American architect Jim Thompson settled in Bangkok after World War II, where he worked for American Intelligence and became fascinated by Thai culture and artifacts. He dedicated himself to reviving Thailand's ebbing silk industry, bringing in new dyes to create the bright pinks, yellows, and turquoises we see sold today. It was Jim Thompson silks that were used by costumier Irene Sharaff for the Oscar-winning movie The King & I, starring Yul Brynner. Mr. Thompson mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while vacationing in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. Despite extensive investigations, his disappearance has never been resolved.
All visitors must join a guided tour of the house, which contains a splendid collection of Khmer sculpture, Chinese porcelain, and Burmese carvings and scroll paintings. In some rooms, the floor is made of Italian marble, but the wall panels are pegged teak. The walls lean slightly inward to help stabilize the structure; the original houses were built on stilts without foundations. The residence is composed of a cluster of six teak and theng (a wood harder than teak) houses from central Thailand, which were rebuilt -- with a few Western facilities -- in what must have been a lovely garden, next to what is today an oily, polluted klong. No doubt it would have been magnificent 50 years ago.
Rounding out the attractions here are a relaxing cafe, a gallery space with a revolving collection of local artists' works, and of course a shop featuring silk garments, bags, and scarves.