Krissada ‘Noi’ Sukosol Clapp is about as accomplished as they come. He majored in anthropology at Boston University and has since gone on to become one of Thailand’s best known rock stars, performing in Pru with his oldest brother and starring in films including The Adventures of Iron Pussy, 13 Beloved and Bangkok Loco. Khun Noi is getting ready to launch his latest album this year but, in the seven years he’s had away from the music circuit, he’s carved himself out a new persona as the creative director at the breathtakingly-beautifully curated The Siam Hotel. Despite all this, he’s about the most easy-going guy you could meet. We chatted with him about how he’s made his passion his day job.
For me it’s all about telling stories… Majoring in anthropology is studying people and how people behave in various circumstances and various societies is like being an actor, we get to know people. In a way, that’s how I approach the hotel — with storytelling to give our guests a way to see what Thai life was like. It’s all about story telling for me.
I try and relate every room to Thainess… I don’t think you have to showcase Buddhist sculptures here, there and everywhere. I think you can showcase the things that people used every day. For the gym, I thought ‘why not have a thai boxing ring?’ I’d already collected black and white antique photos of Thai boxers, so I display them there. Then, when we were doing the screening room, I began collection old theatre movie tickets — then you start to see the little things in life that Thais did back then.
My brother jokes that I had so many antiques I didn’t know what to do with them… so I thought I’d build a hotel to showcase them. That’s not really true – but it sure is part of the fun! The real truth is that my family is in the hotel business and my mother, the matriarch of the family, always wanted me to help out, but she knew my passion was in the arts. She had this piece of land on the river and she said ‘oh, Kriss, I know you like antiques, we have land here, why don’t you come check it out and see what you can do here. When I came to see the land I finally knew how I could be a part of the family business with real passion. I said, ‘let’s build something different. There’s no luxurious hotel in the old part of Bangkok — let’s do it unlike anyone else’. I come from an indie music background and you always want to be different from everybody else. It’s like building a luxurious indie hotel – I’m trying to use a better word for boutique. That’s how it started, and my brother said ‘yeah, he just wants to put his antiques somewhere…’. It’s slightly true.
It was my idea to get Bill Bensley involved… We thought of lots of architects, but when all the antique stores I went to had pieces I liked reserved by Bill Bensley. I thought ‘man, he’s reserving all the antiques I like’ and I used to be upset, but it shows we have somewhat the same tastes, so I thought ‘well, if you can’t beat them join them’. I spoke to Bill to see if he was interested and that’s how it started.
We have another small project coming up… it’s in a wonderful location across from Wat Arun, near Sala Rattanakosin and Chakrabongse Villa. We found a small property that’s going to be a two to three room villa with a restaurant and a pool. That’s all it’s going to be. The last subway stop near the Grand Palace is going to be two minutes form the property. It’ll be 15 minutes by boat from The Siam, so guests can use the facilities here. We’re aiming top open in December 2016. It’s small enough for me to try and do it myself. I’ll have to hire someone to do the drawings for me because I can’t do that stuff, but yeah… people have asked if I’d do another Siam in another country, but I haven’t thought that far yet.
The hotel is my main focus at the moment… I took a seven year break from making music, so this has been the focus, but now we’ve been open for close to two years and things have been starting to fall into place. That’s why I’m itching to do something new. I want to build a new place, and this small one coming up is a good fit for me.
Having a hotel is a lot like building a home… you never know if a space is going to work until it’s finished. It’s the hardest thing for architects to predict – it might look nice but, when you get there does it have any soul or any feel to it. There are areas in the hotel where it still doesn’t feel right and where I rotate and change pieces.
I have a warehouse with six floors to store all my antiques… It’s very much an addiction for me. There’s a lot of antique addicts who do that – buy and store, buy and store.
If I find a time slot in a day, then I just have to go to antique stores… Every Saturday at 7am I’m at Chatuchak to see what’s new on the streets. It’s funny – it’s kind of like the drug business sometimes, and I’ll just cut out the middleman and go to the source. Then I find out where all these dealers find their stuff – usually at flea markets on the outskirts of Bangkok near Chonburi.
My style keeps changing… When I was younger I was into the retro thing, modern, Scandinavian furniture – I used to be into that during my mid twenties. I looked at older people who like Victorian stuff – chandeliers and things and I’d think ‘that stuff is so OTT’ but now I find as I get older that I like to buy some of that stuff. So for me, I guess the common term is mix and match. It’s about bringing stuff together and harmonising all of it and getting it to shine in the room together.
Antiques don’t have to be expensive… if you find something the right stand it will shine more. Little details and how you make it come to life. I love collecting old showcases, if you display them in the right showcase, they’ll look even stronger. I try and find nice showcases everywhere. In this room – the library – I was really upset with Bill, because the backdrop of the hotel is black and white because they wanted the antiques to shine – so he wanted to paint some of my showcases black and I said ‘no, it’s teak wood!’ Some pieces I said ‘ok, ok’ and, yeah, it does make them shine and it works for the room.
Every designer loves art deco… it’s flexible and it’s timeless, so that was a great choice by Bill and his firm. When you think of The Siam, you think of black and white – our logos, everything. It simplifies the brand.
I used to say I’ll never be a minimalist… but I don’t know, I might be one day. I kind of appreciate everything. I like macabre stuff now. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t put in the hotel. It’s very popular nowadays, and taxidermy is everywhere.
My favourite part of the hotel is the library… and how it connects with the screening room. I like the journey through the hotel that Bill designed, too. It starts small and homely in the courtyard and lobby and then, as you cross the little bridge and approach the main residence, there’s the tall palm trees and greenhouse effect, which makes everything translucent and changes the light throughout the day. I won’t tell you the areas I feel could be better – I’m still working on those.
My favourite antique here is the big toy car… near the car park lift, I really like that and I don’t know why. It’s a toy car – it makes you smile. The dealer in Bangkok found it in Burma, where it used to be owned by a British guy. Burma is great for European furniture but you can get all this stuff in Thailand if you know where to look – you really can.
The Siam Hotel, 3/2 Thanon Khao, Vachirapayabal, Dusit, Bangkok, www.thesiamhotel.com