The Jim Thompson House: An Abode Teeming with Passion for Asian Heritage
Sitting on the bank of the Saen Saeb Canal is an elegant residential enclave named after Jim Thompson. The compound is composed of six traditional Thai houses made of teakwood that have been shipped out of Ayutthaya and Ban Krua community in Bangkok. It is surrounded by lovely gardens giving the already attractive place a refreshing atmosphere.
The Back Story
An American whose deep passion for Southeast Asian art and cultural heritage is very evident in his creations, Jim Thompson is an architect by profession and avid Asian art collector. Thompson has settled down in Thailand after he was discharged from the military service in 1946. He dedicated a good 30 years in reviving the Thai silk industry. It was also Thompson who introduced it to icons in fashion capitals of the world such as Paris, New York, Milan, and London. His deep passion for art is embodied in his villa. It is indeed a living museum that is full of antique collections and art pieces. Jim Thompson, however, mysteriously disappeared in 1967 into the Malaysian jungle. Back then, he was at the height of his fame. Nonetheless, his legacy remains with the Jim Thompson Villa.
Traditional Thai Homes with a Western Twist
The style of Jim Thompson House is a melting pot of the East and the West. It boasts traditional Thai houses but uses unconventional features. Such is the use of subtle façade that contradicts the decked entry foyer. This particular style permeates throughout the entire house. The 17th-century Buddha statue, a wooden figurine, a glistening Belgian chandelier, and Italian marble-tiled floor are seamlessly sewn together for an elegant, unique appeal. These punctuate the heavy wood accents on the walls and indoor staircase. Thompson is a master of his own trade and shows this off in his designs. In each room of the villa, you will get a taste of his sophisticated style. Rare art pieces and antiques grace the rooms to enrich the overall ambiance. It is not for showing off Thompson’s wealth but that of his deep passion for elegance. Jim Thompson is not a slave of local traditions. Rather, he gave a timeless twist and skillful adaptation of the local style to suit his western upbringing, such as putting the bathroom indoors instead of outdoors like in traditional Thai homes.
A Great Collection of Art and Antique Pieces
If you go and look at Thompson’s precious collection of art pieces and antiques, you will be greeted by decorative wall hangings that he obtained from various Buddhist temples. These tell of Buddha’s past and current lives including his spiritual journey towards enlightenment. In here, you can come across a sandstone image of Buddha that guards the entry to the Thai kitchen, which now serves as housing for the Benjarong porcelain ware of Mr. Thompson. Meanwhile, you can find Chinese mahjong tables at the dining room that is located inside the teakwood villa bought from Ayutthaya.
Overlooking the Saen Saeb Canal
Thompson built the living room and gave it an open-sided wall and high ceiling to provide a great view of the Saen Saeb Canal. It is set between the dining area and the private quarter. The villa’s living room was constructed from the century-old wooden house that Thompson brought back from Ban Krua community from across the canal. The villages at Ban Krua were the first weavers of the Thompson silk. He used to go rowing across the canal every day. Then he decided to build a permanent home right on it. In the living room, you will also find the wooden carvings of four Burmese guardian spirits, which the Burmese government has given Thompson as a gift. When Jim Thompson disappeared, the court appointed an administrator to take over the management of his house and wealth. The administrator later became The James H.W. Thompson Foundation. At present, the Jim Thompson brand also houses an art centre, restaurant and café, souvenir boutique, and banquet facilities. Its Araya Hall has an attractive outdoor terrace overlooking the canal. It can occupy 40 to 80 people for any type of occasion or gathering.
If you are looking for a special venue or simply want to have an encounter with rare art pieces and antiques as well as traditional Thai houses, visit the Thompson House today. There is a guided tour, so you can learn much about the works of the legendary Jim Thompson and the rich tradition of the Thai people.