Thai home designs

Thai home designs

International Trends

Thai home designs

Traditionally Thai: Entire Thai houses are built in light, pre-fabricated sections with each section forming a wall. Photo Shalini Mitra

Thai style architecture and living has become a unique selling proposition (USP) with most modern properties in Thailand’s more touristy areas such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Krabi and now Kanchanaburi.

In spite of the influence of other great cultures of the world such as Indian, Chinese, Khmer as well as Burmese, being incorporated in its decorative elements, the architectural style of Thai homes remains relatively simple. Its primary characteristics are determined by local climatic conditions, the availability of building materials, and the needs of the people, the majority of whom pursued an agricultural based lifestyle.

Traditional Thai houses are simple wooden structures on stilts. Wood was readily available so it was the most common material used in the construction of these houses. For the more affluent, the use of teakwood from the forests of the north was prevalent as it was hard, durable and termite-resistant. The steep tiled roofs have pointed fascias. Jim Thompson’s house in Bangkok is a pristine example of this type of architecture.

Historically, the religious and domestic architecture of Thailand shared some common characteristics.

Like temples, Thai houses have steep roofs arching upwards towards the sky. Both the walls are inclined towards the centre creating the illusion of height.

There is a functional aspect behind this design and structural element. In the hot and humid tropical climate, the airy, open quality of a Thai house and the broad overhangs of its roof protect the interior from both sun and rain.

Elevated houses facilitate the circulation of air and offered a more comfortable living space prior to the days of air-conditioning. It was cooler to live inside and protect the home from the risk of floods in the monsoon season that came more often than seldom. It also offered protection from hostile wildlife.

The open space beneath the house was versatile. It was used as a living area in the hot season, as storage for the season's harvest, and as a place to keep livestock.
Additionally, a great number of windows and doors are carefully aligned to facilitate an uninterrupted flow and aid the circulation of air. Walls were generally left unpainted, though sometimes oiled.

In contrast to the ornate decorations of the temples and palaces, there were relatively few purely decorative elements and these were largely confined to panels carved in Chinese designs under the windows and sometimes over the doors and the curling roof ends, possibly reflecting the Khmer architectural style.

The curved roof-ends which give the tip of the eaves a highly distinctive look and add to the graceful appearance of the Thai houses are symbolic of the nagas or serpents that adorn the Khmer temples. They have been stylised and often bear little resemblance to the original art form.

Easy to dismantle

One practical feature of the Thai house is the ease with which it can be assembled or taken down. The entire house is built in light, pre-fabricated sections with each section forming a wall.

Each wall is then fitted together and hung on the superstructure, a frame of wooden pillars, without nails. In former times, the fact that the house could be taken down and re-assembled with relative ease was well-suited to the indigenous way of life. When families decided to move, as they frequently did, the house would be taken down, stacked on a raft and floated down the nearest klong (meaning canal, in Thai) to a new location.

Since Thai people are generally superstitious by nature, their traditional belief is that the raised thresholds of Thai houses prevent evil spirits from creeping in at night and disrupting the sleep of the inhabitants. It also served a functional purpose. The raised threshold acted as a structural aid holding the wall sections firmly in place on their frame. Additionally,  the early settlements of the Thai kingdom were largely agricultural communities built along rivers, canals and waterways.

Hence to prevent babies and small children from falling into the water, the thresholds of the door were raised.

In a typical old Thai house, the various rooms would be separate units connected by open walkways and the staircase was on the outside.