Distinctive Design: A Hillside Oasis in Southern Thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand

Nestled along a lush tropical hillside, Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui is built on an old orchard and inspired by traditional Thai living. Designed by architect and landscape designer Bill Bensley along with his partner, Jirachai Rengthong, the Resort is reminiscent of Southern Thai residences, crafted from the finest tropical hardwood to reflect a harmonious blend of traditional island lifestyle and modern luxury.

Connected to the Earth

At the heart of the process and the guiding principle of the design was that of minimal intervention. “We were handed the stewardship of this precious site, a seaside hill with abundant greenery and fauna,” shares Bill. On Koh Samui, similar hillsides have been stripped off their trees to accommodate hotels and developments, “What is forgotten in doing so, is that the Earth cannot stay strong without roots to hold it, causing immense landslides,” explains the award-winning architect. The design of the Resort, therefore, takes all this into consideration. “We are delighted to be able to keep 856 coconut trees,” shares Jasjit Assi, General Manager. “We didn’t cut down a single tree, instead built around them as you will see some trees popping up through the restaurant, villa decks and even the interiors.”

The Sweet Spot

The highlight of each of the villas is a large porch that opens to the gardens on three sides and sits in between the pool and the bedroom – what Bill calls the "sweet spot" of the design. The use of teak and terrazzo interiors, customised bathtubs and ensuite rain showers is highlighted by the custom-designed decor providing the perfect finishing touches with silk accessories, custom-made artwork, tropical rosewood and teak furniture and high thatched roof ceilings. Soothing turquoise blue or sea foam green tones accent the contemporary interiors, allowing guests to truly immerse in the vitality of the sea.

Amphitheatre of Nature

The most dramatic of the villas are the two beach villas - secluded at the water’s edge - one of which can only be accessed from the private cove. Guests can’t get any closer to the Peninsula and Gulf of Thailand, with the peaceful lapping of waves on the beach just outside their door. In addition to the Villas are the expansive 2-4 bedroom Private Retreats for guests who would like to rent a home away from home with all the luxuries and amenities of a full-service Resort including live-in personal attendants and access to the restaurants, bar, spa and other experiences. With infinity pools providing dramatic sky-scapes through the day, the Resort’s accommodation is a true reflection of Thailand’s island life.

Minimal Intervention

So what is the future vision for the Resort? The original villas were built 20 years ago, and at that time, it was enough for Bill to be inspired by everything that is truly Thai. “Thai modern ain’t cuttin’ the mustard these days,” clarifies Bill, while Jasjit adds, “For the future, we envision a rural agricultural Thailand of the 1950s, where guests in residence can feel a sense of community, with a working vegetable farm tying it all together.”

“The verdant Resort was an environmental triumph for us,” shares Bill. “856 coconut trees presented themselves to us the first time we went to the seaside location, and 856 coconut trees still stood five years later, when the Resort was launched! I have learned that when we are given a beautifully natural site, minimal intervention on our part as architects always works best.”