Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Architecture and Interior Design in Koh Samui

Koh Samui is the second biggest island in Thailand. Since the island was discovered by backpackers in the early 1970s the island has transformed itself from a coconut growing backwater to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.

There has been a lot of money put into the development of Koh Samui. Besides the money spent on an airport, good roads and a few big hospitals there has also been a serious investment in architectural design and practice as well as care paid to interior design in Koh Samui.

Many places opt for a contemporary Thai architecture while others go for an ultra modern look. There is a small ground swell in Koh Samui for sustainable design. Some designs are just plain bizarre while other buildings just look plain ugly.

The island is continually changing the way it looks and the way visitors interact with their surroundings.

In the few years leading up to the global financial disaster of 2008 there was a private housing boom in Koh Samui. Developers, while usually looking for cheap design that ticked all the boxes of pool, air-con, privacy and view, did sometimes build a few villas with noteworthy characteristics.

Below are a few photos of architecture and interior design in Koh Samui along with notes.

Buri Rasa Village has pool villas. This is an example of tick the box luxury. Wooden slating, tiny pool and simple concrete slab with 4 ceramic tiles to give just a hint of design.
 Another example of luxury and poor design. KC Over Water Villas has the original idea to built villas over swimming pools and then ruins the effect with standard housing that is packed tightly together.
 A better use of a swimming pool at Outrigger. The semi circular pool increases access and style.
Sala Samui uses natural materials, clever ground lighting and vistas to create striking interior design.
 This comes in plain awful category. Some type of pastiche of Louis XVI grandeur.
Unfinished private villa next to the beach such a remarkable amount of architectural ambition: round and vaguely reminiscent of a lighthouse.
Excellent use of contemporary Thai architecture by the Sala Samui.
 Ultra modern by Solo Bar in Chaweng. Featuring huge tinted windows and a curve theme.
Using there curved lines of a pool and a natural corridor of coconut palms to enhance the natural beauty of the sea horizon view at the Buddy Oriental.
An example of the bizarre: a series of boat shaped villas around a boat shaped pool. The villas look like the result from a tsunami. This is the Imperial Boat Villas.

Melati Resort uses understatement and the natural beauty of the beach. Nice use of bamboo.
Traditional Chinese shop house in Fisherman's Village in Bophut to create a boutique shop. Red is a strong Chinese colour that is found in lots of the interior designs on Koh Samui. Shame about the corrugated iron roof.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Bathrooms in Thailand

The best and the worst of bathrooms in Thailand

Bathrooms in Thailand are vastly varying quality. In cheap hotels, guest houses and bungalows bathrooms are functional and clean at best and awkward, dirty and falling apart at worse. 

Hot water vs. cold water

Although many holiday makers want a bathroom with hot water it is not always necessary in a country where the temperature is in the 30s. It is often the case that a cold shower is preferable as a way to cool down and rinse the sweat off the body.

One popular way in Thailand to make shower water warm is to put the water storage tank on the roof. The heat of the sun warms the water and makes it a nice temperature for showering. Another option is to run the water through tubes on the roof that allow the water to warm for free.

Styles of bathroom in Thailand

Part of the glamor of tropical living is being able to luxuriate in a 5 star bathroom. Having space and surfaces to put cosmetics etc. is a great help. Marble or granite surfaces are popular. 

The color scheme of a bathroom can make it stand out. White seems sterile and out of date. Black has a stylish minimal feel and small colored tiles bring a playful feel to the room. Bold statements and center pieces can be made with tile mosaics either on the wall or the floor.

The most luxurious item for a bathroom is often a Jacuzzi. A big bath is also attractive. Both, however, use a lot of water. Many hotels now have outdoor rain showers to allow people to wash for the chlorine and salt from swimming in a pool or the sea. Deluxe places often feature a Jacuzzi on a balcony with a sea view.

Water conservation

One issue for a residential villa is water conservation. Water is not free and sometimes droughts occur in Thailand during the long hot summers. The solution is to install a low flow shower head and low flow faucet aerators in the villa. They mix air with water to halve water flow without reducing water pressure or showering pleasure. Another possibility is to employ a grey water recycling system to use unwanted shower water in the garden.

Below are just a few pictures of bathrooms in Thailand.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bamboo Fencing

Bamboo grows in Thailand and is a great renewable resource. Bamboo takes only 5 or 6 years to reach maturity. It needs less water than trees to grow and thrives without the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Moreover, bamboo produces more oxygen than trees. It is thus a material that is ideal for a Thai villa that seeks to be environmentally friendly.

Bamboo is hard and durable. It is also naturally water resistant and fungal resistant. This is very important for Thailand where the heavy rains and high humidity can quickly destroy hardwoods that have not been properly treated.

It is often the case that the effect of a Thai home can be undermined by fencing in the grounds that is made of brick or plastic. If the home features hardwood and natural materials such as rattan and water hyacinth it is a good idea to keep the theme of natural materials in the garden too.

