“Island home”... Design thoughts...

Question:
I would like to know what it is like living at your "Island home"
Is it hot in the rice patty? Does the design of your home have any specific qualities that make it a more livable home than a traditional style or built home?

Answer:
While discussion of the design aspects of our house is pretty clear cut, the addition of a comparison to “traditional style or built home” makes things more difficult. By traditional does one means, those vary rare and stylish old style Thai homes one finds adorning the pages of architectural digests? Perhaps one means the typical village home, built as cheaply as possible, with all the resulting problems. One easy comparison is that we built more than 100 meters away from the nearest structure, while most villagers live within a few feet of neighbors on all sides and right next to a road or lane.

As for “what it is like living at” our “Island home”, it is amazing, but of course we are biased. If the temperature reaches the 40s, with no wind or a hot wind, then there is nothing for it but to turn on the air conditioner, in my little room I call my home theater, and enjoy the world of technology. Fortunately, the vast majority of the time, there is a breeze and the main living area is quite comfortable. A breeze, blowing over the rice fields, seems to have a cooling effect, rather than making things hotter.

Our general orientation is toward the North. That is where are best views are to be had. There is a mountain range to the East, that runs roughly North-South and closer hills to the Northwest, with more mountains beyond. It is my belief, those mountains influence a general North-South wind flow pattern through our valley. If there is any breeze at all, we get it. With an excess of oversized windows and an open floor plan things are usually very comfortable with no more than a fan. The main living area, which includes kitchen, dining and living room, with no dividers, is roughly 16X6 meters with a lofted ceiling that extends up to 7 meters. The overall effect, is one of exaggerated space, views and comfort.

Interestingly, we lay at roughly the same latitude as Hawaii, though our climates are very different. The path of the sun, however, is the same. Passing only a few degrees north of us, we are never bothered by too much sun coming in our front windows. We included most western conveniences and there is very little waisted or unusable space. Our recent visitors had the following comment after returning to their home, “You have a lovely home that was better than staying in a top notch hotel!”

Now in the real world, things are kept in balance and there are always elements of light and dark, good and bad. On the flip side, our house is more vulnerable to natures whims. When storms threaten, there is nothing to block the full force of the wind and rain. We live in bug central, requiring that screens, and often windows, are closed against the evening onslaught. While we can see everything around us, everything and everyone can see us too, if we are outside. It is a little hard to maintain a low profile living on our “island” or as we call our house, “Baan Klang Thoong”.