The Ubiquitous Thailand Townhouse – Time for Rejuvenation?

The Ubiquitous Thailand Townhouse – Time for Rejuvenation
The Ubiquitous Thailand Townhouse – Time for Rejuvenation
The Ubiquitous Thailand Townhouse – Time for Rejuvenation
The Ubiquitous Thailand Townhouse – Time for Rejuvenation

The townhouse is one of the iconic features of urban living in Thailand. You’ll find them everywhere; typically a row of attached buildings; perhaps one room in width, two stories high with two bedrooms and two toilet/bathrooms. This compact living style may offer affordable accommodation in prime locations near to the beach and/ or ‘city living’. Big cities around the world have long since discovered this to be a very desirable way of life. However there are likely to be design issues to consider and an innovative approach taken to renovation if you are looking for a modern Thai townhouse.

Common layout features:

Ground Floor:

– The front external area has a car parking space but then is often used to socialise outside with table and chairs for relaxation. The typical area is around 30 square metres. Originally uncovered it is often ‘retro-fitted’ with a roof for weather protection. Internally a lounge/living area (32 square metres), toilet/bathroom and rear kitchen (16 m2).
– The Internal areas would usually total around 50 – 55 square metres.
– There may be a rear door to a small external space, however the property boundary is likely to be very close (around 1 metre or even be the rear wall. Chances are that beyond the rear wall there will be little access or natural light.

Second Level:

The rooms on the second level are two bedrooms (both around 16 m2), separated by a small ‘landing’ at the top of the stairs and a toilet bathroom off the ‘landing’. There are likely to be balconies, especially at the front, varying in size and outlook.

Some ‘Design’ Issues:

– Using the external ground floor area as a recreational area is not compatible With parking a standard vehicle and lacks privacy from the soi and from neighbours. Car parking on your soi, which may only be 2 cars wide, will not be neighbour-friendly.
– The rear ground floor room may lack natural light. It may be a reasonably large kitchen but with a step down not able to accommodate a dining space.
– Typically there are small doors and windows from the upstairs bedrooms to the balconies resulting in little use of these spaces.
– The ‘landing’ has no useful purpose other than separating the rooms and providing privacy. If only one bedroom is used by the occupants, guest or visitors share bathroom/ toilet upstairs and compromise the occupants ‘personal space’.
– Using kitchen appliances, TV or ‘social spaces’ means being downstairs. It’s not possible to have a cup of coffee in the morning in or near the bedroom without changing floors.
– The roof space between individual townhouses may not be isolated from adjoining properties with fire and security issues!
– The safety of electrical wiring without modernisation is at best uncertain. Upper level water pressure is unlikely to be good enough without a powered pumping system.

Some Practical Solutions:

If you are considering a townhouse ‘makeover’, you will need to have an open mind, an innovative approach and a designer’s eye. What you first see is not what you have to except! You’ll also need a ‘hands-on’ approach if you expect to have your ideas understood.

– It’s unlikely that a plan of the individual levels will beavailable, draw your own! This can provide the basis toexperiment with the hypothetical use of all available spacesboth for your own use and to show tradesmen. All youneed is some graph paper, a tape and a pencil.
– Ignore the limitations of small doors and windows, theycan be changed.
– Internal walls can either moved or removed, there will befew restrictions posed by structural problems.
– The current use of areas can be changed; a kitchen canbecome a bedroom or a bedroom a living room.Consider second floor balcony use; these are invaluablespaces for practical use and often overlooked.
– Think about the management of electrical, water, roofspace issues.

Rejuvenation – A Case Study

Here is a Case Study of a redesigned Thailand Townhousewhich now provides practical ‘Euro-style’ living. The writerstill lives in this Cha-Am townhouse and provided us withsome insights into the rejuvenation process.“After exploring numerous townhouses; some renovated,others in a state of decay, some themes began to emerge.First the renovations seemed to lack imagination, justa revamp of what was there already. Second, there wasoften a need to provide more open areas and natural light.Properties were typically very enclosed by small windowsand doors.The decision to take on this property was based on bothlocation, just a stroll from the beach, cost – 1.3 million THB,but then potential. I remember being unimpressed withthe ground level, just the usual, but upstairs the potentialemerged.After needing to ‘shoulder charge’ open the doorway tothe rear balcony, suddenly the vista appeared; a completeoverview of the rear resort swimming pool, almost withinreach but clearly unseen by previous occupants.

The next day during a mini-bus ride to Bangkok, I sketcheda plan from memory. I really needed to look at what waspossible, including changes in the use of areas, movingwalls and making it fit to my preferred lifestyle. Returningto Cha-Am soon after, my plan was remarkably accurate.My ‘design’ requirements raised a few eyebrows but now itall works.”

Scope of WorkGround Floor:

The kitchen at the rear was big enoughto become the second bedroom. Another entry to thebathroom/toilet gave the room an en suite feel for visitorswho can now have their own space and privacy.

Second Level:

First; moving the rear wall out just a metre with full lengthglass door to the balcony (now 12 square metres) andremoving walls around the stairwell provided the basis foran open upstairs lounge/dining/kitchen. Suddenly the vistaopened up and claustrophobia was gone. I can also make acup of coffee in the morning without ‘changing levels’.Second; closing access to the bathroom/toilet from theprevious ‘landing’ and opening to the main (front) bedroomprovided en suite privacy. Full length glass doors to thefront balcony added light and space as well as a coolingbreeze from front to back.

Some Other Changes:

Built in cupboards and storage spaces included astoreroom under the stairs, kitchen cupboards and abreakfast bench, wardrobes in both bedrooms, bed basesin both bedrooms, bookcase/display shelving and an officedesk in the downstairs living area.Isolation walls in the roof space.Electrical rewiring with safety fusing.Water storage and pump system.Three air-conditioning units; not mounted to blockbalcony use!New ceilings throughout with sunken lighting.In this Case Study a very standard townhouse wastransformed from mediocrity into a European standardcompact living home which is functional, comfortable and apleasure to call home.The final cost, that is purchase price plus renovations,appliances and furnishings amounted to something liketwo million THB. Today a sale price of around threemillion THB would be considered market value; not a badinvestment!

There’s also the satisfaction of knowing and seeing whatwas done. What does the owner say now two years downthe track? “It’s a pleasure to come home to; I just love itwhen visitors take the ‘tour’; at some stage they will sayWow!…………….I’d do it all again anytime!”