Sunday, December 12, 2010


We are in the process of figuring out how to put up our kitchen and bathroom sinks and we would welcome any advice. I have always wanted a ceramic kitchen sink and thought I would only be able to find overpriced antiques. Fortunately, we found one on the sanitary goods street near Chinatown. It was made in Thailand and measures approximately 30 by 50 cm and about 30 cm deep.

We're thinking of putting the kitchen sink on a simple metal frame, so we can show the ceramic body, and then put the tap into a small extended counter-like area that would jut out behind the sink and would serve only to hold the tap.

Because our house has only one layer of wall, we do not have a place to hide pipes or to hold taps. This is also why we chose the metal piping for the electricity.

We're looking now for a solar water heater. We plan to have hot water for the shower and the kitchen sink.

This is our bathroom sink -- small and simple. It's light enough to hang from the vertical beams of our walls, we've been told, but we're still thinking of adding some sort of pedestal.

We're trying to do this on our own, but it often feels like we're trying to reinvent the wheel. Any tips or advice? Add your comments.

Piped water coming

Our neighbors have always bathed with the local groundwater and drunk rainwater, but all that is about to change. The municipal water main is coming. Just yesterday, the superstrong worker dudes used long poles with cylinders on them to dig deep holes into the clay (Bangkok earth is clay) next to the "road" next to our house (actually a sidewalk-sized road that permits only pedestrians, motorbikes and bicycles). They then hoisted up these 6-meter long cement polls and dropped them into -- ploop! -- into the holes.

With the cement pole balanced perfectly on this cart like a seesaw, it is rolled into the forested inner reaches of our neighborhood from the main road (a real road for cars, about 150 meters from our house).

These were not here Friday and were all dug and put in place Saturday morning, before noon, which is when we arrived. The workers will then pour a cement block with a half-moon cradle for the water main pipe to rest in.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Painting finished

All the wood surfaces had to be painted -- for aesthetics and to protect it from termites and the monsoon season mold. For the months when it rains a lot, our laundry does not want to dry on the line, and everything gets moldy, even framed artworks.

A view of the back of our house.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alisa's birthday at the house

This weekend we celebrated Alisa's birthday at our house. Takako brought beautiful homemade kimonos ...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Putting up the fan and electric system

October 9 was a big day for us -- we got our first glimpse of our ceiling fan up. We actually bought this fan before we planned the house and designed the house around it (see here, our balsa wood model of the house as we were still in the planning phase). We were staying with an antique fan-collecting friend in Vietnam and fell in love with his Dutch chrome ceiling fan, so we ended up with this small souvenir.

Trying out the rotor.

Because many traditional Thai houses have only one layer of wall, they have nowhere to hide cables and electricity systems. Most have white electric cable stapled along the walls and ceilings, but we opted for metal piping.

Light fixtures from Chinatown in Bangkok.

The switch panel for the fan was another Chinatown find, but this one was sitting in the window covered with dust. The shopkeeper showed us a new plastic one, and we opted for this metal box instead -- high-tech with four fan speeds. We went back to the shop a few days ago, and the ghostly dust footprint of our fan control panel is still in the shop window, amid all the other electric switch knickknacks.

One of the bathroom lights.

Alisa playing with Folk and Fah, the kids who live next door.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Interior paint

And we filed the floors

Monday, July 26, 2010


We have added ceiling panels  to hide the insulation
 Bathroom tiles down
Exterior walls and windows painted with teak oil

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our first weekend in the cabin - บางกอบัว

Big glass front door 


Composite image of the bridge on the ride back to central Bangkok

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lilypad Grove?

We are a writer and a photographer building this house, and clearly until now the photographer has kept up his end of the house blogging better than the writer. Here, I'll explain more about our beloved little cabin in the jungle, but let's start from the very beginning, again.

We stumbled upon this lush green area during a bike ride to the Gulf of Thailand. The village we first found in the Phrapradaeng Peninsula was Bang Nam Phung, which caught our interest not only because it's an oasis but because my Thai nickname is Nam Phung -- which means Honey.

Some definitions here: Bang Nam Phung means Honey Village, though "Bang" actually means a district on a waterway. Furthermore, locals say the old name for the Phrapradaeng Peninsula is Koh Krapoh Moo, which means the Pig Stomach Island -- lovely. When you cross the one bridge on the southwestern tip of the peninsula over a narrow rivulet, it certainly feels more like an island. Pig Stomach Island -- which is surrounded by Bangkok metropolitan area -- is also known as the "lungs of Bangkok" because it is mostly green plantations and jungle. Other than that one bridge, the island is only accessible by boat or ferry... or a brave swim in the Chao Phraya River.

We fell in love with this area and kept biking back, getting to know locals and we connected eventually with the residents of one neighborhood, not in Honey Village, but next door in Bang Ko Bua, or roughly, Lily Cluster Village. (If you can think of a more poetic translation, let me know.)

Our slice of heaven is only accessible by foot or bicycle/motorbike. The nearest road is about 200 meters away, our idea of a peaceful, fume-free home. We are a 10-minute walk from the Bang Nam Phung Floating Market, which is packed with Thai tourists on weekends. We're about a 15-minute drive from Bangkok's central business district, across the bridge and up toward the north of the island, and about a 30-minute bike and ferry ride from, say, the Emporium shopping mall, where the neato TCDC library is located.

We have a small klong (canal) on the southern side, and a fish pond in the middle of our yard. Before the building of a protective dam around the island to control flood waters, our klong used to be an inlet for boats to come and go, and next door to us was a boat parking lot.

We designed the house ourselves, opting to make it as small as possible, yet comfortable, airy and livable. Knowing that we would spend most of our time home indoors, away from mosquitoes and other jungle critters, we decided that 40 square meters would be spacious enough -- 10 meters long, 4 meters wide.

We drew, debated and leafed through lots of books and web pages, and then the artist half of this couple made a balsa wood model, so we could consider what it looked like and where we would want windows and spaces with respect to the tropical winds and sun. Our friends at Site Specific, who design and build environmentally friendly homes and shipping container homes in Thailand, helped enormously with the technical drawings and tips on building in the tropics.

We then shopped around -- a lot -- for reclaimed wood. Many Thais are taking down their old wooden homes, built of strong hardwoods, to replace them with modern cement homes. We wanted wood because it is cooler, aesthethically gentler, and it blends in with our neighbors' homes. Reclaimed wood means we won't chop down another forest, and the wood has already stood the test of time, shrinking, expanding with decades of tropical weather.

Our neighborhood does have electricity (mainly for playing good ol' Thai country "luuk thung" music), phone lines and water, though our neighbors have for decades collected rainwater for drinking -- tastes immaculately soft and pure. We plan to do the same, though the enormous old urns that Thais use are much harder to find these days. After extensive research, we designed a dry composting toilet -- a standard toilet seat on a brick throne in our bathroom that lets into one of two or three sawdust filled bins, which we'll rotate as they fill and let sit to compost fully before use in our garden.

Yes, we'll have wi-fi internet. No, we don't and won't have a TV. Yes, we will still host movie nights -- projections on our silver screen in the garden.

That gives background on our project, and the pictures speak for themselves. I'll write more details -- things like our classic Thai design tiles, and the window shutters we bought from the trash dudes -- later.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking for a 4x4m door

(curvy composite photo)

Thai "boran" (antique- or traditional-style) tiles ...

now we need a BIG door

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20

Vents up. Bench up . Windows set. Moving in soon?

View from bathroom.

Crossing the river
Going back to the sea...