawns on us that our work can no longer be confined to landscaping design alone. Rather, it has to encompass all aspects of residential planning, environment improvement, and interactions with nature.

Therefore, it’s important to reach out and create an awareness among the residents. In doing so, we are able to offer the kind of thoughtful planning that’s clear and easy for building contractors to follow.

It’s a gradual process. Meanwhile, we must allow nature time to take its course and regain the ability to replenish.

Nunienoi Wetland

Q: In your opinion, how can design or your role as architect help toward community development, and society as a whole?

A: Let me answer in two parts.

First of all, we play an important part in communicating with the public in a respectful and subtle manner.

We don’t just tell people without explanation what good canal design should be and whatnot. Rather, we approach the task from a wider perspective, raising the issue of water pollution and how best to protect and restore the environment to health.

The same applies to other issues that involve public participation to resolve — from problems in the local economy, to impacts on ecosystems, to culture.

It’s about reaching out and talking to people, a role comparable to that of a diplomat, except we speak on behalf of nature. We wear two hats: humans who see things as humans do; and ambassadors of the environment that’s negatively impacted by change brought on by urbanization.

Done right, we can make our community a better place to live, together.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Mae Kha Canal / The Mae Kha Canal, a tributary that flows into the Ping River in Chiang Mai, is restored to a clean and pleasant condition. It’s a welcome change that bespeaks the resilience of nature and a joint effort at improving riparian ecosystems that shape the health the community.

Secondly, in helping toward community development, we collaborate with people from different walks of life.

Unlike old times, today’s architects often find themselves working jointly with people from different fields. Together, we look for an excellent, well-thought-out plan with help from a variety of knowledgeable sources.

It’s a conducive work environment, in which everyone is treated as equal regardless of economic backgrounds or points of view. Good design comes from a nexus of ideas that all parties bring to the table.

Above and beyond anything else, it’s about bringing people together and making success happen.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Mae Kha Canal


Supawut Boonmahathanakorn is one of our guest speakers at the annual room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023. He will touch upon the topic of a balance between human needs and nature conservation. Plus, it’s an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments in design, architecture and landscaping. The event will take place on Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside BaanLaeSuan Fair Midyear 2023 at BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

This year’s Design Talk is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” Admission is free. Just a friendly reminder, seats are limited. Advance registration is recommended.

For more details:

Register to attend at:

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Kaew Khum Oey Garden: Rewilding Strategies Turn Unused Land into an Oasis of Calm

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Kaew Khum Oey Garden: Rewilding Strategies Turn Unused Land into an Oasis of Calm

Kaew Khum Oey Garden: Rewilding Strategies Turn Unused Land into an Oasis of Calm

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Lily J. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Jai Baan Studio /

Imagine what to expect as urban areas relentlessly expand into the outskirts of a city. More basic physical infrastructures are needed. As to be expected, they have a significant impact on rivers, canals and natural water bodies. Not to mention new roads that traverse a vast area covered with forest and agricultural land. Some see it as a welcome change. For others, it’s a rude awakening for its potential to have an effect on the ecosystems. Precisely, there’s a good chance it could afflict harm to existing “Ecological Corridors.”

Jai Baan Studio

What are “Ecological Corridors,” anyway? The term refers to both natural features of Earth’s surface and landscape planning strategies designed to prevent or reduce the effects of habitat loss.

Be it natural or man-made, they provide habitats crucial to the survival of indigenous florae and faunas great and small. Simply put in plain language, they are natural homes to plants, animals, birds, insects and other living organisms.

Jai Baan Studio

It’s for this reason that a property owner in Chiang Mai decided to create an open public space that’s central to the physical and mental health of both humans and animals. She started out with 12 Rai of land (slightly shy of 5 acres) of her own that’s part of a housing development on the outskirts of the city.

Named “Kaew Khum Oey Garden,” the green space project connecting Chiang Mai people with nature is undertaken by the homegrown design atelier Jaibaan Studio.

Jai Baan Studio

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jaibaan Studio, said that for a long time the 12-Rai plot was left largely undeveloped after much of the upper layer of earth had been excavated to fill a strip of land designated for road building.

It lies environed by more than 30 housing developments without a single open public space. That’s reason enough for the owner to put in good quality parklands complete with bike trails, jogging trails and workout spaces for the community to enjoy.

Change is a good thing. The green is open to people of all ages, plus it’s thoughtfully devised to connect with existing ecosystems in the surroundings.

To create an oasis of calm that allows public access, the designer has been meticulous about its appearance and made spaces available for commercial activities, including room for the restaurant business.

It’s a thoughtful consideration since it’s the business that will generate the incomes needed to fund the upkeep of the park, thereby freeing the property owner from burdensome responsibilities in the long term. Plus, it helps to operate within budget.

With respect to landscaping, the designer further improves the visible features of the land by putting in trees and small plants indigenous to Thailand’s North.

