Sometimes it’s the spontaneous activities that turn out to be the most enjoyable and memorable. That was definitely the case when I visited the Jim Thompson House, a serene tropical oasis of architecture, art and intrigue tucked neatly inside a steamy hot and crowded Bangkok.
Jim Thompson was an American architect and with the OSS when he moved to Thailand in the 1940s. He designed and built a traditional Thai-style house in Bangkok where he lived and was known to entertain quite a bit.
Jim was an avid collector of Asian art: sculpture, ceramics, chandeliers, decorative wall pieces, and artifacts from all over the region. Many of these pieces are on display throughout Jim Thompson House as well as on the grounds. I think I’d describe the look and feel of the style as rustic Thai elegance.
Even though Jim was an American, he appears to have embraced the superstitious aspect of Thai religious culture as I saw from the little doll-sized spirit house in his jungle-like garden. Also outside was this striking blueish green detail set within the stone wall.
But Jim was more than just an architect and collector. In the 1950s, he co-founded the Thai Silk Company, a cottage-industry business he made successful with his rich color choices and consistency in quality. And the success of his business is credited for revitalizing the silk industry in Thailand.
By all appearances, Jim’s life seemed to be going pretty well. But in 1967 while visiting friends in Malaysia, Jim headed out for an afternoon stroll and was never seen or heard from again. What could have happened to him? Did he jump off a cliff? Get kidnapped by the indigenous people? Find himself on the wrong side of his former employer, the OSS, now known as the CIA? Even with a handsome reward for information, hundreds of military personnel and numerous experts hot on the case, no one was ever able to uncover a clue that might explain how or why he disappeared.
I don’t know if all this mystery and intrigue has anything to do with the success of the Jim Thompson brand today. But I do know that the silk fabrics and decorative pieces carried are absolutely gorgeous. Most of the retail stores are located in Southeast Asia. But there’s also a location on Park Avenue right here in NYC as well as an online store.
xo Mary Maru