Giving a Makeover to a Five Dollar Bungalow in Thailand

{ 82 comments }
Since relocating from Australia to Thailand at the start of the year, my partner and I have been searching for the perfect place to call home …

In the hills of Koh Tao, we found a bungalow that costs less per day than a Venti Caramel Frappuccino. The bunglaow features one bedroom, a small kitchen and bathroom, two balconies, and a spectacularly uninspiring interior.

But HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THE VIEW:

Featuring veneer panelling, fluorescent lights, and a generous layer of gecko droppings, this one was a fixer-upper. We decided to live our a home improvement fantasy and give it a makeover.

Bungalow renovation (by fearfuladventurer.com)

One toenail was broken during the process.

And now, the hard work is over.

I give you …

The Makeover

Before

Bungalow renovation (by fearfuladventurer.com)

After

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Our most indulgent item: the Italian bedspread. I have fallen in love with Granfoulard and they’re not even paying me to say that! (Dear Granfoulard: Please note, I do accept payment in bedspreads.)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

With the help of a little Pinterest inspiration, we sourced furnishings in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Vietnam. We zigzagged through the Mecca of Bangkok in hot pink taxis, hunting down markets and haggling with stall owners down to the last crumpled baht.

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Two bowls. Two wine glasses. Two plates. One saucepan. One fry pan. Absolute simplicity.

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Linen curtains (by fearfuladventurer.com)

The linen curtains are dreamy. They flutter with the sea breeze and give us privacy at night, but when we wake up in the morning, we can still see a shock of blue ocean through the sheer fabric.

Linen curtains (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Romantic Thai Retreat (by fearfuladventurer.com)

The tanning deck.

Yoga in Thailand (by fearfuladventurer.com)

The yoga deck.

Linen curtains (by fearfuladventurer.com)

The office.

Office with a view of the sea (by fearfuladventurer.com)

The view is terribly distracting. Joy = 10. Productivity = 0.

Handsome man at work (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Ivan at work in his PJs.

Lovely things (by fearfuladventurer.com)

Pretty, shiny, lovely things.

Mango, coffee, beer.

Home sweet home.

Leave a Comment

  • Abigail Rogers July 9, 2012, 4:16 pm

    This is absolutely amazing! What a transformation. Gorgeous photography too :)

    Reply
  • Rona House July 9, 2012, 4:25 pm

    It’s a tough life but someone has to do it!

    Reply
  • Grace July 9, 2012, 4:27 pm

    Mad skills! I can’t believe renting this bungalow costs less than $5/day. What an awesome view in the morning for yoga!

    Reply
  • Meg | One Love Meg July 9, 2012, 4:29 pm

    WOW!!!! It looks amazing! I am so jealous of the yoga deck. It looks like you both have a very peaceful home and workplace!

    Reply
  • Arianwen July 9, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Beautiful! I love it. Those semi-transparant curtains are a touch of genius. Please can I live there when you’re away?! ;)

    Reply
  • Molly July 9, 2012, 5:23 pm

    I absolutely love this post – and that is my dream bungalow, send a note when you are moving out please. :)

    I hope that big toe is all healed up… no more dead gecko shots please. Molly

    :)

    Reply
  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians July 9, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Torre! My heart is all aflutter for the beauty of your project. Well done, lady. (And Ivan, too.) Good gosh, it’s gorgeous. And that bedspread…just lovely.

    Reply
  • Tricia July 9, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Terri, your bungalow looks AMAZING! You two did a great job on the transformation, it’s gorgeous :) I especially love the mosquito net around the bed, even more than practical reasons it looks dreamy.

    Reply
  • Vacay Girl July 9, 2012, 6:40 pm

    I wanna cry. I absolutely love everything. I love that wooden pot hanging by string. Is that the lady you wouldn’t part with? :-) I’m so happy you were able to make it go from drab to fab. I love the simplicity. Love it, love it, love it.

    Reply
  • Dani July 9, 2012, 8:55 pm

    Wow, you did an amazing job! Can we take over when you move out? :) Love the photo collage at the bottom of the post, btw!

    Reply
  • Katherine - Kapcha The World July 9, 2012, 9:34 pm

    I love it! Well done. The transformation is amazing. Some great shopping there. The naked lady definitely finishes it off nicely! Yay for beautiful thai apartment! Enjoy xx

    Reply
  • Christine July 9, 2012, 10:15 pm

    Love all of this! Absolutely gorgeous decorating, and beautiful photos! Missing Thailand all of a sudden :)

    Reply
  • Bree July 9, 2012, 10:43 pm

    Scrumptious!

    Reply
  • Greta July 9, 2012, 10:53 pm

    Little home away from home! Looks beautiful, I can feel that breeze now.

