The restrained elegance of Nitya and Pacharin Pibulsonggram’s condominium still has space for their many and varied interests. Natnalin Thananan pays them a visit
Located on one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate in Bangkok is Nitya and Pacharin (Pat) Pibulsonggram’s condominium. Nitya has served as ambassador to the United States, permanent representative to the United Nations, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign minister. He has lived here with his interior designer wife Pat for about 10 years; in recent years they have shared their space with two rescued poodles. Pat was influenced by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright when it came to developing the look of their home, as she wanted to complement the building’s design and décor. Upon stepping into the space, with its understated luxury and feng shuiinspired setting, the condo feels more like a house than part of a tall building. One feels at ease and relaxed.
The Pibulsonggrams’ home is a combination of two units; the walls of a duplex and the single storey unit next to it were removed and reconfigured into a house with 13 rooms. This includes a living room, master bedroom, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms for the servants, a library and an office for him and one for her and a treatment room for Reiki. Sparkling Christmas decorations around the home give it a joyful and festive feel. The living room has plenty of space, with a high ceiling and lots of natural light shining in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. In the foyer hang colourful photo frames with pictures of the Indian elephant god Ganesh and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts. An auburn frame showcases a photograph of an Indian woman with piercing eyes; this is Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the couple’s spiritual leader who has inspired them to live a healthier lifestyle. The edges around the room are rounded, fulfilling the feng shui requirement to remove all sharp edges from the home. “I designed the place so that all edges of the walls, cabinets and furniture are rounded out,” says Pat. “There is a feeling of flowing energy that puts people at ease.”
The living room has a relaxing aura, with white and beige carpeting in flowing designs, a teal blue couch with off-white throw pillows and a matching teal wall just in front of the stairs that lead up to the Buddha room. “We placed the Buddha room upstairs because it is auspicious to do so, and as for the wall, it has a faux-finish technique which I studied at the Isabel O’Neil Foundation in New York City,” says the American-born designer. She explains that the colour is a combination of a variety of pigments – in this case brown, cream and teal – brushed on to give the wall an illusion of depth. On it hangs a painting by Pat herself. “When I painted this piece, for a UNICEF auction, I was interested in the colour gold,” she says. “We bought it back from one of the buyers because my husband really loved it.”
High on the walls of some of the rooms hang the framed ancient Tai textiles that Pat collects; she is a founding member of the Thai Textile Society. A beautiful, intricately carved wooden cabinet with a gold finish in one corner of the living room is a replica of an antique piece the couple admired, and opens up to their television and entertainment system. Every balcony of the condominium is decorated with lush, tall green potted plants, giving the homeowners a sense of privacy and natural beauty in the middle of a bustling city. On the upstairs balcony is a small organic garden. “We just started a small garden growing many different plants,” she explains.
The dining room is an irridescent rose tone, as the walls, also painted with the faux-finish technique, were finished with 19 coats, giving them a shimmering effect, especially after sunset. The restored round dining table has been in Nitya’s family for many years, and belonged to his father Field Marshal Plaek, a former prime minister of Thailand. Solid teak chairs with white cushions are placed around the table with an ornate gold and silver leaf chandelier, which Pat renovated by gilding, hanging above. Symmetrically striped light pink and white curtains from Jim Thompson frame the windows overlooking the city, while the other wall showcases Pibulsonggram silver family heirlooms. A large, textile-based art piece in tones of rose, grey and green hangs in this room; again, it is Pat’s work. Another of her pictures, featuring handmade mulberry paper, adorns the pink master bedroom.
From the living room, a small corridor leads to the pantry and kitchen area, as well as the guest bathroom, decorated in silver and pastel purple tones. Across the hall is a small treatment room, with white walls and a blue ceiling with hand-painted clouds. This is where Pat, who was certified as a Reiki master 21 years ago, bestows her healing gifts on clients. The office area and library is where Nitya spends most of his time. “Our book collection was larger than what you see here, but we donated some to schools. The ones that are here are just our current interests,” says the retired diplomat. Although he has stepped down from his government jobs, he is as busy as ever, taking on roles as chairman of the Kenan Institute Asia, a non-profit organisation working to promote sustainable development, and also of Krungsri Asset Management.
The Pibulsonggrams’ home is personal and elegant without being overly extravagant. Elements of their own interests can be spotted throughout the space creating a comfortable and sophisticated atmosphere, reflecting their lifetime of adventures together. “We used to entertain nearly every night when I was an ambassador,” reflects Nitya, “but now this space is just for the two of us.”