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“I prefer a house with the vibe of serenity, not flashy nor stunning. This is my first impression towards the house.” Khun Vin- Varudh Varavarn, the owner and designer from Vin Varavarn Architects (VVA) told us.
When imagining about an architect’s own house, we would have stereotyped the house prominent or flaunting with cool techniques that could not be found anywhere else. On the contrary, just like V House, a house of an architect which is simple and ordinary yet full of details, experimentation, and problem-solving that interestingly recreates the knowledge of architecture.
Khun Vin unfolded his story that his family formerly lived in a townhouse where the ground floor was a home office. When all three children grew up and demanded their personal space, he then designed and renovated a new house to increase the utility space for his wife and children.
“Perhaps (this problem) happened with any designer or any architect. In someone’s else projects, we analyze the owner’s identity. But when it’s come to my own place, it is more difficult as I have never really investigated myself. This project is like a mirror that reflects what kind of house that I, my wife, and my children want and to what extent we can compromise.
The imperfection disguised with fascination
Even though the house looks homely, nothing complicated at a glance. But, as the house was designed by an architect, we believed that there must be a concept, or a story hidden under that simplicity. What was the halfway points that everyone agreed on? We asked as we would like to find out what exactly influenced this simple V House appearance.
“My wife and I are different, but we share similar preferences. We like simplicity, not complicated. We like to discuss materials in our works as it is tangible. Not only our works but also other projects as well. It is like a language that we could feel something when we see or touch it.” However, any materials used in this project were not his first intention. He was just looking for simplicity, nothing flashy.
Initially, redesigning the house plan or function haven’t conveyed many problems since it was to reformat the existing space to fully provide his family with daily function needs. After the first step went smoothly, he then decided on style and materials. At that time, there was an over-20-years-old teak tree his mother had planted in Phetchabun province which the family rarely had the opportunity to take care of. Khun Vin, therefore, thought that using this teak for his house renovation would be a good fit as it is best to utilize the abandoned tree and to save on the budget.
When he checked on the tree, he found the tree was gnawed by the wild beetle and filled with lots of holes. It would be unmarketable. But when he saw the sawed timber, he found those holes attractive and got an idea to experiment on those defective timbers. The results were learning through experiments on materials.
He also tested on other favourite materials such as concrete walls. He considered options to create a natural texture if it wasn’t a seamless casting technique like Tadao Ando. He also played with steels. Is there any language that could perfectly represent Khun Vin?
‘Wood, Concrete, Steel’ are his three main preferences which became the fundamental of the design. “This is when we start to think that…well, we don’t want a very neat house. We like the natural texture. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it contains something remarkable.”
Normally, the 10-15 CM floorboard would be used in wood flooring installation. But for the teak wood that was gnawed by wild beetles, the wood has been sawed into a smaller size to about 5 cm or about an inch. The timbers were separated into 2 parts: those without holes and those with holes. Khun Vin utilized the smooth timbers with the surface like wall and floor and the others for decoration or the distance parts, such as a louvred door or ceiling.
The steel was used for designing structures and walls in front of the house. Instead of the conventional paint, Khun Vin has experimented to rust the surface reducing long-term care and, aesthetically, rust also changes naturally over time.
The concrete walls are not less special than other materials. In the mixing process, Khun Vin used different sizes of gravels that gave different concrete’s strength and concentration. He then spread the mixture layer by layer, resulting in a natural look. He also stated that the walls are beautiful when concrete reflects natural light and shadows which he was fairly satisfied with this unexpected result.
When it comes to concrete walls, many people will think of Precast concrete walls which are constructed by casting concrete in a large area. But it is not the case with V House as he tried to allocate the budget appropriately. Consequently, his walls were made of bricks cladded with the concrete surface. He made a lighter structure and a lighter budget.
“There are about three different concrete walls in the house. During the site preparation, we dug and found rocks underneath. Some of them were very big. So, instead of throwing them away, I intend to put these rocks in the garden. I then discussed with the contractor to try chiselling out some concrete walls to resemble a rock-like roughness, making a different texture. I thought it would be nice and fun. I did not have a final picture in mind. I just gave a shot and luckily the contractor went in the same direction.”
Family Space where visibly to each other
Graduated in interior design before continuing his studies in architecture affects space design as he told us that “when I look at my house, I look from inside-out to answer what is the space that I want to have?”
For example, from the planning stage, Khun Vin has visualized the living room to connect with the greenery of the entire lawn combined with the brightness of the Indian yellow tree, an old tree intended to be kept. There is a balcony to sit back and relax on a free day or sometimes his children can run to this playground, play football, do some outdoor activities as if they are part of nature.
“What I wanted to create was the space where we can all see each other. I don’t want a home where we live separate lives. I want a home that we all know what other members are up to.” So, he designed the centre of the house to be an Indian cork tree (Ton Peeb) court, open to natural light and ventilation, enhancing with the greenery plants. This court also connects the space between the first and second floors. He added that “he imagined himself come back home after a long tiring day at work and wanted to see his children playing on the second floor.”
There are three bedrooms and a master bedroom on the second floor. The three bedrooms for the children are not spacious but connected with the living area where the three children could spend time together rather than parting into private rooms and spend time by themselves. They can satisfactorily utilize the two living rooms to add more privacy when welcoming whether parents or children’s visitors.
This serene gravel garden, reminisce to Zen, was designed to solve the draining water from the second-floor balcony issue. Instead of grass, Khun Vin chose gravel decorated with those rocks found previously during the land preparation. “Well, the truth is, I like it. Looking at those still setting. But I did not intend to create all that Japanese vibe. “
“Every visitor always asks whether we like Zen gardens or Japanese gardens. One time, the judge from the (ASA) ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN Award came to examine the house and said that he could not tell the style of our house. It surely has a Japanese vibe but comes with Thainess as well.” Khun Vin brought this up and went on that, from those questions, he figured that all in all there is no final image of V House style. It is just based on preferences, identity, problem-solving, or space that Khun Vin is passionate about.
“Designing my own house, I did not have a clear concept in mind probably because there are so many perspectives that define myself. Hence, I focus on reflecting design that responds to family members’ lifestyles as it should be through my lens. Instead of being very architectural, I just want a homely house that last long” said, Khun Vin.
Location: Tonson Alley, Ploenchit road, Bangkok
Built Area: 600 Square Meter
Architects& Interior : Vin Varavarn Architects
Engineers: Next Engineering Group
Contractor: SPC Technocon
Photo credit: Beer Singnoi