The harmony between man and nature in the pursuit of a tranquil and peaceful lifestyle is perfectly reflected by ASEAN design trends. Combining traditional craftsmanship and skills with the abundance of natural materials available and innovative design skills, have pathed the way for this contemporary approach to interior design that has put Bangkok on the forefront of all things beautiful, chic and desirable. City living has become a tribute to the creative, ingenious spirit of Asian craft and design - perhaps for its timelessness, classic elegance and perfectly harmonious attributes, but certainly for its beauty and mystic sensuality. Inspired by and strengthened with the 'Zen' and 'feng shui' philosophies, the ASEAN way is considered the biggest thing in the city right now. And it's here to stay.
A walk around the furniture and interior outlets of some of Bangkok's finest shopping malls like Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, the Emporium and recently revamped CentralWorld confirms the 'nature in design' phenomenon. The city's designer hotels, restaurants, bars and lounges are reeling in international design awards, and have become functional 'galleries' of ergonomic ASEAN d-cor trends. Designer Bangkok is a city that lives up to modern-day lifestyle aspirations; a city that reflects a contemporary edge unparalleled in Southeast Asia. Fueling this drive are government initiatives like the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC), a glamorous state-of-the-art design resource centre that recognises 'creativity' as one of Thailand's strengths, and events like BIG/BIH. Held twice annually at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, the BIG/BIH events are attracting buyers from all over the world, and has become the region's prime event of all that's bold and beautiful. Indeed, the Kingdom's (creative) cultural identity is thrusting forward with a life of its own, and making the rest of the world sit up and take notice.
Creative dialogues with nature
Meet Rocky Hizon, Vice President of Operations at the Bangkok office of Budji Living, a worldwide interior design and d-cor company whose products and services are highly sought after. Budji is considered a pioneer in the field of modern ASEAN living, which the company describes as "a mixture of rich heritage and traditional craftsmanship fused with contemporary needs and sensibilities". Budji's commitment to using indigenous materials like bamboo, wicker, water hyacinth, wood and leather is continually seen in their designs, which is as much about art as it is about function. As one of their designers put it: "I derive inspiration from my creative dialogues with nature..." Rocky adds: "Modern living is all about relaxed living... The style is not distinctive, but instead a blend that is a soothing, contemporary mix of styles, neutral colours and natural materials. There are both traditional and modern elements at play, and equally important is a balance between form and function."
A glance through Budji's impressive 1,500 square metre showroom in the trendy Thonglor area will quickly eliminate the need for inspiration if you're in a mood to try your hand at a bit of home decoration. Every piece in itself is the result of inspiration, and the company's passion for their business is evident. "The ASEAN design trend is timeless, and here to stay", Rocky adds. "It perfectly complements and enhances our modern, fast-paced lifestyles." According to her, a big trend is bold and chunky (functional) decorative accessories that have sculptural qualities. This visionary approach to design has kept Budji on the forefront of the industry, and it's little wonder that their products have found its way into the homes of the fashionable and trendy from London to Los Angeles, and Beijing to the Bahamas.
The Mae Fah Luang Foundation
Originally founded as the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation under the patronage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother (the late mother of HM The King) to look for ways to improve the livelihood of the hill-tribes and to preserve their handicrafts, The Mae Fah Luang Foundation has become world-renowned for exquisitely crafted textiles and products. Tribal people and ethnic minorities in the northern region of Thailand were taught how to modify their handicrafts to meet commercial standards, and their products successfully introduced to the market.
Mae Fah Luang is not just a successful and admirable sustainable development project. It is a perfect example of how Thai designers and innovators are utilising resources to challenge the status quo and move beyond established parametres, by making products that are on par with worldwide trends and meet modern-day consumer aspirations. Which is why they are repeatedly recognised for their talents and exceptional contributions to design. Consumer tastes have also matured and become much more sophisticated. People are seeking designer products for their homes as much as they are passionate about wearing high end brands, and driving the latest SUV. Thai manufacturers are no strangers to the demands of the global market anymore and, likewise, most are participants in premier exhibitions in Northern America, Europe and Japan.
Interior design trends in Bangkok are not only a fine showcase of the inherent talents, skills and creativity of designers and manufacturers. It is silent proof that Bangkok is indisputably the Capital of Cool.