Bear House by Onion

This house for toy-bear collectors in Thailand was conceived as a scaled-up version of the bears’ display cabinet.

Project: Bear house by Onion
Location: Cha-Am beach, Thailand
Interior Architect: Arisara Chaktranon , Siriyot Chaiamnuay, onion team
Area: 380 sq.m.
Completion year: 2012

The Bear House is a renovation of an existing three-storey residence, which has been reconfigured to provide a holiday home at Cha-Am Beach resort for a family who are avid collectors of the Japanese Bearbrick figurines.

The clients requested an exhibition area where they could display 17 of the toy bears, so designers Onion devised a multi-level cabinet filled with miniature staircases and ladders.

“We thought of the bears’ cabinet as the bears’ house,” designer Arisara Chaktranon told Dezeen.

The designers then introduced similar features into the humans house, such as a ladder that climbs up from a ground-floor lounge area to the uppermost ceiling of a triple-height space.

“The house itself is a replica of the bears’ cabinet,” said Chaktranon. “We enlarged the scale of the cabinet, then applied the same timber material to the cabinet and the house.

More ladders can be found inside the bedrooms. One leads up from the master bedroom to a suspended daybed, while another climbs up beside the bed in the children’s room.

Oak panels cover walls, floors and ceilings throughout the house, and there are windows and hatches between different rooms.

The designers invited Thai graffiti artists MMFK and P7 to decorate the walls of the living room and swimming-pool terrace. The duo painted a series of unique characters, including a one-eyed monster dressed as a sailor and a blue bear with stripy cheeks and eyebrows.

Other residences with integrated display areas include a house with a showroom for a car collector and a house with an integral art gallery.

See more architecture in Thailand, including a house with a bathroom that’s on show to a swimming pool.

Here’s a project description from the designers:

Bear House

Bear House is on Cha-Am Beach, a famous seaside resort town in central Thailand, three hours drive from Bangkok. The brief is to renovate a three-storey building of eight metres wide and twenty-eight metres long, utilising an area of three-hundred and eighty square metres, turning it into a second home of the Sahawat family. When the interior construction started, in December 2011, the boy of the family was two years old. A baby was expected. In April 2012, Bear House was happily finished.

Bear House belongs to the Thai Be@rbrick collectors. Sittawat Sahawat and Nipapat Sahawat are siblings who are fascinated by various sizes and styles of Be@rbrick toys, produced by the Japanese company Medicom Toy Incorporated. Be@rbrick is an anthropomorphised bear with a simplified form and pot belly. Each plastic figure features nine parts, namely head, torso, hips, arms, hands and legs. It has flexible joints and a swivelled head. Many artists have created decorative patterns for the standard mould such as the British fashion designer Vivian Westwood and Stash who is considered one of New York’s graffiti legends. In the Sahawat family’s collection, the major figures are BAPE camouflage print. They are twenty-eight centimetres high and referred to as 400% Be@rbricks as its actual size, or a 100% Be@rbrick, is seven centimetres high.

Size matters in Bear House. The design process does not start from the house itself but the Be@rbricks display cabinet. It is thought of as a house of seventeen 400% Be@rbricks. It is composed of steps, ladders and voids that fit the scale of twenty-eight centimetres tall figures. It occupies a whole wall of the dining room, linking the house’s entry to the living area which is three stories high. The cabinet is a central piece and a model of the house. It is made of light coloured oak wooden panels resembling the other main surfaces of the house. Bear House is a bigger version of Be@rbricks’ display cabinet.

Miniature fixtures and oversize furniture are the features of Bear House. Lamps and pillows are oversize so that the inhabitants may feel smaller than they actually are. The house has four sizes of doorknobs, customised for different size of doors. They are sometimes too big for a child’s hand and too small for an adult’s hand. The ladder that seems too high is one of the living area’s decorative elements. It leads the gaze high up to square skylights, oversize voids, and windows of different scale. Every room on the upper floors overlook the hall of living area.

An enlarged Be@rbrick’s ladder is placed in the master bedroom. It connects a space between the king size bed and a single day bed in an elevated hole. There are two views from this day bed. Next to the hole is the three stories hall overlooking the living area. The opposite side across the room is the sea view. In front of the master bedroom stands a 1000% Be@rbrick of seventy centimetres high, painted in a pattern of police uniform. It is a special collaboration between French label Paul&Joe and Medicom Toy. This 1000% Be@rbrick can be seen from the living area on the second floor, the bedroom on the second floor, and the landing that links the stair and the ramp towards the master bedroom.

Bear House is bright and humorous. Its living room and swimming pool are the front part of the house. The whole space is coloured by young Thai graffiti artists well known as MMFK and P7. In the living room, behind the oversize sofa, MMFK paints a one-eye monster, dressed up as a sailor, whereas P7 paints a blue bear head with striped eyebrows. Next to the swimming pool, on the wall of eleven metres long, MMFK illustrates the cartoon representation of a bear devouring his iconic one-eye monster. P7 drew a black bear head with the word ‘surf’ on its forehead. These illustrations are customised only for Bear House.

Above: ground floor plan – click for larger image and key

Above: first floor – click for larger image and key

Above: second floor plan – click for larger image and key

Above: long section – click for larger image

Above: cross section – click for larger image


Photography is by Wison Tungthunya.


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