    Reply
  • Elaine Blakeley July 10, 2012, 12:46 am

    Gorgeous photos, that looks like fun. I’m residing over here in Bangkok with the concrete. Enjoy your time there. Cheers, e

    Reply
  • Allison July 10, 2012, 12:54 am

    This makeover is so perfectly awesome. I would have taken it as is for $5 a night, but now it really looks like a home. With the best view (and decks to enjoy them from) ever. I’m a wee-bit obsessed.

    Reply
  • Sarah Somewhere July 10, 2012, 2:17 am

    Wonderful makeover guys, well done! I can imagine it would have been quite the adventure getting all that stuff there, but definitely worth it for the tropical retreat you have created! I like your style :)

    Reply
  • Clare Edwards July 10, 2012, 4:08 am

    As per usual – a professional job. Wouldn’t expect anything less! Looks fantastic.
    Love the styling and close us pics.

    Reply
  • Michelle July 10, 2012, 6:46 am

    WOW what a success! looks AMAAAZING. Really really impressed. Definitely worth the hard work you guys put in!

    Reply
  • Christina July 10, 2012, 7:40 am

    You guys are so happy there I can’t imagine this has been anything other than a labor of love. It’s going to be hard to leave it!!! Maybe sublet until you return?? It is BEAUTIFUL!!! XXX

    Reply
  • Edna July 10, 2012, 7:51 am

    So beautiful and homey! Love the photos as well, they really inspire some wanderlust!

    Reply
  • May Primdal July 10, 2012, 9:09 am

    Wow fantastic make over! I miss Thailand already…

    Reply
  • Nikki July 10, 2012, 1:49 pm

    I’ve just started following your blog, but I just had to congratulate you on a STUNNING makeover! Absolutely gorgeous. Your own little slice of paradise :)

    Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures July 10, 2012, 1:57 pm

    Absolute perfection!!!!! You have created an oasis for the 2 of you. Bravo!

    Reply
  • Sally July 10, 2012, 2:04 pm

    Only 2 wine glasses? That’s okay. I’ll just drink out of the bottle when I come to visit. :)

    Reply
  • Lauren July 10, 2012, 7:10 pm

    This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

    Reply
  • Linda July 10, 2012, 8:37 pm

    Lovely. It must be so rewarding to have created something like that out of nothing. I am totally jealous. Hope your enjoyment is equal to (no, more than) all the hard work!

    Reply
  • Kim July 10, 2012, 9:22 pm

    NO WAY! I want to move in. That is UNREAL! How much did the makeover cost? I’m dying over here.

    Reply
  • Chisa July 11, 2012, 1:35 am

    Um, wow. I want to go to there. I’ve just stumbled across your blog and I think I’m going to have to read back through all your other posts, then try to convince my husband that we should move to Thailand. What an amazing transformation, and an amazing livestyle!

    Reply
  • Lindsey July 11, 2012, 6:35 am

    Wow!! It looks amazing! Can I steal it from you? Haha. I love the way that everything is so simple but makes such a difference. You’ve got my inner decorator busting to get out, damn it!

    Reply
  • Victoria July 12, 2012, 12:12 am

    Wow, wow, wow! I am so incredibly impressed by this. So, so inspiring! Congratulations, your home is completely gorgeous. I’ll remind you now that I think I made first dibs on moving in next ;)

    Reply
  • michael closter July 12, 2012, 7:09 am

    WOW can you be my real estate agent next time my wife and i are looking for accommadation in thailand! $5!! How did you get on to this place? I need to know your secret pretty please. Until you let me know i will just have to be jeleous and in awe of your achievement.Well done guys( bastards) sorry its just my aussie sense of humor.

    Reply
  • Maddie July 14, 2012, 12:29 am

    Wow is all I can think of to say! I’ve been so looking forward to seeing the “after” photos and it really does look incredible. Great job guys :-)

    Reply
  • Fred Perrotta | Tortuga Backpacks July 14, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Great apartment and even better makeover. Thanks for sharing the before and after pics.

    Reply
  • Ayngelina July 15, 2012, 9:37 pm

    You shouldn’t have posted this because now we all have to hate you, it looks gorgeous!

    Reply
  • Beth Partin July 16, 2012, 12:42 pm

    You did a beautiful job.

    Reply
  • JoAnna July 17, 2012, 12:34 am

    Beautiful! You did an amazing job decorating. I love how cheaply you are staying in your new home, and I love how you’ve given it personality!

    Reply
  • bethany July 17, 2012, 4:03 pm

    Wow! This place is stunning! Randy and I have wanted to stay in Thailand for so long now and this is exactly why. Absolutely gorgeous photos too Torre!

