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The Jerry House is an interior design project that came out of a bizarre thought by two architects. Inspired by Tom & Jerry, the 1940 cartoon we all love, they transformed closed interiors into a space of endless play. In the beginning they weren’t sure how the project would turn out, but the result was as unreal as its inspiration.
What would life be like if you’re a tiny animated mouse being chased by a dim-witted cat? Bangkok-based architects, Arisara Chaktranon and Siriyot Chaiamnuay, from the architectural firm, Onion, asked themselves this question when they began working on a project. A young couple with four children, their client Patta Sahatwat and his wife wanted their vacation home in Cha-am beach to capture the playfulness of their children and be a space where friends and family of all ages could play.
“His brief was to add a playground element to the house, perhaps in the front. So, I decided to make the whole house a playground!” says Chaktranon.
She did this with inspiration from the 1940s American animated series, Tom & Jerry. She imagined a space that Jerry inhabited. His split second escapes through holes, kitchen counters and his maneuvering jumps and leaps that always led him to victorious safety from the villainous cat. And that was the beginning of Jerry House.
Throughout their design, the architects recreated the whimsical world behind a mouse hole. Inspiration from the shape and texture of cheese with holes and many escape routes are apparent in the design.
Inhabitants enjoy a surreal sense of being suspended in a fantasy. “Think about it, Tom has never caught Jerry; I imagined that there was no dead end in the house and it would be fun to have a house like that. Though you see each other, you can never catch one another,” she explains.
The central element to this daydream like design was the ‘main living hall’ designed for play. There are no conventional ‘sitting and chatting’ areas here. The vertical space is left open, and is bifurcated by five customised nets that create layers of horizontal planes of different slopes, heights and sizes. They act almost like the extension of floors within this three-storey-high living hall. Each layer of a net has a hole and each hole is set in different locations.
The family, especially the children, end up spending most of their time here. The nets are accessible from the children’s bedrooms on the third floor.
Chaktranon explains this space further, “Hanging on to the nets is another technique of playing. The players can grasp nets that are slanting down to fit their heights. When looking upward, the mirrored film on the ceiling gives the illusion that one is floating in the air and that the nets are higher than they are.”
In fact, one of the challenges of the project was convincing the client to use nets. The client loved the idea but had safety concerns. The architects did a test on a mock up and incorporated as many as 5 layers of nets for ample support below.
The colour palate at Jerry House was chosen carefully. The white in the main living hall, the dining room and the public areas was picked to make people feel like they were hovering, while on the nets.
Bedrooms were customised with colours in contrast to the public areas. Splashes of mustard yellow, purple, blue and light green were chosen for bedrooms.
There is also a quirky take on access and connectivity between spaces in Jerry House. The same space can be reached in different ways. One may use the ladder to go to a room, or go to bed directly from the main living hall through a hidden sliding door. Children can crawl inside small designed tunnels to go to another bedroom.
There have been times when the children preferred to just bring their pillows and duvets to sleep on the nets. “Jerry House makes sleeping in the air possible,” says Chaktranon.
Since being built, the client’s family has actively used Jerry house as their vacation home for the last few years. Its space and airiness are a contrast to Bangkok’s crammed city spaces. It’s just the endless escape one deserves; afterall, holidays are about losing yourself.
Learn more about Onion’s interesting architectural and interior design work here.
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