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Forewords by Jason Friedman , and Jeffrey Wilkes Introduction The Definitive BENSLEY collection of 2017;

The Royal Istana A Palace in Malaysia

A Sultan’s Great House Malaysia

DC Beach House Phuket, Thailand

Howie’s Homestay Chiang Mai, Thailand

Baan Bhirom Bhakdi Bangkok, Thailand

Sansiri Prachachuen Clubhouse Bangkok, Thailand

Riady Residence Sentosa Island, Singapore

Ho Bee Residence Botanic Gardens, Singapore

Coral Island Residences Sentosa, Singapore

Twin Peaks Residences Orchard Road, Singapore

Cosmos Residences Chengdu, China

Capella Golf Club House Foshan , Guangzhou, China

Westin Heavenly Spa Hainan , China

Mandarin Oriental Hainan , China

Sheraton Huadu Guangzhou, China

The Siam Bangkok, Thailand

Indigo Pearl Phuket, Thailand

St. Regis Bali, Indonesia

Shinta Mani Club and Resort Siem Reap, Cambodia

Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Cambodia


Mahe, Seychelles

One and Only Reethi Rah Maldives

Le Touessrok Mauritius

Ritz Reserve Dorado Beach Puerto Rico

Belle Mont Farms Nevis and St. Kitts

InterContinental Sun Peninsula Resort Danang, Vietnam

Captions Acknowledgements


o know and experience the work of Bill Bensley is to be immersed in the mind of a creative genius. It is simultaneously focussed and nonsensical. Bill and his many dedicated colleagues continue to dive into an escapist world, jumping down the rabbit hole and exploring the many layers. It’s an exploration of pattern and colours and stories and thoughts and experiences like no other. They are never content with the ordinary. It’s infectious. Bill has promoted an atmosphere of joy in his studios where he and his people keep pushing the boundaries. When you talk to Bill and he tells you about what he is working on , he closes his eyes. I first noticed that many years ago. I often wondered what was on the inside of his eyelids, what pictures did he see? Was there a script, a story to follow? He’s a big guy, with big eyelids and big visions that his mind races through. He often jokes his was born at Disneyland, and I am apt to think that perhaps he was, and not just down the street. Regardless, Bill’s creativity would have surfaced no matter where he was born . And his intelligence has landed him in atmospheres brimming with creative juices. His maximalist style is only dwarfed by centuries of visual delights present in the cultures in which he is so immersed. We are fortunate to witness his journey as an artist, from his humble beginnings landscaping a neighbor’s garden to the overwhelming beauty he has mastered in the creation of a palace for a Malaysian king. For Bill, it’s the magical ride he creates for his guests as he transports them from reality. This is why he is so well suited for creating resorts as they are meccas of relaxation where we can go and be, and escape and leave our regular lives behind.

Jeffrey A. Wilkes of DesignWilkes


“ ow are you going to make sure that you only get to do the fun stuff?”. That’s the question Bill Bensley, the most innovative and original person I know, asked me as we were sitting in a small boat fishing off the remote coast of Papua New Guinea, discussing what I was going to do next with my life. When considering your future, you dissect your past in order to understand how you got to this particular moment in time. For me this particular moment was sitting in a small boat, fishing in one of Asia’s most pristine seas, with the world ’s greatest resort designer. It was clear, beyond any doubt, that Bill Bensley has been the most influential force in my career since we first crossed professional paths while I was the resort manager of the Amandari Hotel in Bali, just after the millennium. Over the next 15 years we worked and played together, creating The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, The Siam Bangkok, a Rosewood in Laos and a few Shinta Mani hotels along the way. Over the years I acquired a deep understanding of Bensley’s inquisitive mind and his expedition-like approach to projects; an adventure that he would embark on with the guest. His curiosity and passion for authenticity drives an obsession-like devotion to the “original idea”. He has no fear of the unknown , with an honest desire to explore the void to see what he can discover and bring to a project. Bill understands that in order to create truly innovative projects he must guide and push people out of their comfort zone; because it’s only when you are “out there” that you see what is truly possible. With over 160 creative types in studios in Bali and Bangkok, Bill surrounds himself with the best people, whom he empowers to be creative explorers. He knows that this internal brain-trust drives the inquisitive adventure into creativity and from this he mines gems. Each new project brings with it an understanding that it’s about people, relationships and friendship - most importantly it’s the “fun stuff” that Bill looks forward to sharing with you on the design adventure.    image credit to Jeremy Samuelson

