137 Pillars House was originally the northern headquarters of the East Borneo Trading Company, built 125 years ago in the centre of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

At the onset of the project, the once-elegant teak building (known also as Baan Borneo) was in a dilapidated state and liable to flood in the wet season.

As well as saving and restoring Baan Borneo, the challenge was also to create a hotel environment that stimulated the imagination of guests and moved them back in time, but did not just blindly replicate the old house.

While the old house retains its stately presence, the new buildings are clearly identified with the use of contrasting materials. The entrance pavilion, reception sala and spa are in elegant white-painted timber.

These structures are clustered at the street entrance to the hotel. From this area, guests meander under century-old trees towards the old house, which gradually reveals itself across a wide lawn.

Along the route stand clusters of new two-storied villas. The ground-floor levels are distinguished from the old house by a weighty white plaster. The upper stories are made of timber and detailed in a similar fashion to Baan Borneo. The 30 suites all have cement tile roofs, while the original structure has a timber shingle roof.

Another challenge was how to deal with the annual flooding of the site. Although raised off the ground by around 3 feet (almost 1 meter), flood waters would still come up to Baan Borneo’s floorboards. The decision was made to lift the entire house and the lawn by approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters). This maintained the proportional relationship of the original house with the ground.

It also allowed an additional lower floor to be inserted behind the original house for the hotel’s back-of-house facilities.

The original house’s functions are now limited now to a lavish library and lounge. These spaces connect to the restaurant to the rear, which occupies original outbuildings, now raised to sit over the back-of-house facilities.

  • LocationChiang Mai, Thailand
  • Date2011
  • Interior designerP49 Deesign & Associates
  • Landscape designerP Landscape