On entering the grounds of Siam Crown Kennel, the specialist Malinois dog-breeding and training centre owned by Jantana and Michael Selby, one has to traverse a long drive bisecting a vast lawned area. In the distance three white domes glow bright in the sunlight—Michael Selby’s private observatory. We aim for the spot and it is a relief to reach the large, leafy trees that form a canopy over a pathway that leads to the residential part of the complex.
The sister of Nattaya Wongsanguan of Coffee Bean by Dao and eye surgeon Dr Parnnate Pangputthipong, Jantana’s home is one element of a 20-acre site that includes not only the kennel business but also separate accommodation for her siblings. While a golf buggy is available to ferry residents and guests around the expansive compound, the walk to the main cluster of buildings offers a scenic stroll along a wooden walkway through verdant gardens and past a pretty lotus pond. Our destination is a colourful sitting room on the ground floor of the Selby’s residence.
“Initially this room housed Michael’s gym and a spa area for me. However, as time went on we decided to move the gym next to the aviary in another part of the building and I got my space back,” Jantana laughs.
The room forms a long rectangle lit by an abundance of natural light. A sunken circular space is filled with colourful throws and pillows that bring to mind the story-telling room in Arabian Nights. The decor, Jantana explains, is inspired by the couple’s love of Istanbul.
“We both enjoy visiting the city. If I wanted to go to another country, say Japan, Michael might be reluctant and vice versa, but we’ve never argued about going to Istanbul.”
Looking at the eclectic soft furnishings that imbue the room with a kaleidoscopic quality, Jantana goes on to say that the décor remains a work in progress. “The first time we went to Turkey, I bought four or five pillows specifically for this room. I didn’t give it much thought but after throwing them into the circular recess there, I felt they really complemented each other and the space.”
On subsequent visits she would bring back more of the decorative pillows in an attempt to fill the whole circle. “It just grew by itself, and now it is the perfect spot for us to lounge with our dogs. Michael and I both love dogs and we wanted a space where we could simply relax or romp around with them. To be honest, the house was built for the dogs,” she smiles.
The distinctive décor in the home is very much Jantana’s work. “I used to be an air-hostess when I was young and I travelled a great deal. I really enjoyed visiting Europe—Italy, Spain and France in particular and North Africa. While the things I have around the house might seem eclectic in style, they’re actually consistent in that they’re the things I love. For instance these Moroccan plates, I couldn’t resist them when I saw them. I wasn’t that interested in decorating in the local style—after all, I live in Thailand and see local design all the time. Perhaps it harks back to my airline days but I wanted to create the sort of atmosphere where I could wake up and feel like I was in, say, Italy. It means that one day, when I’m too tired to travel, I can just decorate the space with memorabilia from my travels—things that I bought to remind me of the places I’ve visited,” says the lady of the house.
Another noticeable thing about the home’s interiors is the abundance of Oriental carpets and rugs. Jantana laughs, “Michael and I both like to collect them. When I was flying frequently, I thought of myself as being really sophisticated, using the money I earned to buy rugs. But when I met Michael, who had his own collection, he told me that many of mine weren’t authentic. He’s more knowledgeable on these things, so although we argued about it, eventually I relented and my rugs were removed. Actually, we have so many that we have to rotate them so that the ones in storage get an airing.”
We move on through a Tuscan-style garden to a riverside pavilion. “Some parts of the residence are later additions and this is one of them,” Jantana explains. “We had it built after realising that we didn’t really have a proper view of the river from the main house. I think of this as our morning room because it is a lovely spot for a private breakfast and ideal for lounging. I don’t really receive guests here, it’s a space just for us—a kind of inner sanctum.” Large glass windows let in natural light to flood the space and through them we can see Jantana’s two Malinois energetically wagging their tails as their owner approaches. In another corner a graceful Czechoslovakian wolfdog calmly greets us.
“To be honest, I always wanted to have a holiday home in Chiang Mai or by the sea in Phuket, but now I feel thankful that we chose to live here. We have a home in central Bangkok but being here, out in a rural setting but still conveniently close to town, is ideal. It’s easy for family and friends to come and see us. People call me a society girl and when I was younger I liked going to town to parties and events. I still do but as I’ve aged I find it less important. Sure, Bangkok is the social hub of the country but I’m glad that people are starting to expand into other regions. It’s great because it shows that we’re starting to recognise that other provinces have just as much going for them and can be just as enjoyable as the capital.”
Jantana believes that a good quality of life is more important than the glitz and glam of the city. “Living in the Bangkok is expansive, the air pollution is bad for one’s health and the environment can be negative for mental health as well. Thailand has more than 70+ million people and those living in Bangkok are just a fraction of the population. When magazines come to interview me, they want to talk about my luxurious lifestyle and all that glam, but want I really want to say is that real luxury is actually being able to enjoy peace and quiet with my dogs here. In fact, I’m glad to have the opportunity of this interview because I want to tell people that living in a rural setting can be heaven. When people ask where I live, I’m proud to tell them that I live in Sam Phran."