Is This The Hamptons Of Thailand?
Situated on a sprawling 19-rai plot of land on the banks of the Bang Pakong River near the coast in Chachoengsao province, the ancestral home of Supornthip Choungrangsee, or Tippy, is redolent of the upmarket Long Island summer playground beloved by New York’s elite. In fact, the neat white clapperboard buildings set in expansive manicured grounds bring the famous Kennedy compound at Kennebunkport immediately to mind. Although Tippy’s family only settled on the site around 100 years ago, the land has been in their possession for a lot longer. The attractive neo-American colonial-style homes she and her relatives have built for themselves over the years are dotted about the verdant property and look as if they have been comfortably ensconced for a century or more.
A fourth generation family member, Tippy directs us to two houses down near the water’s edge. “The first belongs to my mother and the larger one a bit beyond is mine. This is where I spend my days when I’m out of the city,” she says happily. And why wouldn’t she be happy? Her tranquil rural retreat is hardly spartan, the commodious house surrounded by eclectic ancillary recreational structures and service buildings that include a garage capable of accommodating 10 vehicles.
The lady of the house smiles as she ushers us up a short series of steps to the main entrance, which is flanked by ferns in large stone urns. Warm yellow light spills from the glass doors, amplified by the creamy walls of the interior. A black chandelier hangs over the foyer, which also contains two chairs and two small shoe cabinets on top of which are vases of freshly picked flowers. Here there are also shelves of photographs and paintings on the walls. “Pictures of the family and artwork of myself,” says Tippy with a broad grin. “Most are gifts from friends but some were commissioned.” Among the paintings are pieces by the likes of ML Chiratorn Chirapravati, Somnuek Klangnok and Nualtong Prasarnthong. A small replica of the English Premier League trophy catches the eye, a memento of Leicester City FC’s league-winning season in 2015-16 when Tippy was on the club’s board of directors.
Moving into the home, the large sitting room takes up the eastern side of the house. It contains a coffee table with a creamy cushioned top flanked by two deep wood-framed couches, beyond which French doors open to a verandah and a lovely view of the river. “The house is the newest addition to the estate and was only built 10 years ago,” Tippy says. “My brother Charlie designed all the properties here and left everyone to do their own interiors.” Hers is filled with all manner of objects and knickknacks ranging from genuine antiques and tasteful reproduction pieces to bric-a-brac, contemporary miscellanea and brand-name items. “I really like to mix and match so I have pieces from multiple brands, be they furniture or ornament. I have been collecting bits and bobs for years. I don’t always buy with the house in mind but I’m usually able to find a suitable spot for something I like,” she smiles.
Adding to the light and airy feel of the space are fresh-cut flowers, which Tippy has changed daily. “I love the splash of colour flowers bring but in truth I only had form and function in mind when designing the interior. The house is well lived in and everything gets used regularly,” continues the experienced public relations consultant. Now semi-retired, the 58-year-old often goes back and forth between home and the city doing volunteer work for the Rak Thai Foundation saying, “On a good day it’s a 45-minute drive from here to my downtown home in Sathorn. When I’m leaving town to come back I can feel my mood lighten with every passing kilometre.”
The comfy area of the open-plan ground floor is separated from the dining zone by a long wooden cabinet on which is set an old bird cage. Around the dark wooden dining table, which seats 12, three upright glass cabinets display pieces of precious porcelain and ceramics. An open kitchen to one side is equipped with an espresso machine, a refrigerator and a simple stove top. “It’s small but only used to prepare light breakfasts, brunch and afternoon tea,” Tippy explains. In the far western corner of the floor is another sitting area, opposite which panelled partitions block the entrance to a restroom that features antiquated decor and a classic Victorian high-tank toilet with a pull chain.
As we make our way up to the second floor of the home a large painting of our host executed by Somnuek Klangnok greets the eye. The floor accommodates six rooms, the first of which is an extended leisure space comprising an entertainment area overlooking the river and another sitting arrangement with a view of the garden. “I don’t watch much television but I do have one here just in case,” says Tippy indicating a large home entertainment set-up. Here too by a window is a piano, another of the lady’s hobbies. And opposite the piano on the walls are more paintings, including some by Tippy herself. “I don’t paint well but I do attempt the odd piece in my free time—usually sitting over there on the other side of the room. The light throughout the house is wonderful and the scenery outside just begs to be painted sometimes.”
