Designing Paradise with Bill Bensley

Earth Day Special: Never going out of style, Bill Bensley applies timelessness in his design of hotels, resorts and palaces in Southeast Asia.

Bill Bensley, Designing Paradise. Music Press Asia

Bill Bensley, Designing Paradise. Music Press Asia

Few can match the rich works of Bill Bensley when it comes to luxury design — landscaping, interiors and architecture —  in the hospitality world. Having designed more than two hundred properties since 1989, this television series made of thirteen episodes focus on some of the resorts and hotels located specially in Southeast Asia.

Behind-the-scene footage show unfinished resorts, hotels and palaces that will soon see a grand transformation into lush gardens and chalets that are hidden between coconuts trees and palms. And to top its design as being downright imaginative, it plays its card right by preserving and conserving nature as its top priority.  Putting words into action in hospitality design.

Celebrating Earth Day this week, we acknowledge the power of mother nature and her efforts to protect wildlife and conserve whatever that is left of the land. ‘Designing Paradise’ reveals the potentials of Southeast Asia and how Bill Bensley and his team build, Bangkok-based, design paradise by harnessing the abundant rays of sunshine and preserving nature along the way.

Each project has its very own challenges. From saving 854 coconut trees in a pristine bay in Koh Samui, Thailand, to preserving the rice fields of Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Bensley applies sustainable solutions, of which remains some of today’s most progressive element being used; marrying philantropy as well as conserving antiquities and culture from the region.

Targeting a ‘low impact, high yield’ strategy, his team takes great care when it comes to finding sustainable solutions;  whether it is about looking to revive its local artisanal culture to helping the local community where its project is based.

Sotheby’s International Realty (below) listed Bensley’s latest project of Villa Mae Rim is designed in the traditional Thai Lanna style.

A graduate from the Harvard Design School, Bensley adheres to the DNA of design with intense madness and focus that made him a prolific and modern ambassador of the environment.

“I started out just doing landscapes and I just got so tired of doing nice gardens for bad buildings,” he says. “What I’m trying to do that’s a little bit new is to create this mesh between all of these different traditionally separate design companies, where graphic designers, landscape designers and interior designers can all come together in this place where they can work together and create a new product,” landscape designer and architect, Bill Bensley.

Today, his studios in Bangkok and Bali collaborates with artisans, designers and artists from around the world, including, K Palat, William Barrington-Binns, Suwanna Gauntlett (Wildlife Alliance), Cornelius Samarinda, Ribut Gestiawan, Kate McCoy, Underwood and many more.

Some of its latest projects made famous from the television series are Shinta Mani Wild (Cardamom Rainforest, Cambodia), Capella Ubud (Bali), Yen Tu MGallery (Vietnam), The Siam (Thailand), Four Seasons Tented Camp Chiang Rai (Thailand), and his very own home Baan Botanica, also the former Iraqi embassy (Thailand) to name a few.  

In 2020, the Bensley collection was awarded the Platinum Winner by MUSE Design Awards for the MGallery Hotel de la Coupole Sapa & Shinta Mani Wild.

Southeast Asia is booming economically in parallel to alarming rates of deforestation. And therefore, topics involving sustainability and conservation within the tourism sector are vital in keeping these iconic and historical landmarks preserved. These remained some of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful tropical region in the world. *Hotels & Resorts represents 11.8 percent of the fastest growing industry, globally.

A published white paper titled “Sensible Sustainable Solutions” suggests sixteen ways for designing better hotels to help fight climate change. A collection of experiences, or rather, a set of standards which can be applied alongside hotel companies’ existing standard. Download white paper here.

‘Designing Paradise’, now available on Astro on Demand, is produced and directed by Richard Hall.

[Image credit, above: Nestled between 9 acres of Ubud’s rainforest and rice paddy fields, Capella Ubud (opened in July 2018) is home to 22 individually styled tented retreats. Image from]

* Credit reference:

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