Jason M. Friedman of J.M. Friedman & Co

Cal Poly Pomona, 1978. Parents Night for my freshmen class of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona in 1978 was a pretty big deal. The nearest and dearest would show up at this obligatory occasion to try to grasp what their offspring were actually learning in unfamiliar study of landscape architecture. I had a huge appreciation for my favorite teacher, the pocket sized Warren Tong, as he taught me how to draw really well but it was he that thought it would be amusing for Parents Night if he gave my class the ridiculous task of building a model that demonstrated the idea of “spatial sequences”. "What the heck is a spatial sequence?” I asked my dad, a designer of the Project Gemini who usually had an answer for everything, but he too was stumped. Lacking a full understanding, I decided to let instinct kick in and invented a tiny person that ventured though a magical landscape; and I was going to build that landscape in the form of a model. For days I pounded away on our kitchen table to build what was meant to elucidate a tiny persons’ voyage through a make believe sequence of spaces; a shady forest from moss and matchsticks took form followed by a blue painted river made of sand. Then I added a tiny rubber inner tube with which my tiny explorer would float downstream, over the waterfall, and into a cave of geometric mirrored walls, which was really just tin foil glued onto cardboard. It was dumb. Before Prof Tong set in motion our presentations there was usually a few minutes of levity while Dads turned up after work in polyester flairs, deliberated the future of the Lakers, while quintessential moms in fetching wrap dresses gave verdict on Bo Derek. They all had to drive for miles as Pomona was not a place that many people lived then . It was late May, when the thickest of the L.A. smog found its way east into the Pomona Valley and just sat there, making throats and eyes sore. The classroom selected for our presentations, despite it being part of our school of Environmental Design , was not cross-ventilated nor air conditioned. The 3 hour long, standing room only presentations of 35 freshmen models was a challenge for any parent. But, by the time my turn rolled around, all were politely silent and focused on the tall lanky 19 year old that was me.

I began to try to explain the absurd, looking down at my model, I came out with; "If you were a tiny little person and could walk through this tiny little forest you could…” Then I remembered Prof. Tong's coaching; I should make eye contact with the grown ups, which I did, but my honest to goodness fear of boring these really nice parents, that drove all that way, made my voice tremble, my legs weak, and my cardboard landscape shake violently. My tongue and brain froze. Sopping with sweat, and with no recourse in site, I muttered under my breath; “Oh shit!” and dumped that stupid model on the floor in front of me, and made a run for it, red faced and embarrassed as hell. My fear of boring people is still very much with me today. Perhaps that is why my team of some 170 designers produces elaborate and immaculately illustrated design presentations. I know that if I walk into a clients office with 60 meters of exquisitely rendered drawings my chances of boring my client are slim. I never want to have to toss the model to the floor again ! While hospitality offers a form of escapism; this book escapes the normal avenue of design . Unencumbered by words, Escapism is a dreamy presentation of our work to inspire and to be used. When Dorothy crash landed upon the Land of Oz, her black and white monochromatic world of Kansas turned to Technicolor. It is just that trippy happening in the following pages, that means that you have turned the page to the next BENSLEY project. The last pages feature secret spilling captions for all photographs, our sources, and exquisitely rendered drawings. Despite Einstein’s notion that the secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources, I believe that nothing is new under the sun , and thus it is important to give credit where it is due. For this book, I researched over 100 architectural and interior designer tomes and I found that most have gorgeous photos but very few have people enjoying the spaces. With the inclusion of actors the reader can understand the scale of the space better. We design resorts as movie sets for escapism, so why not present actors on our stage? I have learnt that if we design a hotel for everyone, it will appeal to no one. Clearly our work is not for all. If you enjoyed it or not, please feel free to drop me a note.

Bill Bensley

This is a true story

How to Build a Palace


alk about plummeting down the rabbit hole? The good fortune of this weird turn of events changed my life, as never in a million years

would I have thought I would design a real live royal palace! When I first moved to Singapore in 1984 I met H.L. Lim, the uber talented interior designer through my architect pal Sonny Chan . H.L. was very kind to me, as so many people were when I first opened my own practice in 1989, by recommending me to several of his Malaysian clients, one of whom was the charming Dato Fathil Mahmood. We designed Dato’s gardens and pools and little Malay pavilions for their vast property in Kuah, north of Kuala Lumpur, called 3Q Ranch . H.L. was the architect and interior designer for their family home. The 3Q Ranch is the center for equestrian events in the north Kuala Lumpur

region and named after Dato’s three children , with names all peculiarly starting with Q! The house was built and the gardens grew famously in the plentiful rain throughout the 1990s. The interiors by H.L. and Richard Farnell were stunning, as only the best of Sri Lankan antique furniture would do. Mrs. Mahmood loved gardening and her gardens looked superb. Then , a lovely treat for all was the news that one of the sons was to marry a beautiful Dutch horsewoman . Dato hired us to design the architecture and gardens of an impressive banquet hall for the wedding. We called it the Bale Bong Bang (see my last book ‘Paradise by Design’). Mr. Farnell did a wonderful job as always with the interiors. It was uniquely Malay and magnificent. And the wedding even more so. Many famed Malaysians attended the 2002 event, including the Sultan . Needless to say he liked this splendid home, gardens and banquet hall. Soon after, I had the good fortune to be interviewed by the Sultan as he had plans to build a new royal palace. His current palace built by the English in the 1920’s was getting a little out of date. We discussed the need to create a palace that would cater for the needs of his royal family for many more generations, and as a place for the community to gather. The sizes of the spaces in his original brief were very large. Larger in fact than anything we had ever tackled. Remember, the Sultan had just seen one of my first built architectural projects ever in 2002, and that was about 200 square meters. And what he was asking us to build was