Following the eastern wall and next to a lectern holding a book of Annie Leibovitz’s photography is a door to Tippy’s study. Here her personal collection of books on art, photography, architecture, fashion, design and more line a wall of shelves behind a large wooden desk stacked with even more books, a stuffed owl and a bookstand holding a large tome of romantic-era paintings. “I’ll often have my morning coffee or tea here,” says the lady of the house gesturing to a daybed in front of a window that gives clear views of the river. “We are not that far from the sea so the river is tidal here and sometimes we’ll be lucky to see dolphins swimming around,” she laughs. “We have a small dock down by the water and a little boat. I love taking my nephew and niece out to watch the fireflies at night. It is a fantastic spot to have a barbecue or roast marshmallows while watching the sun set.”
We move on to the master bedroom but Tippy giggles and says it’s too much of a mess to go in, although she does give us a quick peek at what is a surprisingly modest and simply decorated bedroom. A former model and Tatler Thailand Most Stylish Woman awardee, she ushers us into a huge dressing room that comprises two sections: a make-up area and a much larger space housing her impressive collection of clothes. Pieces from myriad brands hang along one side of the closet while on the other are three vast floor-to-ceiling shelving units displaying some of the many pairs of shoes Tippy owns.
The rest of the space on the second floor is divided between two restrooms and various comfortable seating areas, all unique in their own way—the only commonality being the beige wood flooring throughout. Chinese-themed fabric wallpaper, throw rugs, furniture in different styles, colours and finishes, art on the walls and pot plants on corner tables make it a feast for the eyes.
The open-plan third floor attic, while mostly undecorated, is still neat and tidy and Tippy says she uses it for entertaining, even confessing to having had slumber parties up there. Split into two sections, the smaller was supposed to be a pantry but now holds nothing more than a lemon vase imported from Italy and a large glass jar stuffed with receipts from forays to Tippy’s favourite fashion boutiques. “I know there are lots of them but trust me, they go back over many years,” the fashionista laughs as she pulls out a handful of the stubs. The larger space in the attic comprises a sitting area with a cabinet displaying more pieces of china and two single beds. Despite the vaulted ceiling, the room remains cool throughout the day and natural light is provided by dormer windows.
While the home has its attractions, Tippy and her family often find themselves in what she calls the tea house, which is accessible via the verandah on the main residence’s eastern side. Here sofas and outdoor exercise equipment are left on the verandah’s deck, which looks over an expansive backyard leading to the swimming pool.
The sweet melody of a fairground ride floats from the entrance of the tea house, along with a creaking sound…and there in front of us is a three-horse carousel. “It was a childhood favourite of ours,” smiles Tippy as she recalls her and her siblings riding it. “We built it for the memories and for the nephews and nieces.” The room has an Alice in Wonderland theme with cupcakes, tea pots and rabbits in evidence. “I love rabbits—and chickens. I was born in the year of the rabbit,” she chuckles. The area also holds a small shooting gallery stall and a mini pantry for teas and snacks. A metal spiral staircase in the southwest corner leads to the mezzanine and another office area that Tippy likes to work in.
At the western end of the estate is a third residence, the oldest—the house itself is over 100 years old and once belonged to Phraya Manopakorn Nititada, the first prime minister of Thailand. “We got it through a friend of the family. The house was in a shambolic state and we bought it as seen. Then every plank, pillar, slate, strut and doorknob was removed, renovated and reassembled here. I was just a little girl then,” explains Tippy. The three-story structure is guarded by two stone lions and has a bar and relaxation area. Antiques and old photographs are displayed around the first floor. The second and third floors serve as a zone for meditation. “This is where I come to do my meditation,” Tippy says. “There have also been times when monks have been invited to the estate to pray and meditate and this is where they do it.”
Next door to the old prime minister’s house is a two-story ancillary building that has a dining room on the ground floor and a roofed-over upstairs terrace. At one end of the terrace is a faux antique train carriage that acts a fun lounge. In fact, Tippy says this spot is a favourite with all the family. “We usually have our meals out here together because it is so lovely and cool with breezes coming off the river. The sunsets are spectacular too.” At a right angle to this two-storey structure and creating a courtyard with the old PM’s house is a single story building that is used as a greenhouse for plants, opening out behind which is the formal English garden. “Initially we had planned for the garden to have classic tall, maze-like hedges but they didn’t turn out so well so we trimmed them down to what you see now,” the lady laughs. In a corner is a chicken coop, which is home to four ‘Easter Egger’ chickens and opposite that a small herb garden flourishing with mint, rosemary and other edibles.
Surrounded by fecund nature and bathed in fresh air and wonderful light, the whole estate is without doubt a beautiful setting in which to live. “It has been decades in the making and it has the potential to include much more, although the isolation is one of its main attractions. In the immediate future though, I’m going to do something about the third floor of my home and let brother Charlie worry about the wider property,” Tippy concludes.
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