So about time – Soho House Bangkok has arrived
Famed social club adds to its global portfolio with first Southeast Asia venue
The pleasure of seeing a full room of people connecting and having a good time is what drove Nick Jones to open the first Soho House social club on London's Greek Street in 1995.
Set on the upper floors of a Georgian townhouse in the eclectic Soho neighbourhood, the club started off with a small group of members, the likes of local actors, filmmakers, music artists and theatre critiques, and was accessed only via a small back door.
Two decades later Soho House has expanded to a much greater scape than the UK.
It has become a robust global community with 39 club venues in 14 countries worldwide including Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Hong Kong and the US. Each site usually encompasses accommodation, restaurants and bars, function spaces, screening room, fitness and other recreational facilities.
In addition to the 39 houses, the company also operates off-site restaurants, workspaces, spas and retail shops.
Adding to the brand's dynamic international collection is Soho House Bangkok, the first club in Southeast Asia.
The main dining room, dubbed the House Kitchen. Photos: Soho House Bangkok
"Since we planned to open in Asia, Bangkok has always been on the top of the list. The city has such a vibrant and progressive energy, full of Thai warmth and kindness," said founder Nick Jones.
Scheduled to open in March, the Bangkok edition takes over a picturesque colonial-style building tucked in a corner of the Sukhumvit 31 neighbourhood.
"We like the location, it's an up-and-coming good area near the central district but also away from it. Then the building became available, and we really love it."
The premises, former home of Eugenia hotel, is turned into a social club with areas for eating and drinking, event and recreational spaces including a lush green pool garden, bars, restaurants and auditorium.
The interiors, by Soho's in-house design team, are inspired by rich local crafts. Ample use of silk fabrics, ceramic works, native wood joinery and Thai architectural details can be found throughout the spaces. Tropical patterns for the interiors and abundant use of plants around the property create the feeling of a calming sanctuary.
It is known that the concept and inspiration of every Soho House always start from the design of the building. However, Jones said that the real vibe -- the heart and soul -- of the place is the people.
Soho House Bangkok's reception atrium.
"Soho House is not a dinner place or a lunch place. It's an all-the-time communal place where the community, the design, the music and the people you're sitting next to all matter.
"We try to create a nice atmosphere but the true sensation is the members."
The club founder said Soho House is nothing without local membership.
"What we always want to achieve is being on pace with our members and a community where they flourish professionally and socially.
Jones said that over the past 28 years, he has seen people setting up a business in the drawing room, taking parts in film at the bar, becoming great friends or romantically involved, getting married and making families -- "all under the roof of a Soho House".
"We hope to see that in Bangkok."
Currently, Soho House has more than 120,000 members and approximately 40,000 people on the waiting list worldwide.
Still, Jones insists that the club is a very inclusive establishment.
"It doesn't matter where they come from or whether they got money or no money. They have to have the right soul, the creative soul. The decent people who are kind and nice. That is what makes that happen."
Does that mean the applicants should be in the so-called creative industry, the fields of film, fashion and design, in order to get accepted?
"No. Soho House is not a profession-led club. Professions may be one of the indicators but it's not a specification.
Soho House Bangkok's intimate event room.
"There's a much more creative world we live in now than when the club first started years ago. Now everyone is creative. You look at all the children, they are creative.
"So the membership is definitely not defined by what job you are in. It doesn't mean that if you work in finance then you're not creative. Finance people can love theatre, cooking and art. The world is different now."
Despite his wanting to see people happy and not offended, Jones said it might take longer for some to get in.
"It is the same as any club. When you join a tennis club you have to play tennis. There's no point to join a tennis club and not able to play tennis. We want like-minded people."
Every Soho House is managed and run by a local committee that knows the locality inside out. Even across different locations, the ethos of the houses remains the same: to create a comfortable home for a community of those like-minded as well as creative people wherever they are.
"We are a club for local people and we want members to feel they can talk to anybody. It's the House. You can work, eat, drink and talk to the people next to you when you are in the House.
"We offer a perfect new way, a flexible way for people to work and connect. And when they're in the House, we want our members to enjoy the very moment and engage other people and not their phone."
According to Jones, Soho House Bangkok is indeed a local club and adjusted for the people in Bangkok. Yet global members can always visit. Bangkok members likewise can visit other Soho House locations around the world.
Soho House Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, UK.
The selection of club accommodation in the UK includes the breathtaking 60-key Soho Farmhouse comprising wooden cabins, huts, boathouses and 18th-century cottage set across 100 acres of rolling countryside in Oxfordshire; White City House, a 45-bedroom property which occupies a former BBC headquarters in West London; and Shoreditch House, located on the top three floors of the Dickensian Tea Building in East London.
Meanwhile, the brand's European sites include Soho House Barcelona, located in the Spanish capital's Gothic Quarter overlooking Marina Port Vell; Soho Roc House on a coastal hill in Mykonos, Greece; Soho House Stockholm occupying a converted church in Sweden; and Soho House Istanbul set in Turkey's Palazzo Corpi.
"One of the great benefits is that Soho House members always have a home away from home, almost 40 properties they can go to," says Jones.
"The world is much more global now than it used to be. People are travelling all the time. Being a member also means you can go to other cities across the globe and easily connect with local members."
To help smooth connections, the club also organises numerous member events such as music sessions, cultural talks, movie screenings and pop-up markets.
Visiting Soho House Bangkok is open to members and their guests only. Local membership (starting from 60,000 baht per year) provides full access to Soho House Bangkok, while Every House membership (135,000 baht per year) allows members to visit Soho Houses around the world. There are also specially priced packages and extra benefits on offer for members under 27 years old.
For more information, visit sohohouse.com/thailand.
Field-side cabins at Soho House Farmhouse in Oxfordshire.
A boathouse at Soho Farmhouse.
Founder Nick Jones at Soho House Barcelona, Spain.