one 215

times larger, some 70,000 square meters with not one but rooms that varied from a 1600 person , 2600 sqm columnless Royal Throning Hall to a tiny somber bathing room for the deceased. OMG! At that time, 2002, what I really loved, and still do, was small scale intimate vernacular architecture. My seething question was how do we build such a large complex beast whilst still retaining the delicate nature of Malay architecture? We stepped up to the plate and went to bat with our goal to create a showcase of Malay architecture.

Waiting for approval

DC Beach House

[\d(-ə)\sˈi\ˈbēch\ˈhau̇s\] BENSLEY nailed the Architecture, Interiors and the Landscape Architecture

Where the Jungle Meets the Sand.

An Odd Duck

The land size is a bit peculiar, as it is has some 100 meters of shoreline but only 25 meters deep. The initial design of five small bedrooms connected by the lushest of gardens was brilliant. The house was unique in that the pitch of the roof was too shallow, the tiered roves were excessive, and overhang of the roofs was too little. We adopted the faults as its “distinct character”. Our aim was to make a fully functioning home with all of the strange quirky ideas that made the home so appealing to Poui in the first place.

We have had one hell of a time putting together this sumptuous beach house for Khun Poui, or more formally Disapol Chansiri, and everyone is charmed with the result. Khun Poui approached us in 2011 with a recent acquisition of perhaps one of the most unique beach houses in Phuket.

Tropical Formality

I have happily lived in the tropics for more than 30 years. During that time I can count on one hand the times we have had a formal dinner indoors. (The heavy monsoons sometime wash away the best laid garden dinner plans!) Here I “softened” the dining sala or pavilion with Sunbrella curtains that reduce on-shore breezes.

Last One in the Water...

Beyond the dining table, which overlooks both the sea and the swimming pool, is a handy little pantry and secret mini-bar. We painted four contemporary paintings of swimmers in the pool for this spot. I picked up a set of wooden Indian brackets years before, in Jaipur when I was working on the Rajvilas. When I saw them in my warehouse I thought; ticketyboo, these are perfectly eclectic for this odd house.

Saskia Pintalon

Shortly after we were engaged with this dream project we accompanied Poui on a shopping trip to my favorite antique stores in Sri Lanka. We bought a number of beautiful ebony chairs and a magnificent Dutch cabinet which is now in Poui’s bedroom. Pouis also bought a haunting painting by Saskia Pintelon, a Belgian artist that has been living and painting in Columbo for a number of years which also adorns his bedroom. Just a little bit of black in a room sometimes can really smarten it up.

Tradition is a Guide and Not a Jailer (left below)

More is Never Enough

as my friend Beverly Feldman coins. We produced in-house this bust of a Mandarin gentleman, but, as we are on the seaside, embellished his mien with the fascinator fit for Carmen Miranda. Look out for Miranda Mandarin on future episodes of Rupaul.

This funny old house was built with a vanity as part of the common corridor with flanking powder and shower rooms. At least, with this arrangement no one is waiting for his turn.

If Opportunity Doesn’t Knock,

build a door. We did just that to let the bed of one of the five bedrooms have a view of the ocean. At the bed head we produced a painting inspired by Picasso’s characters but frolicking on the beaches of Phuket.

Furniture that Lasts (left below)

The master bedroom features a handsome ebony four-poster and a cane and ebony bench, both from Sri Lanka. The painting behind the bed is by Kate Spencer.

A Dutch Treat (right above) Kate Spencer (right above)

is an extraordinary fine artist, a wacky and kind individual, and one of the most well-known originators in the Caribbean. Born in Yorkshire, England, Kate made her home in St. Kitts in 1978. I met Kate in 2010, in St. Kitts, as her home neighbored my project Belmont Farms of Kittian Hill, and was the first of our collaborations. Poui’s house, was the second while the third was my house, as you can see in the above thumbnail.

Shelling it Out (right above)

This little round mirror is tessellated with stingray and made by Manop Rachote (, and to the right is a 300+ kg hardwood cabinet also from Sri Lanka, that is to die for!

More Boat than House?

Our client, Khun Poui, has a few clams, so we were not shy to spend a few with the mirrors and shell chandelier produced by local Phuket artist John Underwood.