Ironically, some of the species are less commonly known even among locals. As the growth of urban sprawl continues, neighborhood greenery matters. That’s the way he sees it.

Hence, the restoration of the area to all its former glory becomes his front-and-center concerns. Besides giving local residents the opportunity to reconnect with nature, he treats it as a design laboratory in which the flora and fauna and other living elements native to the area are incorporated in the design.

Jai Baan Studio

As the designer of Jai Baan Studio puts it, the park doubles as nature conservation, a restoration of the natural environment in which native plant species take precedence over any other consideration.

Trouble is that nowadays the garden market is awash with excessive amounts of decorative plants, including species imported from abroad.

Because of that, most landscape developers across the country have elected to integrate foreign imports in the design despite the kingdom’s rich and diverse native florae. As the imported tree species become more popular, nurseries and garden markets comply.

Subsequently, the landscape designer is compelled to act according to demands. And before you know it, there aren’t many native plant gardens around anymore, let alone the nursery business that produces them.

To solve supply chain problems, the landscape designer builds his own nursery, one that’s specialized in native species production to fulfill the park’s specific needs.

He crosses the hill and sifts through the water collecting specimens of native florae and faunas needed to repopulate the area, literally starting from scratch. A job very well done, he’s succeeded in breathing new life into what was once a neglected piece of ground.

Some of the more commonly known species he reintroduces to the park includes herbal species, such as

(1) Ngu-khiew (พันงูเขียว) or Brazilian tea (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis);

(2) Tri-chawa (ตรีชวา) or squirrel’s tail (Justicia betonica);

(3) Kraprao-daeng (กระเพราแดง) or Red holy basil (Ocimum tenufiorum);

(4) Ho-rapha (โหรพา) or Thai basil (Ocimum basillicum var. thyrsiflora); and

(5) Fai-duenha (ไฟเดือนห้า) or Butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica). The list goes on.

Jai Baan Studio

Kaew Khum Oey Garden is by no means a one-off project. It’s the designer’s finest work to date. So the information about the native florae used here will be stored in a repository of data for future landscape developments similar to this one.

The data will also be made available for public access in time to come with a view to stimulate demands, thereby encouraging the nursery business to fulfill the emerging needs for indigenous plants in the future.

For a carefree, laid-back vibe, it’s the designer’s intention for the project to be nothing out of the ordinary, a public green space that operates without too much control or intervention.

As he puts it, “There may still be parts of it that aren’t arranged neatly or in good order here and there, but hey, that’s perfectly normal if we wish to restore an area of land to its original uncultivated state.

“After all, we have different notions about beauty in the 21st Century. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s a sense of beauty in imperfections, too?”

Jai Baan Studio

It’s the different conception of beauty that brings our attention to “Rewilding the Environment,” the term used to describe the return to a state of being unorganized or leaving it alone again, naturally.

By design, it’s a far cry from the impeccably manicured garden. Rather, it’s one rich in the flora and fauna of the Northern Region, including insects. It’s a design that views human users as inextricable parts of nature.

So if you’re looking for a place to relax, lean back and chill, Kaew Khum Oey Garden is the place to be. It’s made with the user in mind. And that’s precisely the message that the design atelier Jai Baan Studio tries to communicate.


Designer: Jai Baan Studio (

Find out more about nature-inspired landscape architecture and ideas for a possible course of action toward environment-friendly design similar to the above-mentioned project at the upcoming room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023.

It’s an opportunity to meet up Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jai Baan Studio as well as a panel of experts from three ASEAN countries.

This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” The Design Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023.

Admission is free. Just a friendly reminder, seats are limited. Registration is recommended.

For more details:

Register to attend at:

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Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop: A Design Experiment on the Interaction between Commercial Space and NatureLow-Cost Micro Dwellings for Klong Toey Community: Housing Opportunities Aimed at Bridging the Gap between Urban Developments

Low-Cost Micro Dwellings for Klong Toey Community: Housing Opportunities Aimed at Bridging the Gap between Urban Developments

Low-Cost Micro Dwellings for Klong Toey Community: Housing Opportunities Aimed at Bridging the Gap between Urban Developments

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Urawan Rukachaisirikul / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Vin Varavarn Architects /

A low-cost residential project promising 87 micro-houses is “a dream come true” for many low-income households occupying a mid-city neighborhood of Bangkok, Thailand. Officially named the Housing Development Project for Klong Toey Community, it was implemented as part of a wider housing opportunities program for impoverished urban dwellers throughout the capital and 25 provinces in the Central Region.

Klong Toey Community

A collaboration between the 1st Army and respective provincial administrations, the task was carried out in support of the volunteer program Chitr Asa, a royal policy initiative under His Majesty King Rama X.

It also received help from the Charoen Pokphan Foundation. The housing design is the brainchild of the Bangkok-based architectural practice Vin Varavarn Architects (VVA) under the leadership of M.L. Varudh Varavarn, founder and CEO.

