Nestled in the Dusit neighbourhood of Bangkok along the Chao Phraya, the ‘River of Kings’, The Siam is the first hotel venture of 41-year old Thai-American indie pop star and actor Krissada Sukosol Clapp.
The design story of The Siam is truly a special one; it was written by renowned designer Bill Bensley with input from Krissada – who has a penchant for antiques. The hotel has 39 rooms – 11 are exclusive pool villas and 28 are luxury suites set around a large atrium. According to Bill, the triple-height space is “where the excitement is”.
The space, designed by architect Khemvadee Paopanlerd, was inspired by Paris’ Musée D’Orsay and features a long fountain, which is a visual and auditory focal point for guests whose rooms are in the main house. The suites all face the atrium rather than out to the less picturesque surroundings of the hotel. “It’s all about building visual containments and getting people to look only to the places that will be beautiful forever,” Bill explains.
The interiors, replete with Krissada’s antiques, all have different themes. While you may find old pageant sashes and perfume bottles in the beauty-queen-themed suite, you will find uniforms, vintage maps, medals and swords in the military-themed suite. In order to encourage a more social holiday atmosphere, Bill and his team decided to create common seating areas along the perimeter of the main courtyard.
This gesture was inspired by a hotel in nearby Yogyakarta, Indonesia. “I’m hoping that it will be a place where guests can meet each other. That’s unusual for hotels today. When people leave their rooms, they usually don’t look at one another,” he says. For guests who prefer seclusion, away from the main house there are ten riverside villas that range in size. They feature individual pools, lush landscaped courtyards and rooftop terraces overlooking the Chao Phraya. Themes for these villas include Chinese, Thai colonial and mid-century Thai art.
Although the wide array of themes may seem to be a hodgepodge of design ideas, the monochromatic colour palette in each suite and pool villa provides continuity. “The one unifying element is the black and white theme. With this pared-down colour palette, the antiques look even better,” Bill explains.
Another element that features across the entire property is its historical inspiration. It pays homage to the illustrious rule of King Rama V. The period from 1853 to 1910 was Bangkok’s heyday, and the most unique lodging option offers an insight into Thai history. Connie’s Cottage, the largest of the villas available at The Siam (a generous 1,754 square feet), is an original teak home that was brought down the Chao Phraya from the city of Ayutthaya. It is named for its former owner, antiques collector Connie Mangskau.
Sourced by American silk magnate Jim Thompson, the villa played host to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, John Rockefeller and Henry Ford. “For hundreds of years Thai teak homes have been designed to be movable, as wars with neighbouring kingdoms and floods made mobility in a home the preferred option,” Bill explains. “A Thai teak home is 100 per cent wood. No nails are ever used, just wooden pegs. This doesn’t damage the wood when it is assembled or disassembled.” By using traditional techniques, Bill ensured that a little bit of Thai history was preserved.
The Siam’s property also features a Thai restaurant and cooking school, a Deco-style bar and bistro, a café, a rooftop conservatory, a period library complete with screening room, a spa and bathhouse and a Muay Thai boxing ring. With these abundant amenities, it may be worth skipping the Bangkok traffic and pollution. And if guests ever miss the city, it’s just a short boat ride away from the hotel’s riverside pier.