Smoke and Mirrors

Originally this long narrow room was also the dining room. I covered the back walls with mirror to help it appear a bit larger and opened up with accordion doors the entire face to the ocean.

This property on Kamala Bay was built in the 1970’s by a rather flamboyant French man and his Thai partner, long before there was anything like set back laws. The result is a home, that one can never build today, under the current regulations, as it is built right on top of the high tide line. The song of the waves is an intrinsic part of the estate.

Baan Bhirom Bhakdi

[\ˈbäan\ ˈbē\ ˈrōm\ bäk\d(-ə)\] BENSLEY is accountable for the Architecture, Interiors and the Landscape Architecture

A Real Man Cave Respect thy Quirkiness

Pink is the Navy Blue of India

We decided to let an aqua turquoise and a cool gray palette percolate through every corner of every small but gorgeous room. We were resolute in the idea that the furniture was to be very comfortable and simple, accentuated by eclectic antiques. The finest ivory linens from Jim Thompson were selected for the window dressings. Ord and Jirachai searched Bangkok’s bevy of boutiques with a fine-toothed comb, to bring home a marvelous range of pickings. Jirachai and I, for two years would pick up unusual finds from the many places that we visited abroad. Wonderful prints from Amsterdam, columns from Dehli, silver cornucopia from London and intricate needlecraft from Peru. We selected intricately hand embroidered bedspreads from the stacks and stacks, in dusty workshops of Jaipur.

We designed and ordered all the casually shaped turquoise and vermillion tableware from Chiang Mai. The 30+ large oil paintings in the estate were all done in-house at the BENSLEY studios. Thousands of details were consciously thought about with one goal in mind, and that was to simply update this lovely quirky home with as much thought and care as its original creators, as flamboyant as they were! This room opens to three sides to the elements and is backed by a large mirrored wall. The ceiling is actually that wood deck with the lovely billowing white sheers of the master bedroom above.

Khun Palit “Pek” Bhirom Bhakdi is the perfect client. He wanted the best possible home for he and his mum in a good part of Bangkok and was not shy about spending the money to have it. His favorite style of architecture is Spanish, and that is one of my favorite styles too, as it works so well with gardens and indoor outdoor spaces. This home is split into two sub-homes connected by an arcade: one for Pek and his newly wed wife and one for his gregarious mum. Here in the basement lined with de Gourny wallpaper murals, Pek sets aside the best wine collection in Bangkok.

Metropolitan (left below)

A cozy corner in a very lively kitchen.

Lotus Ponds of the Himalayas

In any Bhutanese town or village there is a communal water source, much like this, for bathing and washing clothes.

Exit Stage Left (left below) Safe and Sound (right above)

Another high point is the master bedroom bath and its huge sepia mural of a Thai jungle that we made in-house at BENSLEY, and the bronze elephants that seemingly walk out of the mural only to bear a pile of fluffy white bath towels. A private home should be a place where imagination is unbridled.

We have emulated the feeling of theatre backdrop with the black endless night sky and our mural of a red Bhutanese village. This is the lobby of this little clubhouse.

Move over Buddy (right above)

This is the other side of the lobby. I picked up the fabrics in Bhutan and they are all hand-woven. The dry vines are Indonesian, while the caribou is visiting from Canada.

Pinball Hammered Brass Wall

A real high point of design, I think, is the custom-made, pin ball hammered, brass doors, windows, screens, and walls. Behind the couch, the plaster walls were clad with hand rendered overlapping brass panels, while the window features a series of horizontal brass shells with randomly placed brass billiards balls. Just infront of the window are 18 thin jade coins of various sizes and colors that I purchased in Nanjing. Years ago, Chinese coins had holes in the middle because it was easier to string them up.

The Pool Arcade Pristine x 2

The vanities of the master bedroom have brass doors and details and a simple Thai-ness.

Edo Period (left below)

The swimming pool, again, is designed like a Bhutanese water well. Cobalt blue tiles, burnt orange walls, brass, lemon yellow umbrellas are all reminiscent of normal village life in Bhutan.

The Riady Residence

For the entrance foyer we purchased an antique Japanese temple table with gold gilt, that I think is stunning.

[\Th-uh\rē-ˈa ˈdē\ˈre-zə-ˌden(t)s\] BENSLEY came up with the sculpture, the austere gardens, and the nice bits of architecture

The Dripping Chandelier (above)

The home is a calm palette of neutrals but the staircase is rendered in a robin egg blue Italian plaster. That and the white molding and the plethora of avian prints make this space quite unique.

The Court of the Stone Trees

The Sansiri Clubhouse [\ˈsäan\ˈseri\ˈkləb-ˌhau̇s\] BENSLEY’s responsibilities were as such; Architecture, Interiors and the Landscape Architecture

Ships Passing in the Night

This dramatic lighting and the cantilevered pool decks lend a feeling that this Bangkokian club house is afloat. Inspired by my many trips to Bhutan, we built this clubhouse with a most exotic roofscape.