The obvious solution is bamboo fencing. It is strong and durable. Bamboo can be cut into half or quarter strips and stacked to make heavy duty fencing. Bamboo can also be cut into thin strips and woven together to make the filling part of the fence. Another possibility is to tie pieces of bamboo together.

Pieces of bamboo can also be laid vertically to make a door or high fence.

Such outdoor buildings and concrete sections as sheds, power transformers and pool equipment can be hidden and beautified with bamboo fencing. It is a low cost and possible DIY option that makes a lot of sense for a Thai home.

So once you have built your Thai villa and start to knock the garden into shape you should pause to consider how bamboo fencing can help you. Bamboo is a cheap, environmentally friendly and abundant resource perfect for Thailand.

Look at the photos below to give you some ideas about the possible style of bamboo fencing.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Architecture and Practice in Thailand

The Enjoyable Part of Thai Architecture

One of the most enjoyable aspects of building a house in Thailand is designing it. Either you design the house or villa by yourself and just use a professional to draw up blueprints or you use an architectural firm to design your Thai home for you. Either way you will be pouring over the designs making adjustments and imagining the wonderful living space that you will create in the future.

The Gap Between Design and Building

There is unfortunately a huge gap between thought and action, between plan and practice, between architectural design and building. Even the best builders will find it necessary to make adjustments to the design as a building is being made. Moreover, the workers might not be totally up to speed with the exact specifications of the house and make unwitting changes. This is all part of the organic way that many buildings are constructed in Thailand. Indeed, I’ve seen Thai workers build bungalows and guest rooms in Thailand without any blue prints – they just have an idea in their head and they proceed as they see fit. This is both a strength and a weakness of the Thai building workforce. They know how things work in Thailand and are apt to lapse into traditional building styles.

Villa in Koh Phangan

I recently visited a friend in Koh Phangan who has built himself a Thai villa near a popular beach. His experience of building in Thailand was instructive.

Firstly, he underestimated the strength of the winds during rainy season. Like lots of holiday villas, heavy use was made of glass to highlight the view. The only problem with glass is that unless glass doors are exactly made they can rattle in the wind and the glass can crack. The problem was solved by re-hanging the folding glass doors and replacing some glass panels with wood.

Thai Roofs and Hardwood

Another problem was the roof. The owner now understands why Thai roofs are steeply sloped. It is so that the rain can run off quickly and not penetrate into the structure. The villa needed the roof tiles resealed, gutters installed and a waterproof membrane installed between the roof and ceiling to stop leaks. This has been one of the biggest headaches for my friend.

Finally, hardwood is another key issue. Thai workers are often very adept at working with wood – it is a traditional material for Thailand. However, builders cut costs by not sealing and varnishing hardwood thoroughly. When you take possession of your villa in Thailand you will not notice for quite a few months the damage being done to the wood by moisture and insect infestation. Keeping the insects away from all that delicious wood is a real challenge.

Despite all these problems, the villa is now looking great. It has a stunning sea view and offers a peaceful get away from one of Thailand’s best beaches.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Outdoor Bamboo Shades

In Thailand as in the Far East one of the great materials that is in no short supply is bamboo. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant. In just 1 day bamboo has been known to grow 24 inches or 60 cm. In just 5 to 7 years (depending on the type of bamboo) the bamboo has reached its full height and is ready to harvest. This makes bamboo a great renewable material to use in a Thai building.

Bamboo can be used for a number of products in a Thai house both for the interior and exterior spaces. Strand woven bamboo flooring is just as hard as most hardwood floors and stands up well to high traffic and the high humidity of Thailand.

Another good product for a Thai home is outdoor bamboo blinds. They can be used for large balconies effectively. Outdoor bamboo blinds have a number of advantages.

Firstly, bamboo is naturally water resistant. Although buying outdoor bamboo blinds that have been treated for outdoor weather is crucial because of the heavy storms and winds that occur in Thailand during the monsoon.

Secondly, matchstick bamboo blinds are beautiful and they add privacy to a balcony. Those within can see out, but those outside cannot peer in. The privacy that bamboo blinds afford is famous in Asia, especially in Korea where more than one queen regent successfully ruled for her young son thanks to the privacy of Korean handmade bamboo blinds.

Thirdly, outdoor bamboo blinds are excellent in creating shade and blocking out the harsh glare of the sunlight. They allow inhabitants to use the balcony even in the height of the midday heat.

Lastly, outdoor bamboo blinds are easy to install. They usually can be internally mounted. Be sure to allow 1/2 inch when buying outdoor bamboo blinds to allow internal installation. You can find outdoor bamboo blinds in various styles in Thailand: roman style and roll up style. Whichever style you choose make sure they can be secured firmly in the event of a storm.