Placemaking with Tastemaker Ou Baholyodhin, Chief Creative Officer, Sansiri
Jet-setting, dapper and handsome to boot, Ou Baholyodhin is your quintessential Renaissance man. He’s worn many hats and has had diverse pursuits: besides a degree in Political Science from the London School of Economics, he’s also tried his hand in architecture at Bartlett, dabbled in cookery in Florence, studied industrial design in Paris, and was a furniture designer in London before taking on the role of Creative Director at Jim Thompson, Thailand. He breathed new life into the brand known particularly for its quality Thai silks, as a stalwart for 20 years with them, diversifying and updating its offerings to meet the whims and demands of the international design market.
It’s not hard to see that this Anglo-Thai (he moved to the U.K. when he was 10 years old) is clearly a man of the world, with his finger on the pulse for what’s shaping the future. In his latest role as Chief Creative Officer with Thai real estate juggernaut, Sansiri, he’s ready to take on the brand new challenge of designing real estate developments, private residences and the ‘lifestyles’ of its new generation owners.
We speak to the culture maven and man about town who’s redefining what it means to be in your fifties (just barely, albeit), and get his thoughts on modern living and the social media-entrenched modern lives of millennials.
HNW: What value do trends have to play in the larger picture?
Ou Baholyodhin: My role as CCO at Sansiri is to ensure that we are in tuned with lifestyle trends that are shaping purchase decisions of our customers across every level, not just younger homeowners. Keen understanding of global lifestyle trends is key in our line, as shaping the way people live in the future must be influenced by an in-depth awareness of what’s current and how they can be applied locally. Knowing your target audience well always pays out and pushes you to question the decisions you make and have more sustainable outcomes. Just when you think you know something like the back of your hand—Learn, and then relearn.
What distinguishes the truly timeless from fleeting trends in fashion, food, lifestyle and more?
When something is not economically viable and feels forced to make a statement, they become a fad. For example, I think ‘Green Buildings’ are definitely a trend. The ‘real deals’ of green buildings are constructions like the Woolworth skyscraper in New York (more than a century old and still in operation), or the Pantheon, which is still standing over 2000 years old after it was first built. Things which are built with longevity in mind, using high-quality durable materials and good design, are by far more “green” that these so-called “green”, temporary structures of today.
What essentials are necessary for the home residences of this generation?
Millennials seek memorable experiences—in and outside of their homes. They want urban homes with modern interiors and fancier finishes connected seamlessly through innovative technology. But what they are really after is also the luxury of accessibility and convenience—being in close proximity to things that truly matter to them. They’re not only looking for a place to live but a place where they can ‘extend’ their lifestyle.
As a result, Sansiri’s vision has diversified to embrace a wider range of offerings for consumers interested in art, culture and travel. We kick-started partnerships with six international partners last year to complement our residential offerings with a more integrated approach towards live, work, and play. The next generation is also attracted to a sense of community, and our latest XT Condominium offers residents opportunities to expand their network through co-sharing facilities such as a co-work/play space, photo studio, cooking studio, crafts and arts studio and co-creation space—qualities and innovations that go beyond the confines of a home.
Do any of the traditional distinctions between a public and private life remain?
If you ask about privacy today, most people would say it’s just a function setting on their Facebook account. Gen Y and Z relish sharing their private lives with the public via social media. More people are becoming entrepreneurs compared to before, which means their private life and work are intertwined. It has become increasingly vital for these individuals to create a presence and build their profile through personal appeal.
Should work and private life, our home and social spaces, all be part of one seamless experience today?
To me, the lines between work and private lives are now blurred especially with the ‘co-sharing mentality’ that is gaining momentum in our society. We are witnessing how the sharing economy is penetrating every aspect of life. It has become easier to share a ride, workspace and even homes—and it all boils down to allowing consumers to utilise assets more efficiently. We must embrace this seismic cultural shift.
As a designer who’s applied his skill across wide-ranging fields, what remains constant about your design process regardless of what you’re working on?
My diverse interests and nomadic tendencies mean that I am not locked into a particular creative style. I cannot afford to have just one style when we are developing at least 50 to 60 projects a year. The most important factor shaping my creative style for each project is the overarching objective—for example, at Sansiri, I want to focus on ensuring harmonious synergy between design, functionality, content programming and experience, to ultimately shape the future of how people will live in the future.
Your Instagram shows that you are a perpetual traveller, often in very picturesque and interesting locales. What keeps you feeling at home, no matter where you go?
Feeling at home is a state of mind and a journey in itself. Although I am a big believer in new experiences, I indulge in simple pleasures every now and then, and the best way for me is to be surrounded with the comforts from home. Comfort to me means having a stash of local food with me on my travels. I always make it a point to connect with different people that I meet and listen to the stories they share.
In the age of social media, an individual’s lifestyle can become carefully cultivated exercises in aspirational marketing and strategic PR. Do you feel authenticity is an increasingly scarce quality for this generation, in spite of the constant claims to it through self-representation?
While I agree that it is a highly enriching platform, social media is a double-edged sword. It’s also cultivated a generation of false representation which seeks to evoke envy and can become very unhealthy for the current generation and have spiritual consequences. Social media works the same way as businesses, where authenticity should be the key component when engaging with clients; genuineness is the modern-day testimonial.
What global/cultural issue has been on your mind lately?
The ‘Heads-down Phenomenon’ or ‘Device Addiction’ is a scary reality because everyone thinks that there’s nothing wrong with it. The very fact that it is so readily accepted as a norm really worries me about our future generation. I feel that many people have forgotten how to have a meaningful conversation or spark real connections without being distracted by a beep from their phone.