Taken from the porte cochere, this photograph is the rather austere (at least by BENSLEYensley standards) garden court between the two houses of the Riady Residence on Sentosa Island, Singapore. Beautifully sculpted, all parts of the stone trees and bush can move if one has a wish to rearrange the “flowers”.

A Stainless Tree of Life (left below)

This magnificent piece of art produced by Underwood is also the front door of North House.

Lord, Love a Duck Dinner is Ready

Here we designed all aspects of the home, all of the furniture and the tropical gardens. Years ago Jirachai found a massive Burmese teak cabinet in Chiang Mai with round glass on the corners. A truly magnificent piece. As things turned out we built the house to fit this cabinet. We used it in the dining room and filled it full of treasures, books and candles… so that it looks like it has been there for decades collecting all things precious.

This clubhouse is built for the residents of the nearby luxury homes with open-air corridors leading to various recreational rooms.

Forest of Dreams (right above)

I have been engaged by the Riady family of Lippo and OUE Singapore for more than two decades. The owners love all things contemporary…. sometimes.

Since 1990 we have been engaged by the Riady Family of Lippo Bank fame, and we are still working with them today. The family asked us to design the gardens and to embellish the architecture of their lovely home on Ocean Drive, also on Sentosa Island and not far from Paradise Island. Shad Vasigh based in Beverly Hills designed a simple white box of a house which turned out to be a perfect simple backdrop for our gardens of contemporary sculpture. Here, again, John Underwood did some of his best work ever. The tree of boulders that is interactive, I think, is a masterpiece.

Nice and Clean (left below)

is the pool and gardens of this beachfront Sentosa Island residence. The screens of this pavilion are cast aluminum.

tralian artist specializing in the fabrication of anything metal and more, and BENSLEY have collaborated on dozens of projects around the world for many years. Here, John made an amazing tree of diamonds, and a giant necklace cut from thick steel plates which made it look like beautifully ornate lace.

Shadow Play (left below)

No expense was spared in the crafting of their art-filled gardens. I love the spaces that Hock Beng made and the fine finishes he used in the interiors. I am so very fond of the gorgeous shadow patterns that these magnificent bronze “holey umbrellas” cast.

The Thinker (right above) The Back of One Door (right above)

is the face of another. This gorgeous little porthole is my favorite as there is some color here, and it just happens to be the back door.

The Sentosa Residence [\Th-uh\sen-ˈtōˈsa\ˈre-zə-ˌden(t)s\] BENSLEY’s designed the landscape Architecture

is a modern interpretation of Rodin’s Thinker. Singapore was my first home in Asia. In the mid-eighties Singapore was a fine place to live. I shared a fine black and white home on Nassim Hill for some $300 a month. I waterskied on the mirror-like jungle lagoons near the Malaysian border on weekends, when I was not in Bali, and played sports for at least two hours a day with a whole host of local chums.

Batik Stamps Rusty Steel Lace?

Much of our work, lately, has been built on the reclaimed land of Sentosa Island. Developers like Ho Bee made bids for large tracks of this land for millions; hired architects like Tan Hock Beng of Maps, as well as us, to design very high-end homes and gardens, built gorgeous homes, and sold them for more millions. Huge profits were made, and prices are still rising. Ho Bee, as a developer, was quite astute, as they wanted to build their two residential enclaves, Paradise Island and Coral Bay, with a unique sense of place. At Paradise Island we enlisted my great friend John Underwood help us bring to fruition an avant-garde sculpture garden which was built on the tiny bits of leftover land and marketed as a private park of sorts. John Underwood, an uber creative Aus-

We designed a cast bronze and fiberglass element that looks like the old batik stamp for these decorative sculptures cum light bollards. Then, Ho Bee asked Hock Beng and us to design their family homes near the Botanical Gardens, which was an explosion of new ideas, color and texture.

The Twin Peaks Residences

[\Th-uh\ˈtwin\ \ˈpēk\ˈre-zə-ˌden(t)s\] BENSLEY dreamed up some of the Architecture, all of the public Interiors and certainly all of the trippy garden of dreams

of his graphic work. We painted both the dog and the paper umbrella in his patterns in our Bangkok studio as they are easy to mimic. In the thumnail below, Khun Dust is playing Sargent Pepper, wearing my snake skin boots and rocking out to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ in front of that pixellated wall, and delivering a riveting performance.