Klong Toey Community

For a long time, the mid-town neighborhood of Klong Toey has been home to many of the working classes in the midst of a vibrant commercial district bordering the south bend of the Chao Phraya River. Before becoming Klong Toey Community as we know it, the area was originally the seat of a fortress town named Paknam Phrapadaeng, a fortification designed for the defense of the capital in warfare of olden days.

Over time, urban developments expanded into this part of the city giving rise to overcrowded communities in a way regarded as disorganized and unattractive.

Klong Toey Community

The area being chock-full of tightly compacted makeshift housing became a challenge for even the most experienced architect.

M.L. Varudh Varavarn said that he could still recall facing countless obstacles in performing the task, not to mention juggling limited funds with compelling needs for materials and building techniques.

He had to deal with many limitations occurring on site. And immediately upon receiving the final official briefing, it was a race against time going full blast until the very last day.

Klong Toey Community

Nonetheless, it was a mission accomplished despite limited manpower. As to be expected, on-site training became necessary since construction crews made up of soldiers were a far cry from being skilled builders. Trained right, they were able to get the job done.

That’s not all. Access through and around the site was narrow and couldn’t be widened any further. As a result, building supplies had to be hand carried, plus there was the problem with reclaimed ground filled with waste material and water that had nowhere to go, causing a flood when it rained.

The key to success lies in active public participation, in a sense perceived as a crucial stage in the implementation of the plan.

When members of the Klong Toey Community chipped in, contributing their shares of a joint effort, the project made headway in helping families in need of housing.

Overall it was a project well thought out with the user in mind. Hence, the focus of attention was on safety in family living spaces, the performance of the buildings and their ability to effectively answer user needs.

What gave it a chance to succeed was the concept of free will and the esprit de corps shared by members of Klong Toey Community. There was no forced eviction of residents as was the case with several overcrowded communities in the past.

Aiming for a win-win situation, the 1st Army that spearheaded the campaign was able to liaise with leaders across the community for the purpose of a survey and identifying the households that wished to participate.

Klong Toey Community

The overall effect was impressive. Through active public participation, the project was able to achieve desired results.

It set the scene for joint learning and the social contract that everyone came away happy and satisfied. In the process, it gave the architect the power, skills and techniques to do it right and make work easy.

Meantime, the resident households were free to choose any color they wanted for their home entrance.

Conceptual Diagram Courtesy of Vin Varavarn Architects

With respect to design, it’s good looks that speak to the same appearance standard. Yet, there is plenty of room for customizable features that allow for updates to suit specific user needs.

Plus, it’s a home plan capable of being adapted to fit into different land sizes. This gives families the freedom to choose what’s right for their life and to make plans for future add-ons should the family size increases.

This kind of advance planning helps reduce the problems occurring on site, giving the team of supervising architects more time to concentrate on building strong and durable homes.

Klong Toey Community

To improve thermal comfort in the home, the roof is built of metal sheeting with polyurethane heat insulation measuring one inch thick.

The exterior walls are made of fiber cement board siding. Designed to protect from lightning strikes, the home is light and airy, and can be built within budget. And in future, should a mezzanine be needed, that’s perfectly doable too.

Recognizing the fact that homeowner needs varied from house to house, the team of architects came up with flexible design.

To begin with, they accepted that most households wanted to hang on to the amounts of land they already occupied. And they were determined to build to cover the full extent of the existing plots. This gave rise to an interesting mix of differently-sized homes across the neighborhood.

Klong Toey Community

In the process, the architects were able to produce home plans made up of simple geometric shapes. They were easily adaptable to fit into many different arrangements.

In the big picture, it’s an urban development setting in which a rich variety of shapes and configurations come together to form a coherent whole – a curious amalgam of forms, colors and textures emblematic of the contemporary style. It’s pleasant to look at.

Klong Toey Community

Architect M.L. Varudh Varavarn wraps it up nicely, “The Housing Development Project for Klong Toey Community, may not be perfect due to multiple limitations on site, but it’s very well thought out in view of the circumstances overall.

“More than anything else, it’s one that’s carefully devised to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. All things considered, it contributes to improving the quality of life for a sizable proportion of an urban population.

“In the end the people are happy. That’s what matters.”

Find out more about architectural design in sync with nature, as well as ideas for a possible course of action within the context of nature, climate and culture from M.L. Varudh Varavarn, architect and founder of Vin Varavarn Architects (VVA), Thailand, at the upcoming the “room x Living ASEAN Design Talk 2023.”

Meet up with a panel of experts comprising four distinguished architects from three countries. This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” The Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Mark your calendar!

For more details:

Register to attend at:…/room-x-living-asean-design-talk

Architect: M.L. Varudh Varavarn of Vin Varavarn Architects (

Consultancy: Next Engineering Group