    Reply
  • Hannah July 18, 2012, 12:22 am

    Wow, this is just amazing – you guys have done an incredible job! And your office… don’t even get me started. I’m in awe :)

    Reply
  • Holly July 18, 2012, 9:53 am

    Wowo – love love love this! Just about the right level of comfort I’d need to live long term somewhere. Enjoy it!

    Reply
  • A Cook Not Mad July 18, 2012, 3:06 pm

    Makes me want to jump on a plane right this instant!

    Reply
  • Lucie July 18, 2012, 8:40 pm

    Beautiful make over. Makes me want to come and work in your bungalow…

    Reply
  • Rease July 19, 2012, 5:15 pm

    WOW! what a makeover! That’s impressive. It looks like your own little paradise, congratulations!

    Reply
  • Alex July 21, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I will start by saying my heart hurts this morning catching up on your posts — I’m back home after a year based in Koh Tao and your photos are filling me with nostalgia and a weird homesickness.

    Secondly, I really regret never taking the time to set up a “home” like you did here! I bounced from shitty bungalow to shitty bungalow and never took the time to do something amazing like this. I wish I had! Kudos!

    So where is Ivan doing his diving? Let me know if you need any recs for anything… I’ve been on and off the island for years now…

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche July 27, 2012, 5:49 am

      Hi Alex. Perhaps you need to come back to help with that homesickness. ;)

      Ivan has just finished his IDC with Sunshine in Chalok. He’s now looking for work. Who were you diving with? I’ve gone through your blog to read as many diving articles as I could find. Your photos are amazing.

      Reply
      • Alex July 28, 2012, 7:37 pm

        Ah, Chalok is so lovely. I was working with a film company so I filmed for Asia Divers, New Way and Sairee Hut. My good friends own Roctopus so when I was fun diving it was with them.

        I am planning to do my DM in January, perhaps in the Philippines, but I’d absolutely swing by Koh Tao for a month or so first :) Hopefully you’ll still be around!

        Reply
  • Grace-Alyssa July 24, 2012, 4:45 am

    awesome transformation and loving the photographs. Well worth the one broken toe!

    Reply
  • Sasha July 24, 2012, 2:14 pm

    DREAMY!!!

    Reply
  • jenjenk July 26, 2012, 3:48 pm

    wow. i am impressed!! i don’t think i’d even know where to start!! i think i would’ve lost the will to live in hour 3 of haggling…maybe hour 1.

    Reply
  • Torre DeRoche July 27, 2012, 5:51 am

    Thanks, thanks, thanks for all the comments and compliments!

    Reply
  • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot July 29, 2012, 10:57 pm

    Maybe you could add an extension next with a guest room for me?!

    Reply
  • Clarissa July 30, 2012, 11:55 pm

    I usually run out of creative juice when redecorating my room. But you did a great job at transforming the bungalow into something more beautiful. Indeed, you found a place you can call home.

    Reply
  • David August 2, 2012, 1:53 am

    I am in love with your new beach house. How far away is your place from Bangkok?

    Reply
  • Marije August 2, 2012, 7:56 am

    Wow, you’ve done a great job! Ivan told me to check out the pictures on your blog. Really, Its picture material for the glossy magazines. Enjoy it!

    Reply
  • Anna August 5, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Wow, I love that view!!

    Reply
  • Debbie August 10, 2012, 1:24 pm

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
    Found your blog yesterday when I googled self-publishing and now I can’t stop reading it!!! :)
    LOVE the writing and everything! :)
    xoxox

    Reply
  • Akila August 12, 2012, 3:45 pm

    Simply stunning transformation! Well done both of you!

    Reply
  • Margaret August 16, 2012, 5:57 am

    Love the bedspread! I’m also a Granfoulard fan.

    Reply
  • Sheryll August 25, 2012, 1:40 pm

    This is absolutely breathtaking. I am so living vicariously through you! all of the details are perfect. It looks like a completely different place!

    Reply
  • Christy August 28, 2012, 8:55 pm

    I’m in love with your bungalow! Now I want one.

    Reply
  • Jessica Hill September 13, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Wow – you did an amazing job with the place! Koh Toa is my favorite island to date. I hope you get to stay long enough to make all that hard work worth it!

    Reply
  • Molly September 30, 2012, 9:16 pm

    This is so beautiful! Your photos have brightened up my otherwise very dull Monday morning!

    Reply
  • Roving Jay November 11, 2012, 4:13 am

    You just trigger so many great memories of Koh Tao. I spent a month there, and loved this little island where I learnt to dive and did a lot of nothing, except eat Red Coconut Curry every night. You transformed this little oasis you called home.