Sargeant Pepper’s Riveting Performance

The Beatles album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was my absolute favorite growing up and the song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was the best on the album. It was commonly thought that Lennon wrote the song about LSD (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and about the bands experimental drug use. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lennon’s son Julian, at an early age, came home from school and explained to his dad that his school artwork was “Lucy in the sky with diamonds Daddy.” Lennon elucidated his son’s drawing by way of a dreamy song and a psychedelic story that touched millions. Each of the titles of my photographic vignettes in this trippy garden of dreams is a line from the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Try listening to the song as you relook at the larger photos. You may just have a mind altering experience, or at the least a lesson in creativity. While we were influenced by Lennon’s mind expanding creativity in the fashioning of Twin Peaks, we were also inspired by the american artist and social activist, Keith Haring. Haring (1958-1990) was known for both pop art and his distinct style of graffiti art that he bestowed upon New York’s Subway system. His unique style of art resonates with me as I think it is very accessible, or easy to do myself. For the same reason, I like primitive art; Aboriginal to African and everything in-between. I adore simple primitive markings and pattern making. Haring, a contemporary of Warhol, Madonna, Basquiat was an edgy maker of modern patterns that, to me, begs reinterpretation.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (right above) Hundreds of large glass diamonds were employed in the sky lounge to bring to life Julian’s vision.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh...(left below)

Singapore is hardly the place to get high or trip on acid. A verdant imagination to design such a garden is a much safer choice. Our project manager, Putu Mahendra, a Hindu priest, often has out-of-body-experiences, and created his best work to date here. The sky lounge has a diamond shade structure, cantilevered above tree farms and verdant gardens.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river With tangerine trees and marmalade skies (right above)

This mind-blowing, bizarre vignette sits between the soaring towers. This odd forest of tangerine trees helps to bring a more human scale to the very tight space between the buildings.

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Falling for You

Just steps from Singapore’s Botanical Gardens, the gardens were meticulously crafted inch by inch.

Reinterpreting Haring, we used thousands of giant rivets mounted on the wall of the spa, to create a pixellated version

The young-at-heart hippy Paul Ropp, one of Asia’s top fashion designers, provided us many of his psychedelic flower power fashions for this great photoshoot. Thank you Paul.

The Twin Peaks Residences

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly Imagine waking up in the mouth of friendly giant dog. What a dream-like mind-bending fantasy. Hey Mom, look what the dog dragged in!

where he sold his art, called the Pop Shop. Haring said that his shop was an extension of what he was painting in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers of high and low art. Clearly Haring could have painted much less, raised his price, and made more money doing so, but he didn’t. He wanted art to be more accessible to all, which I applaud. He was a truly great artist that passed away too soon.

Picture yourself on a train in a station With Plasticine porters with looking-glass ties (left above)

This train station-like lobby is perhaps our coolest example of contemporary architecture to date. Inside is a giant sculptural cylindrical screen that we dubbed “The Typhoon” as it creates an illusion of swirling wind. Well, especially if you are high!

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers (left below) The floral paving patterns on the deck and in the pool bring this musical fantasy to reality.

Moore is more

The style of the great work of sculptor Henry Moore was decidedly his own. We designed this lovely piece of work, made in China with local white marble with Moore in mind, but did not copy directly any piece that he built. My studio is filled with red wax mock-up or prototype models for sculptures made in-house that I have rejected.

Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile (right above)

Cellophane flowers of yellow and blue. Towering over your head (left below) This is a magnificent cage cum chimney that cocoons the spa pools. Made from cast brass and studded with blue diamonds of course.

That grow so incredibly high (above)

A detail of the walled stairs that lead from the pool to the Diamond Lounge in the Sky. This made of cast aluminium symbols in the fashion of Keith Haring.

Along the front entry drive there was a tall steep wall to beautify. Putu drew a series of Seussian metal trees to line that road. Levitating, I understand is a psychedelic experience. Here Durga the mother Hindu goddess of protection and strength. No this is NOT photoshopped! Well the four arms are!

Frank Lloyd Wright

was an incredible architect who had his own completely unique style. Here at the Cosmos Residences in Guangzhou we built extensive gardens, indoors and out, all in the genre of Wright’s great works.

The girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Daydreaming, Lucy, dressed so colorfully psychedelic, sleeps through Sgt. Pepper’s attempts to impress. She figures Pepper is just a figment of her imagination.

Cosmos Residence

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes (right above)

Our goal was that the detailing of the cast brass and blue diamond cage was as colorful, vivid, and abstract as Lennon’s writing.

And she’s gone (left below)

Lucy is caught altering her state of mind in our private dining room lined with gold leaf and hundreds of cast metal Herring-like markings.

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore Like taxis lined up, these sculptural fish look quite ready to swim in this tamed jungle just steps from Orchard Road.

A French Invasion?

Waiting to take you away (left below) trippy,... mind-blowing, bizarre

I often think of a garden as a house, or a series of rooms. Here our pool was conceived with the same idea in mind, as a series of rooms, each with its own special feeling and purpose.

