Friday, 15 March 2013

Jim Thompson - the man, the museum

I have so much respect for Jim Thompson that I thought his house which is now a museum deserved its own post.

Sometimes it takes a foreigner to see a native beauty regardless of location.  A local gets so used to an ambiance and style that it gets lost in daily living.  He was a pioneer in modern cultural fusion and in reviving a traditional craft before there was even such a concept.
He was an unwitting patriot for Thailand.

Jim Thompson is now a Thai brand.

But Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur who came to Thailand as a military attache and was a trained architect.

Photo via

I have been there a few times now and it has drastically changed.
It used to just have the house but now has a restaurant, a boutique and a building for the Jim Thompson foundation. 

He is a name associated with silk crafting and a must on the tourist trail of Bangkok.

This is the different stages of spun silk exhibited by the entrance.
More for show and also by the entrance to the boutique.

I gasped for breath at the beauty of the lotus vase. 

This was not even the main attraction and yet I would have come for this alone.

This is his house albeit with a much more mature garden than he had at the time.

He did modify the house.  
Apparently it is 6 different houses that he brought and mended together!

The koi pond - this was not here 8 years ago.
This proves new additions can be seamless and add to the original character if done right.

I never get sick of lotus flowers - perhaps because even in a gardening mad country like Britain you just don't see this often enough.

This turtle was here the last time and has grown so much - I think this is now his permanent home.

The silk loom is one of the original ones he found and used in his silk production.

But this man wasn't a colonialist - 
he was in love with the culture and turned his respect into a revival for the silk industry.

  One of the silk screen blocks he rescued and used in his fabrics.

Up close below - the block itself is a work of art.
It is also mirrored in motif as the Chinoiserie vases although not very conspicuous on the picture.


The tour started at the bottom of his living room where there were a few artifacts from his art collection.
He was an admirer of all different types of Asian art: Khmer, Chinese, and Indian.

One of his outhouses.

One of the doors to the outhouse.
Love the series of doors shown through the door.

I love this take on garden gnomes.

Apparently they were part of a Tao temple and the relics were reused as garden ornaments.
We walked past the main reception and entertaining area.

It was open air and in front of one of the canals that Bangkok used to have many more of.
It took advantage of the breeze from the passing boats and one could still experience the benefits.

The canal right in front of the living room bar a strip of garden for a few trees.

The tree had a canopy worth sharing.
There was a mini replica of the house in the corner of the garden so that any spirits didn't feel displaced and wouldn't haunt the main house.  In Southeast Asia, you should look out for mini houses near the main house. Mind you, some are cuter than others.

Jim Thompson also had the foresight to collect Khmer art 
before it ever got popular.
One of the statues he bought - possibly was poached from the Angkor villages as it had only just been rediscovered and the French were active in taking a lot of relics out of Cambodia.

The main staircase of the main house.
This was done by Mr Thompson as stairs were never placed inside a Thai house.
His entrance hall - I love the lack of windows and the crystal next to the paneling.
The same area but from the outside.  
I know it is silly but just the detail of it being in contact with air just made an otherwise heavy style setting so light and fresh. 
I wish I could do this in London...
The decor inside has remained the same as Jim left it.
He  mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia and to this day no one knows how or why.

He did get a warning on his astrological chart saying he must be careful at the age of 61 which is when he disappeared. 
The statue at the landing on the second floor.
Note the two lovely flower vases  - 
not for flowers but made of them.

His dining room dressed with his original dinner wares.
He had to import them from China as Thais didn't use tables and chairs except to play mahjong.
His dining table is actually two mahjong tables put together.

I wish I could have taken a photo of the rooms leading to his bedroom.
It was little 3 foot by 3 foot foyers - three of them that finally led to the bedroom.

The lead up to the actual bedroom gave the bedroom an extra sense of cosiness and a deep sanctuary feel that I wish I had the space to replicate back home.
( I had to sneak in these so were taken without a flash...I did sort of feel like a reporter for the Murdoch corporation, not gonna lie.)

One of the fish in the big bowls at the end of the tour.

I must say that if you ever do visit or revisit Bangkok - 
one of the things you have to go see is this museum.

There are plenty more aspects that I didn't and 
couldn't capture even if I tried so remember to put it on 
your next time in Bangkok list.


  1. Amazing house, you know I've had his fabrics for years but didn't realise the extent of his brand at all. Oh and lotus flowers, aren't they just magical?

    1. It really is. I wish I could have Aiken better pics. But I must say I would love a big ar of lotuses in front of my house and I would never get sick of them...

  2. How beautiful. I love Jim Thompson fabrics - the curtains in our study are Jim Thompson, one of the modern fabrics though with giant squiggles all over them. Such an interesting bio on him you've written up too - I love that he was reviving local crafts. His disappearance is a little like Florence Broadhurst, who was murdered in such strange circumstances in Sydney. She also had a love affair with the East as well. It seems if you are creative, then that is the place to go for inspiration. xx

    1. Don't you find the fabric does last well? I ad a cosmetics bag I bought twenty years ago and the silk is still sturdy. I didn't know that about FB.

      But Jim Thompson seems to have made more of an impact on the west instead of a name but no matter. He is really inspirational. Xx

  3. Love Jim Thompson- always produce exceptional textile designs. Cool to see his museum thru ur eyes!

    1. Me too! There were a few new pillow prints but I just thought I would get too carried away and I still have unused cushion covers unused but was so hard to walk out empty handed!

  4. If I ever find myself in Bangkok, I'll make sure this museum is on my hit list. I could just move right in because it looks beautiful and very atmospheric.

    1. Oh you must! The NYtimes just did a 36 hours in Bangkok but didn't include it...I was sooo disappointed in them.

      I will have to gazump you on the house though ;)

  5. Wow this home is fabulous. Thanks for sharing the art and creativity here!

  6. Love that I am learning new things from your blog! Thank you for sharing your travels!

  7. Wow! I never actually knew anything about him before now. It must be amazing to admire and have a great deal of respect for someone and then have the opportunity to experience part of his life first hand. There's nothing more personal than a person's home, so for them to refurbish Jim's in to a museum is a fantastic idea for his fans and idols.

    Not sure if I will ever get to Bangkok, but I have some adventurous friends who I can pass the recommendation on to.

    Fab photos!

  8. So nice photos, feels like I'm there:) Caroline

  9. Thanks for coming by Fashionisha- especially when I know you ar soo busy!

  10. Colleen, you would love Bangkok! Great fresh food and cheap fashion!!!

    thanks Caroline, it really is an uplifting place - think you would love it!

  11. Thanks Kelly, you must go with your family soon- you would be so inspired there...

  12. What a feast for the senses you have given us here. Some Jim Thompson napkins drifted into my life recently and now this article makes them that much more meaningful.


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