The traditional designs of homes in Thailand provide a prime example of environmental adaptability. Locally sourced materials constructed in portable designs matched the lifestyle of indigenous people frequently on the move. Homes could accommodate what Mother Nature dished out in this part of the world before modern conveniences emerged.
Made from abundant tropical wood, the platform of a traditional Thai home is raised on posts. A typical design for most of the country, the raised living area of the home gives natural protection from intrusions of wildlife and thieves. Most importantly, though, this construction protects from flooding during monsoons. Open, high-pitched roofs and open windows combat tropical heat and humidity, while walls open out to a large central terrace, providing natural ventilation and plenty of air circulation. Wide overhanging eaves protect from sun and rain. Steep roofs allow rainwater to roll away and drain through gaps purposely left in the wood beam floors of the terrace and home.
Because Thai families frequently relocate, traditional homes were and still are made from prefabricated components held together by wooden joints and dowels instead of nails. The home is disassembled and moved to a new location, where the wooden wall panels are hoisted onto wooden-beam platforms and posts. Wood joinery is also used to attach the panels to the beams and posts, enabling the house to be reassembled quickly and easily. Structural components of flexible wood easily contract and expand with changing temperatures and moisture. The shape of individual panels varies for different parts of the house and in different parts of the country, where architectural features such as leaning posts and gable ornaments also differ.
The interiors of traditional Thai homes are simple, uncluttered open spaces. The 'hor nang,' or sitting hall, typically has three walls and opens onto the terrace. Larger cabins may be partitioned into separate rooms by wooden or woven walls. Many homes have a private altar room, with Buddha statues and urns containing the ashes of deceased family members placed on an arrangement of wood pedestals. Furniture is quite limited, as people traditionally sit, eat and sleep on the floor; furnishings may include cupboards, storage boxes, low tables, cushions and raised wooden platforms for beds. Modern Thai homes, however, often include chairs, small dressing tables and thin mattresses.
Kitchens and Bathrooms
Thai kitchens are located in a separate structure, usually behind the main house. The room is well ventilated and contains cooking utensils such as a mortar, a ceramic charcoal stove, a chopping board, and ceramic pots and water jars. Just outside the kitchen, an open veranda covered by a roof may serve as a storage area for basketry, woven hats, coconut graters and other farming tools, similar to a Western mudroom. Traditional Thai houses do not have bathrooms. A vat of water and a ladle provide simple bathing on the terrace. Although it sounds a little rustic, a chamber pot, nearby field or canal serve as the "toilet."
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