In this dreamy corner of the property, both asleep and awake, Lucy nods off below the bridge she walks on, while Sergeant Pepper sits back and watches himself float in the pool.

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds (right above)

Our brave Lucy climbed 5 meters into the sky for a rather frightening experience, while riding our energetic sky sculpture, with the pools of flowers menacingly below.

The Horse with the Wooden Legs

looks like he rode out of the pages of Game of Thrones. I like the idea of a seemingly handicaped horse with a wooden leg that still appears so strong and fierce. This is a BENSLEY original that was made by a company in Guangzhou named GOGAR, the same company made all the sculptures for the Capella Golf Clubhouse in Foshan.

Our surreal community dining room, called the Pop Shop, is rich with texture but restrained with color. (The marshmallow pies are found in the pantry behind the secret door on the far left) In the 1980’s Keith Haring had his own studio

As surreal as landing on another planet... We made these giant boxes with zillions of cast aluminum Haring markings, and filled them with blue light in the evening because we can. Lucy, again in the sky, gives scale to the vastness of this bizarrely beautiful sculptural element which in reality is a giant screen for the back of the house!

In 2003 I met a man by the name of Neil Jacobs, of Four Seasons, when I was designing the Tented Elephant Camp in Chiang Rai, and Four Seasons Langkawi. Later he moved from Four Seasons to Starwood when the CEO Barry Sternlicht had purchased a package of European hotels. Along with that package came the rights to use the name of the French crystal manufacturer Baccarat. Mr. Jacobs, wanting to expand the Baccarat name called me, and I introduced him to Citic, my Chinese client. The Baccarat + Citic marriage lasted long enough to influence the design, but eventually ended in divorce, only to be replaced by Capella. That is a long story to explain why this club house looks classically French.

Puppy Love

And you’re gone Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies

[\kə-ˈpe-lə\ˈgəlf\ˈkləb-ˌhau̇s\ˈfō-ˈshän\] BENSLEY’s scope was Architecture, Interiors and Landscape Architecture

[\ˈkäz-məs\ˈre-zə-ˌden(t)s\] BENSLEY was in control of the lovely gardens


Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain (right above)

Capella Golf Clubhouse Foshan

The Laughing Bunny Horse

The ears of our affable bronze horse have a rabbit-like appearance, unlike his strong and sleek body. A pair of these horses stand in front of the clubhouse entrance.

