Inside Tapani Kanjanapokin's Suburban Sanctuary
Nothing better sums up the Thai summer than the month of April and in such a month that celebrates our culture, traditions and heritage, it is most fitting that the residence we feature seamlessly combines modern and traditional Thai architectural details to create a unique home. The owner of this elegant abode is Tapani Kanjanapokin, daughter of Trasak Bunnag and Khunying Napha Bunnag (née Snidvongs). Prior to moving to her current address in the Sukhumvit Soi 71 neighbourhood, she lived in Sukhumvit Soi 31, an area where many members of the Snidvongs family used to reside.
“In the end though I decided to move here because Sukhumvit 31 was beginning to become very densely populated. There used to be many of our family living in the soi—we had properties up and down it. But we eventually started to move out one by one because the area got so built up and commercialised.”
With only its topmost part visible beyond the beautiful wooden gate, her home has a modern, box-shaped look. Once inside, consciousness of the surrounding area melts away as the tranquil, modern Thai-style residence transports one to another realm. A small path with a koi pond on one side and a quaint garden on the other leads to a staircase up to the main part of the house. When she moved here three years ago with husband Kriangkrai, Tapani had a specific concept in mind—one based on traditional Thai house design.
“We had about 280 square metres to work with, so not too big but not too small. I decided to have the house built to take up the entire footprint and architecture group A49 helped to lay out the structure. With the main living quarters located on the second floor it doesn’t feel crowded because there is space for the garden and an open-air area beneath. It’s a time-tested design in this part of the world,” she explains.
The stairs bring us up to an elevated courtyard with a swimming pool as the focal point. The long rectangular pool is bookended by buildings that serve on one part as her office and piano practice room and on the other as her living quarters. Surrounding the pool area is an airy terrace where Tapani likes to take afternoon tea. Here too is a Thai-style wooden sala enclosed with glass panels. The area is private and again it is difficult to perceive the city bustle outside.
While the structures and layout were taken care of by the architects, the interiors are all Tapani’s work. “I wanted to use family antiques that were brought with us from the old house, like these cabinets and this Chinese earthenware jar that has been passed down the generations and dates back over a century.” However, Tapani is not a collector of antiques per se. “I don’t like clutter, so I try to keep things neat and simple. I’m happy with the things that I already have and incorporating them with homeware and textiles that I’ve bought. I like mixing the old and new,” she smiles.
A talented pianist, she has a music room that houses both upright and grand pianos, which she loves to play in her free time. “I used to play classical when I was younger but now I’m more into jazz. When I first started I had to learn all the different blues scales as well as other jazz techniques—but I absolutely love it. It’s a lot easier now, too, with all the technology, so I can just put on the speaker and improvise with backing music,” she explains.
Connected to the music room is Tapani’s capacious office. The long rectangular room overlooks the swimming pool, its water sparkling in the afternoon sunlight, and the dining room beyond. It is a peaceful space in which to work. The dining room itself is wood-panelled and features an impressively long table at which Tapani hosts dinner parties with her cousins and friends. A sleek silver and black kitchenette on one side of the room includes a counter where one can have a casual meal or a quick coffee. “I wanted the main dining room to have a Lanna feel to it. Hence the paintings and the tapestry you see on the walls,” Tapani says. When asked if she cooks herself, she reveals that she knows many recipes that have been passed down in the family. “I used to make traditional Thai meals with old, old recipes. However, they require a lot of planning and preparation so now I usually try to keep things simple in the kitchen.”
Preferring to be close to nature, Tapani admits that she doesn’t like being in an air-conditioned room. Showing us the airy dining area on the ground floor, we find ourselves in a beautifully tiled open space surrounded by lush greenery. “I like to sit at the dining table and have breakfast here. To be honest I spend a lot of time in this spot just sitting and reading when I’m not in my office.” The lady of the house also loves gardening and talks enthusiastically about how to tend different types of plants. “You have to have two pots to grow water lotuses. The one that holds the soil and the lotus roots should be submerged in a larger earthenware pot filled with water.” Pointing to two norasingh sculptures that stand on guard, she adds, “I wanted to have a norasingh sculpture like the ones in the north of Thailand. There are many types—some with a kind face, others with a fierce demeanour. I wanted one that’s very benign, so when I went up north I took photos of the ones with sweet dispositions and then had a craftsman sculpt them for me.”
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