In one of my very first conversations with Bill Bensley, he said: “You know, I see myself as just a gardener…” Knowing the great works of architecture he had created, I thought it was pretend modesty… you don’t really see people rushing to hire gardeners when they want to create amazing designs. Four years on, had I known all those years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have hesitated to agree. Bill Bensley is indeed the Gardener of Dreams.

Show Full Text

About five years ago, when I first heard of Bill, he was an incredibly established name in high-end resorts design. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in lavish 5 star hotels at the time, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to know the story behind the Four Seasons Koh Samui, where Bill proudly proclaims his protection of every single coconut tree on the site. This is Bill’s ethos of ‘Minimal Intervention’: his belief that no matter how clever the designer and beautiful the design, it can never compete the paradise on earth that was created by Mother Nature. The entire resort was designed in such a way that it seems to have grown out of the hillside, just as naturally as its luxuriant vegetation. This was an inspirational and refreshing mindset to hear, especially as a young designer.

Bill’s work overflows with greenery, whether it’s architecture or interiors, and from every possible angle – inside out, from below and above. When he isn’t creating these wild green spaces, he fills his projects with the quirkiest, strangest, most intriguing antiques and sculptures. One cannot help but feel like they’ve accidentally stepped into a dreamlike world where everything is unexpected and whimsical. To Bill, luxury was never the goal of his design, but rather a requirement. Integrating new exciting experiences, and endless surprises for guests trumps any design principles. Each experience that comes from his vivid imagination is wilder than the next. Sometimes I wonder if he is simply trying to recreate the many magical gardens he often dreams of.

More info: Instagram

“Sir, Madame, you cannot enter yet, please wait for a moment” said the receptionist to the confused guests

Until the moment Bill finally got his shot of the Lobby, the hotel had to block off the area, and guests stood perplexed at being denied entry. It didn’t take long for them to become enthralled by the theatrical performance before them, soon taking their own photos and applauding after the shoot wrapped.

Photographer: Chaianun Muangsiri

Part Photographer Part Designer

When asked by this hotel’s management to take photographs for advertisements, Bill assured them that they wouldn’t get any photos of couples prancing on white sand beaches. It might have taken some convincing, but once they saw these photographs, they were sold.

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

What do you think is the story here?

I can’t tell you the answer because I wasn’t there. I was held up at the lobby shoot, trying to stop guests from walking into our photos. Like most architects, Bill doesn’t have the luxury of time. Every photoshoot is a full-speed experience

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

So eco-friendly that it feels like it was designed by Tarzan, if he studied landscape architecture and speak fluent Thai

If had a dollar for every time I’ve heard Bill say “Not a single tree was cut down”… Bill is a very down to earth person, but all hell will break loose if you try and harm any plants, no matter how small, on his site.

Photographer: Chaianun Muangsiri

You might need a map… although you probably wouldn’t mind getting lost here

This is Howie’s Homestay in Northern Thailand. Can you imagine waking up and walking into this garden? Quite a wonderfully odd experience.

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

You better be comfortable with Elephants!

At the Four Seasons Tented Camp, Chiang Rai, Bill wanted to bring the elephants wandering around the city in Bangkok to a jungle sanctuary. Guests here not only stay in a luxurious tent in the wild, they can become Mahouts at the hotel’s Elephant Sanctuary. An incredible 1 on 1 experience between man and elephant, learning to ride these huge friendly giants bareback.

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

A hotel reminiscent of a 1900s train station

Bill loves to do the unexpected, surprising everyone – including himself! His philosophy is “Lebih gila lebih baik”: the odder the better in Indonesian.

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

Greens Everywhere

The Siam hotel in Bangkok was inspired by the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, with an indoor garden of huge travellers palms giving it an Asian touch. Fashion runway anybody?

Photographer: Chaianun Muangsiri

Welcome to Capella Foshan: please beware of our !@#$!! KAPOW!!@# Kung Fu Rabbit

Some say, this rabbit was inspired by Jeff Koons, but its hard to keep track of all of Bill’s stories.

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

A pair of oriental cabinets, with a literal twist.

Do you see what I meant when I said odd sculptures?. My guess is that he bought these 2 antique furniture and wonder: “how do I make them different from all the ones out there?”

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo

“My best work will be somewhere in the future, when I grow up” – Bill Bensley

Photographer: Krishna Adithya Prajogo