As sentinels of the front door, these nine foot high bronze Jack Russell terriers (Chang, Champ, Chuck and Bobby) set the tone of BENSLEY whimsy. I have four such terriers at home and spend almost every minute of my Bangkok time with them.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I count my lucky stars that we have the best creatives in this part of the world. Hugely talented are the likes of Khemvadee Paopanlerd. We have been working together since 1984 and she is the only person I know, where EVERYTHING that she touches or attempts to learn is perfection. Putu Mahendra who runs our Bali Studio for the past 20 is the original out of the box designer. Nothing is beyond his imagination. He is a Balinese pemanku, or priest, and paints wonderfully huge playful oil paintings with his thumbs. Brian Sherman, our only non asian is more like my big brother than my big brother as he is my great friend. Patient, talented, and ever learning, Brian is my sensible foil. Khun Gawow, the architects architect, is a powerhouse designer, never tiring, ceaseless organizer, with a wonderful hand. I also want to thank our interior designer Khun Aood as he is a superbly talented designer that has not said more than 100 words since he started with me almost 20 years ago, while the effervescent and clever Khun Apirak or Kuk brings a cutting edge, joy and smiles to our studio daily. And thanks to my architect pal Spot, always up for a challenge, in Bhutan, Nepal, Tmor Rung, Mongolia, he does it all well. Architect Suwit is perhaps the most polite person I know, but God help you if your don’t build as per his drawings! Thank you Chang, Nop, Nung, Ja, and Pong, for being the backbone of our landscape designs for two + decades. Thank you Moo for the precise plans you drew for the back of this book. We would be mud without the killer interiors team of Rin, Am, Ord, Jal, Woey, Ning, Goong, Somnuk, Major, Pui and Mum. Thanks to our hardworking and awesome artists; Siri, Mhee, Nuna, Bob, Kit and Beer. And not to forget the ever present Khun Noi who for year after year has spent numerous all nighters printing up our work for presentations. Then there is a technically tremendous architectural team of Phong, Por, Jack, Tone, Ple, Chai, Eax, Leng, Mick, Art, Nut, Sprite, Chan, Kuad, Phot, Thong, Tu, Tom, Ake, Kaow, and Arm. Big thanks to our super wiz from Vietnam, Kin, who, without any previous experience put together ESCAPISM single handedly and our website beautifully. And then there is the BENSLEY Bali team of architects that we love. Thank you Wayan, Oka, Rinny, Cenik, Linda, Agung, Dewa, Rossi, Rolando, Arief, Ramadi, Firtri, Bayu, Gede, Awan, Rachie, Andri, Fika, Eka, Kiko, Hans, Puspita, the savvy Dely, Andika, to name just a few. All of the photos in the book were taken by our in house photographers Krishna Adithya Prajogo, Chaianan Muangsiri, or myself. Hats off to Krishna and Jack for their years and years of diligence and patience! Cheers to Martin Reeves for his contribution of four stunning infrared photos of the Istana and the Great House. I would like to recognize my old pal John Underwood for years of making our wacky designs a reality. John made most of the bespoke pieces for the Ritz Reserve Dorado and shipped his art half way around the world. My favorite interior contractor is a Ho Chi Minh based company called AA that sports an A+ in my book. And cheers to our fabric house of choice in Bangkok... and the winner is Charoen Decor. The real truth is that no matter how wonderful our designs are they will not be perceived as so if astute hoteliers are not there to make it all work. I have worked with some inspiring teams in the past from these hotel groups and wish to thank them all! Accor, Anantara, Armani, Banyan Tree, Baccarat, Belmond, Belmont Farms, Capella, Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt InterContinental, Marriott, Novotel, Jumeirah, Leela, MGallery, Kempinski, Maia, Mandarin Oriental, New World, Oberoi, One & Only, Peninsula, Ritz Carlton, Ritz Reserve, Rosewood, Shangri-la, Sheraton, Starwood, Shinta Mani, The Siam, St. Regis, W Hotels, Waldorf Astoria, and Westin. I want to thank my wonderful clients and friends Dr. Chang and Mr. Lam as they truly believe in me, and in the process of learning, together, and in the process they have given us half of Viet Nam to design. I would like to remember two people that taught me a great deal about hospitality. Captain Nair of the Leela, was a gentle, tender man, caring, and kind. And Jaya Ibrham, one in a million in originality as I had the pleasure to know him and work with him in the 1980’s. I miss them both. I would like to express my thanks to Val Kempadoo, one of the most clever people I have ever met, for bringing us halfway around the world to create Kittian Hill in St. Kitts. We get along stupendously as we both gardeners at heart. I would like to express my gratitude to the Krissada and the Sukosol family for going way outside the box to create The Siam. Bless you Riady Family for your good endorsements over the last two decades plus. And may Twin Peaks prove to be a huge triumph for you. Thanks are in order for Khun Pek and Khun Poui for allowing us to sculpt your homes in Bangkok and Phuket. Better clients could never be. I must give credit to a superb lighting designer Khun Puay of Dazzle and a no nonsense cutting edge kitchen designer Khun Suresh of Tri-arc. Then there are my friends Dorian Landers of Host-Asia and Jason Friedman, both Hospitality Consultants that I recommend only to my best clients. Thanks guys! Special thanks to my friend Lek Bunnag who basically taught me everything I know about design. Cheers to Shane of Serindia, who is our good friend and most recently my publisher! Thank you my darling Khun Prakaikeow of Indigo Pearl and her kind father Wichit for running with the weird idea of Tin Mine and for years of fine friendship. Thank you Khun Sokoun Chanpreda for giving me the opportunity to work with YOU and the Shinta Mani, Hotel de la Paix, Park Hyatt Siem Reap. We have just begun! For my amusing friend Howie, may you always be the number one wordologist of Chiang Mai. Thank you Hock Beng for being there to help any time. To my dearest friend Jeff Wilkes, you inspire and surprise me constantly. It is a privilege to be friends with both you and Simon! Thanks for all the wonderful trips from the North to the South Poles. To my pal and hysterical sister Ann and her good natured husband John Dail. Thanks for the extraordinary times we have had in the last 49 countries. And finally, thanks to Jirachai, I love you. You are my world.

Copyright Š 2016 BENSLEY First published in 2016 by Serindia Contemporary An imprint of Serindia Publications, Inc. Chicago, Illinois, USA info@ www.

BANGKOK 57 Soi Sukhumvit 61, Sukhumvit Road Bangkok 10110, Thailand Tel: (66) 23816305 BALI Jl. Batursari gg. Tunjungsari no. BDS.1 Sanur - Denpasar 80228 Bali Indonesia Tel: (62) 361282676

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means — graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, scanning, or any information copying without written permission from the publishers. ISBN 978-1932476-82-8 Library of Congress Control Number: 2016956259

Escapism Volume 1 by Bill Bensley  

In hospitality design, few could match the prolific works of Bill Bensley. Since 1989 he has designed more than two hundred properties in mo...

Escapism Volume 1 by Bill Bensley  

In hospitality design, few could match the prolific works of Bill Bensley. Since 1989 he has designed more than two hundred properties in mo...