The traditional Khmer house – fret work

As you travel around Cambodia you will see traditional Khmer houses that are typically left in their natural wood colour, or painted in a  Spanish blue. This blue after a period of time fades and turns into a magical pale blueish pale grey. Brown is a third choice you will see.

City homes typically exhibit frette work to embellish the house, while country abodes are much simpler. As you travel through the countryside, these house exhibit graceful clean lines of wooden planks simply nailed on to a house’s frame. Louvered windows and door are also made of wood. Most of these country’s wooden homes are simple, and lack adornment. But when you drive into a town, you wll see that the fret work starts to embellish the houses.
The traditional Khmer house is normally a rectangular home,  4 x 6m /13 x 20ft and during construction the roof is erected before the walls. With the outside heat, no air-conditioning due to the lack of electricity, these homes rely on natural ventilation. In Battambang province most houses have open spaces beneath the roof called Phteah Rông Doeung, literally meaning that “a rice mill was stored at the back of the house”.
Homes either sit directly on the ground, or on stilts (typically 3m / 9.8ft above the ground). If on stilts the stairs leading up to the home traditionally are made of wood, but you will also find concrete staircases. The awning for these stairs is made usually from corrugated iron  — that beautifully rusts after the first rainy season. Aside from corrugated iron, terra cotta roof tiles are also popular. With age, the terra cotta turns a mottled black colour. Large — and often colourful — cement water jugs sit just outside to collect and store rain water.

Enjoy my images of traditional Khmer houses around Battambang, with their wooden frette work in their faded glory.

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