Lunar Phases Inspire Onion’s Design of Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort in Thailand
The pandemic may have shut down the world-famous Full Moon Party, a monthly beach rave on Thailand’s Ko Pha Ngan island. But the lunar phases still get celebrated—albeit in less a hedonistic, more luxurious style—on neighboring Ko Samui. A recently completed hotel there, the 137-room Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort by Onion, draws design inspiration from the waxing and waning of Earth’s nearest celestial companion, which can appear close enough to touch in the region’s limpid night sky.
A road divides the 6-acre property in two: a three-story, 52-room beachfront section overlooking the seashore, and a two-story, 85-room garden annex nestled among ancient banyan trees on the landlocked side. The designers conceived these wings as each representing an opposite pole in the lunar cycle—“full moon and black moon,” as Onion founder and design director Arisara Chaktranon puts it—dubbing the two parts Phase 01 and Phase 02, respectively. “It’s a graduation from bright to dark, from cheerful and lively to calm and relaxed,” co-founder and co-design director Siriyot Chaiamnuay adds.
Comprising clusters of cast-concrete structures, the wings total 145,300 square feet and were completed two years apart. Each has its own reception, restaurant, and central pool. Circulation, especially in the garden annex, is driven by connected rooms “instead of long corridors,” Chaiamnuay notes, and the prevailing geometry, from furnishings to fenestration, is rounded or spherical like the moon. The designers’ dedication to blurring the divide between indoor and outdoor living shows up throughout via generous glazing, cutouts framing sky and landscape views, multiple arches and colonnades, and a total of six open-air courtyards. But the blending of interior and exterior space finds its most striking expression in the remarkable number of private pools—96 altogether—on both properties. Complete with intimate gardens and sundecks, these pools are even found built into the balconies of all Phase 01 second- and third-floor rooms.
The seaside wing consists of a long main building flanked by six smaller structures, several private villas among them. The sense of being in a tropical paradise is driven home in reception, where arched openings capture the breathtaking panorama of azure waters, towering palms, and the white sands of Chaweng Beach. Low and backless custom seating ensures that the vista remains as uninterrupted as possible. “We wanted people to see straight through to the beach with their very first step into the hotel,” says Chaktranon. Interior accents here and in all Phase 01’s public areas are warm-hued: cream, light brown, and a soft, lunar yellow. The main pool—a 66-foot-diameter circle set in the largest courtyard, one side of which opens directly onto the beach—is surrounded by an organic arrangement of daybeds and umbrellas that encourages spontaneous conversation between guests. At night, the pool acquires a moonlike glow thanks to LEDs below the water line. Tented under white acrylic canvas, the adjoining restaurant allows diners to enjoy ocean breezes while sheltering them from the powerful sun.
A deep blue that evokes the night sky is the main accent color in the “black moon” wing. The inky hue shows up in most Phase 02 public areas—on seating upholstery around its 26-by-100-foot pool, on the walls of the roadside restaurant, and on the exterior of the spa, the only structure not painted white. The spa’s interior palette is also unique, its walls either a dark tropical-leaf green or a brilliant flamingo pink almost as intense as the island’s sunsets. The flamboyant shade gets a dramatic workout in a narrow open-roof hallway leading to the treatment rooms, with painted fiberglass spheres filling the space overhead like an abstract arrangement of roseate planets, “as if you’ve walked into a different universe,” Chaiamnuay suggests.
Onion took full advantage of Phase 02’s garden setting, incorporating five courtyards dedicated to outdoor living, dining, and relaxing—more than 40,000 square feet in all—dotted with heritage trees and planters of lush vegetation. All-weather custom furnishings include cast-concrete sofas and armchairs upholstered with sun-resistant acrylic fabric, tables, daybeds, swings, and oversize floor lamps. “We played a lot with scale,” Chaiamnuay says.
In both wings, guest accommodations, which range from 500-square-foot standard rooms to a 3,500-square-foot villa, are calm and soothing. Walls and terrazzo floors are white, the spaces enriched by deftly layered elements such as oak paneling, locally crafted rattan lamps of all shapes and sizes, coconut-shell table legs, and bamboo-covered ceilings. In all rooms, the view is privileged. Larger suites comprise an uninterrupted enfilade of open areas with clear sightlines to the landscape beyond (bathroom privacy is via drawn curtains). “On the garden side, the views are vertical,” Chaktranon says. “But on the ocean side, we’ve made them horizontal.” For the beachfront restaurant, the nighttime panorama includes fishing boats with lanterns that “hang over the water from the end of a stick to attract squid,” she continues. The restaurant’s pendant fixtures suspended on bamboo poles are a nod to the lights bobbing on the water. Research shows that the squid haul peaks once a month. With the full moon.
Product Source: Sunbrella: Acrylic Fabric.