Decades after the 1967 disappearance of American textile entrepreneur Jim Thompson, known as the Thai Silk King, his eponymous Bangkok-based company lives on, and so do his values. We explore the unlikely story of a heritage brand that flourishes in spite of—and partly because of—its founder’s unsolved mystery.
The house on the klong
The open floorplan of thompson's sprawling living room was ideal for the many parties he threw air of mystery and marvel pervades the space, which remains much as it was when Thompson walked out these doors, 56 years ago, never to return.
A black and white photograph of the legendary Jim Thompson
Gracious interiors are filled with art and antiques and furniture upholstered in the vibrant colors that Thompson was famous for, while lush greenery encircles the exterior of the home
This jewel of a house is, of course, the draw. Thompson discovered it while visiting the Cham artisans, the ethnically Vietnamese and Muslim group of traditional weavers who lived in the Ban Krua neighborhood (directly across from this spot on the klong). This is the group with whom Thompson had formed the Thai Silk Company, and on one visit, Thompson happened upon a 19th century Thai house that belonged to one of them. These traditional teak homes were being abandoned in lieu of more Western, ranch-style houses that boasted air conditioning and windows, but Thompson, a trained architect, appreciated the classic form. He acquired the building, turning it into the large, central structure of his house, while two similar structures were discovered in Ayutthaya to comprise the smaller flanking wings.
“Everyone stopping in Thailand wanted to see not just the silk, but Jim Thompson and his home.
A mix of high society, celebrities and designers all came through here." remarks Bruno Lemercier, conservator of the James H.W. Thompson Foundation.
An enchanting interior courtyard
Richly painted religious scenes line the entry hall
The dining room boasts important Chinese furniture and exportware porcelain
The verdant walkway weaves together the series of interconnected buildings
Intricately painted doors
“He was an aesthete,” Bruno reflects. “Jim had a real eye, but he liked a good bargain. Many pieces he acquired had imperfections.” 
From the outset, Thompson envisioned his home as a showcase for his prodigious collection of regional art ranging from ceramics and paintings to sculpture and furniture. Thompson responded to innate beauty rather than museum-like standards. Some standouts include his collection of Benjarong porcelain in vivid, often pastel polychrome with Siamese motifs manufactured in China for the Thai elite.
Vivid Benjarong porcelain
A curated collection of blue and white ceramic pieces
A meditative Buddhist statue
An immersive tableau of artworks on the walls and under glass vitrines punctuate a wood-paneled hallway
Thompson wanted his collection seen. “Six months after he moved in, he declared the house a museum, with entrance fee donations benefiting a school for the blind. He wanted to keep things for the Thai people, for his collection to remain together for people to enjoy,” Bruno says.

Art for the people remains a central tenet of Jim Thompson’s legacy. In 2021, the Jim Thompson Art Center opened as an homage to contemporary art and artists of the region.
Lush greens encircle the home
The storY
behind the silk
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