Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Legacy of Jim Thompson

If you have ever visited Thailand, no doubt you will have heard of Jim Thompson. The glass fronted shops showcasing silk goods and handbags are as ubiquitous as McDonalds in America.

I first became aware of the company whilst interning for a boutique design firm in South Florida. I was responsible for maintaining the library and sample room, and would spend hours sifting through the huge sample books, fondling the silk (no shame in my game).

So although familiar with the fabric collections, it wasn't until my first visit to Thailand that I was enlightened to the legend that was the man, and the legacy that he left  behind.

Jim Thompson, was an American architect who moved to Thailand and set up the now famous silk company in 1948. He was the first to create Thai silk in the bright jewel tones that they're known for today. His innovative production process enabled him to break into the American and European markets, and after his fabrics were used in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I", the company was catapulted into success.

In 1967, Jim Thompson was staying with friends in the Cameron Highlands, when he went for a walk and never returned. He was 61 when he simply vanished. 

His traditional Thai-style house, subsequently turned into a museum, is a green oasis in the middle of the smoggy, chaotic city that is Bangkok.

The house and it's surrounding gardens are pretty amazing. Stone pathways meander through the thick tropical plants that provide shade and create a jungle setting. 

Its was so serene, it was easy to forget I was in the middle of the city.

Jim Thompson's house, like many Thai homes, almost melts into its surroundings. The boundaries of where interiors meets outdoors are blurry, to say the least.

The interiors of the house are spectacular. There are marble checkered floors, carved wooden panels, and doorways cut out to look like mirrors - it's breathtaking. Unfortunately there was no photography allowed inside, but I did manage to take the below photo from the verandah - notice the niches carved out of the walls, upholstered in thai silk. The detail is beautiful.

There is a bar (which was a welcomed treat after walking around in extremely hot weather for several hours) and a more contemporary styled restaurant on site.

Believe it or not, my favourite bit of the whole experience was the public restrooms. Spoken as someone with the bladder the size of a pea, I REALLY appreciate a well thought out bathroom. The hooks on the back of the doors were quirky and practical, and the raw silk hand towels were a lovely touch.

For more information, check out the website - http://www.jimthompson.com/index.asp

1 comment:

  1. WOW....now i see why i love his bags! Beautiful home.....wonderful article!


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