Miles away from the ordinary, on Koh Samui island in Thailand, there is a retreat that is something out of a midsummer night’s dream. Materialized from a desire to capture the different phases and changing shapes of the moon, the Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort’s architectural gravitas plays with sequences of light and shadow with repeated lunar-inspired design moments. Envisioned and executed by Bangkok-based design studio Onion, the resort is marked by undulating arches and curves that define its tranquil spaces and frame the spectacular surrounding scenery. “We thought about what people would like to see when they come to Samui, so our first response was nature, including the sea, beach, sun, and also the moon,” says Onion founder Arisara Chaktranon.
Despite using the same set of arches as a recurring element, the design is anything but redundant, with water views top of mind. According to Chaktranon, no matter where a guest finds themselves, the ocean is always front and center.
Arched thresholds create articulated connections between the 138 guestrooms and the round cutouts in veranda sun screens that frame views of the sky. Every transition is a careful orchestration of playful juxtapositions of light and shadow, deliberate in nature to allow the interiors to be enjoyed differently throughout the day. The firm kept the design clean and contemporary, using a light white palette to reflect the strong tropical sunlight. Earthy accents add contextual warmth, found in columns and walls clad in timber, bamboo blinders covering the lobby ceiling, and custom furniture done in local rattan and coconut shells, explains Chaktranon, noting that Ko Samui is famous for its coconut trees.
The striking architecture and design come together at the large outdoor court and circular swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers, which Chaktranon says is the heart of the property, setting “a freeing and relaxing mood for the guests.”