    Reply
  • Angela December 14, 2012, 11:46 am

    I LOVE this! We’re looking to find a nice place to live in somewhere near the beach in Thailand and this is the most inspiring post i’ve read in a long time!

    Reply
  • Catherine Bodry December 26, 2012, 7:06 am

    Loving your blog, and can’t wait for your book to be (re)published! I’m currently living in Chiang Mai but always wonder if I should be down on an island.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

    Catherine

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 29, 2012, 7:53 am

      Thanks, Catherine. On my way to Chiang Mai at the moment!

      Reply
      • Catherine May 23, 2013, 2:55 am

        Bummer I missed you in the CM! Just finished your book this afternoon and loved it. <3

        Reply
        • Torre DeRoche May 23, 2013, 5:27 am

          Damn! I was there for a month. So glad you enjoyed the book!

          Reply
  • TammyOnTheMove April 10, 2013, 1:16 pm

    This looks absolutely stunning. I wish I had a view like that from my office. I would never get any work done though.

    Reply
  • Wonder Woman April 21, 2013, 6:00 pm

    If I wanted to be like you…..which I do…..would I have to know how to sail before buying a boat and casting off? Also, do you think a dog is doable on an adventure such as this. Also, do they really have internet in Thailand…lol….wow! You are my heroine~

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche April 22, 2013, 8:49 am

      It’s a good idea to learn how to sail, yes. If I could do it again, I would learn to sail.

      A dog on a sailboat, or a dog in Thailand? People do take dogs sailing, but it’s a lot of trouble. The dog can’t come to shore in certain places because of quarantine rules.

      Yes, they have great internet in Thailand! It’s better in Chiang Mai than it is in Melbourne, Australia.

      Reply
  • Jonathan Welford May 21, 2013, 1:09 pm

    I totally love the small sculpture of the reclining woman, where can I buy one?

    Also, do you have an air conditioning unit? Or does the bungalow stay cool?

    Jonathan

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche May 21, 2013, 2:57 pm

      The Muse is from the JJ Market in Bangkok. Air-conditioner? Ha ha, no. We just swim in a pool of sweat instead.

      Reply
  • Jane Manthorpe May 27, 2013, 7:05 am

    Gosh! you are living the life I have been dreaming about for ages. Every night I vision myself meeting my man and building and creating a sanctuary to live over looking the sea, mountains and wildlife nature. its very inspiring and emotional to see your pictures, its as though you are have a created the actual picture of my minds eye of dream sanctuary :) Wow! love it,

    Reply
  • Dariece - Goats On The Road May 28, 2013, 4:33 am

    Unbelievable! I love the view, the furnishings, the tanning and yoga decks, the office, everything. We spent one month on Koh Tao and let me tell you, our bungalow was nothing like this one! haha.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Morgan July 15, 2013, 3:01 am

    Very creative! Love the linens used. Home away from home :)

    Reply
  • Todd September 26, 2013, 6:40 pm

    This reminds me of a bungalow I rented in Inodnesia – minus the makeover.

    You’re livin’ in style. Nicely done!

    Reply
  • janet lee enders February 18, 2014, 7:17 pm

    I just read your book in two days. Thank you for sharing your story with the world! Michael and I will also travel by sea in exactly 621 days… but who is counting!

    I feel a closeness to you, Torre, because this is MIchael’s dream. I always figured I would be living in the Rockies somewhere with long flowing hair and beads adorning my body with a pottery wheel on the porch and vegetable and flower gardens out back.

    I’ve always been very adventureUS …. :-) so moving into Michael’s dream was not difficult for me. I, like you, had never been on a sailboat. We now own a 44 foot Morgan center cockpit. She is a blue water cruiser and is as anxious to get out there as we are!

    We would be honored for you to read our blog. So far we have not written on travels since we are still in Seabrook, Texas, but I can assure you that the blog will make you smile!

    Once again, thank you for sharing!

    Janet Lee

    Reply
  • Patrick March 2, 2014, 11:13 pm

    What visa does one have to get to just…live in Thailand…

    Reply
  • Tam May 28, 2014, 10:53 am

    We looking into going to live in Thailand. BF also in IT I’ve just finished massage therapist diploma. In London now, just got passport an need to get away from city life. I have a less is more mantra. This city is too much more. Just finished your book, good read, thanks! How did you decide on ‘where’ in Thailand. I’ve started the research ad totes overwhelmed!! x

    Reply
  • Sinead July 3, 2014, 11:45 pm

    You are living my dream, in my dream house! Beautiful place, can’t believe it only cost you 5$ :O Looks absolutely stunning after yer interior design :)!!

    Sinead
    x

    Reply
  • Grace @ Green Global Travel October 27, 2014, 6:59 pm

    What an amazing result! :)

    Reply