Situated close to the beach in the relatively quiet province of Rayong, in South East Thailand, sits a property reflecting an amalgamation of design, furniture and purpose. Elsie Evans Art Retreat is the brainchild of a Scottish expat whose paintings, drawings and illustrations have delighted and enthralled Bangkok art lovers for more than 20 years.
Elsie first moved to Thailand in 1987 and apart from a two-year period in Jakarta, Bangkok has been home. The decision to open a business and relocate to Rayong was born of the evolution of her art career and a desire to leave the relentless pace of Bangkok. Over her years in Bangkok Elsie became known for painting its soul. The modernization and generic development of the city diminished its culture and character. “I used to spend hours getting to the places I wanted to paint in Bangkok. Now everything is on my doorstep”, says Elsie.” “Less traveling time means more time to paint’
Elsie moved into her art retreat and new home in January of this year, though the buildings were completed several months earlier, allowing her to wrap up her teaching commitments in Bangkok. The project sits on over 2 rai of land and through determination and an almost relentless stubbornness, the retreat has become a successful amalgamation of modern design filled with 30 years’ worth of objects, large and small, reflecting her tastes and passions.
“The architect I used was one of my son’s friends whom I used to teach when he was 8. I had a good idea of how I wanted the house to look but I lacked the experience to complete the technical drawings needed for construction. Although aiming for an open plan and communal feel, I wanted to make every room unique. Sort of a large airy sala with cozy corners.”
Driving up to the property one is faced with an imposing concrete structure hiding the comfort and spaciousness found within. The stark contrast to the other properties found along the quiet country road, almost make it seem almost eccentric. A tardis.
After breaching the gates, first impressions are softened by the abundance of lush green vegetation visible through pathways into landscaped gardens and lining walls. The commitment to a healthy and produce laden garden is reinforced by the plant nursery, outdoor workshop and the multitude of potted plants. The many pots found on hard landscaping are pieces of art in themselves, often huge terra-cotta pots or vases representing the styles of other cultures. This continues through the main entrance, between main house and studio, opening up to the large central terrace framing a large pool and the views beyond. Surrounded by the L-shaped living spaces, with studio to your back, you immediately come across an antique Indian dresser converted to an outside bar counter hinting at the treasures to be unearthed inside.
The ground floor has more glass doors and windows than solid walls, giving it a wonderful light and airy feel. With 5-meter-high ceilings, walls and pillars of finished concrete and large windows keeping living areas bright, the many large focal furniture pieces found in the living room and dining area are not lost or seem small and inconsequential, their warm natural tones and sturdiness affords unexpected areas of cosiness and clearly separate zones. The living room is softened by the large hanging on the wall from Africa, sourced whilst looking for kilims, the teak divider which has found pride of place in all of Elsie’s
accommodations helps to hide the staircase and creates a warm backdrop to the feature lights, hand woven tent bags and carpets many of which are over one hundred years old.
Having previously rented in Thailand and being an enthusiastic cook Elsie wanted the kitchen in the property to be a feature. Unlike most houses in Thailand where food preparation areas are hidden away, small, unsightly and often the sole territory of maids, the kitchen is invariably the communal area for Elsie’s family and friends. Whilst the island and pantry allow for plenty of storage the subtle tones of surfaces and practical features became a blank canvas for the introduction of texture, colour and patterns through wall and flooring tiles and ornaments. The adjacent dining area is a relatively subtle affair. The large custom made mango wood dining table sits pride of place with a couple of subtle additions most notably a large natural wooden spirit house in the corner.
Having travelled throughout Asia, Elsie has experienced a kaleidoscope of Asian cultures and influences affording her the opportunity to acquire several of her favourite pieces of furniture of different ages, styles and colours. This is especially apparent in the large separate 4 bedroom en-suite guest accommodations each with their own theme. The Bali themed twin bedroom has two custom made beds from Indonesia with hand carved headboards, two antique puppets and accompanying mirror from Bali. The “princess room” has a locally sourced antique four-poster bed from China and bright yellow and purple accented throws inspired by the Zhou and Han Dynasty.
The triple aspect master bedroom on the top floor of the main building is dominated by a huge rattan bed which compliments the rattan furniture outside on the balcony. When the sliding doors are open the bedroom seamlessly transitions onto the huge balcony wrapping round the north side of the house, making the most of the views landscapes and ever present sea breeze. Also on the top floor, and opening onto the balcony are 2 spacious dual aspect twin bedrooms.
The studio and mezzanine library are dynamic workspaces, fitted furniture specifically designed to accommodate the surplus of art materials, sturdy metal staircase, abundance of easels attest to its functionality. The north facing double floor windows and triple aspect sliding doors allow for perfect lighting when creating masterpieces often inspired by the antique spice cupboard, landscapes, quirky still life ornaments or through perusing the books in the leather couch seating in the mezzanine library.
Although proud of her new home and art retreat Elsie reflects, “…the furniture and design allow for the most rewarding aspects of the venture to be possible…creating a relaxed and unassuming environment to give people a chance to recharge their batteries make new friends and try some painting.