Buzz about stylish designer’s boutique hotel uplifts a Bangkok neighborhood

Fashion-industry veteran imbues Mustang Nero with eclectic design, turning it into a magnet for “creative types” on Airbnb—and into a tourist destination in its own right.

 

Khun Joy in one of the rooms at Mustang Nero hotel

It’s not often that a small, neighborhood hotel becomes a tourist destination in its own right—a place travelers want to visit even when they can’t stay there. But that’s exactly what happened to the safari-themed Mustang Nero, a one-of-a-kind 10-room hotel in Bangkok’s vibrant Sukhumvit district.   

Mustang Nero is the brainchild of Khun Joy, a set designer in the city’s fashion industry with a taste for the eccentric. Over the years, Joy has staged countless striking photo shoots, including many using exotic animal taxidermy and raw minimalist materials. When she decided to convert an unused floor in her office building into a hotel in 2015, her unconventional aesthetic took center stage. 

Each Mustang Nero room is overflowing with native plants, lined with the building’s original and beautifully scored wood paneling, and decorated with the same taxidermy she collected for use in her fashion-industry work. The doors of each of her 10 rooms indicate the animating spirit inside: Dragon, Zebra, Flamingo, Wolf.  “Designing is something that comes quite easily to me,” Joy says.

 

A draw for creative professionals …

Joy’s love of the theatrical permeates every corner of the hotel. Her delicious breakfasts, which are meticulously crafted from homemade jams, organic vegetables from a friend’s farm, and other artisan ingredients, look like singular set pieces and change daily. Joy captures these creations in eye-catching photographs that adorn her Airbnb listing. “If you were to stay here for seven nights, you would not be served the same breakfast twice,” says Joy.

While Joy doesn’t target any particular demographic, many of her guests are foreigners who, like she, are creative professionals—graphic designers, hoteliers, artists, film directors. 

If you were to stay here for seven nights, you would not be served the same breakfast twice.

Khun Joy, Mustang Nero Hotel

… that’s irresistible for the Instagram set

And there are plenty of them to fill her rooms and her calendar. Mustang Nero, which lists exclusively on Airbnb, and tells us that they are almost always fully booked. At times, Joy has to turn people away, and some still show up just to see the place and capture a few Instagram-worthy images. 

With reviews calling it “a great place for photo shooting,” “just like a museum,” and “the highlight to our trip to Bangkok,” Mustang Nero has sparked buzz among travelers drawn to its singular aesthetic. As a result, vans full of camera-toting tourists have pulled up wanting to come in for a few minutes and take pictures of Joy’s design-forward work. She tries to accommodate them as best she can, but the rooms remain off-limits. “I say, ‘only the lobby,’” Joy says.

Taking the Mustang aesthetic further afield

Mustang Nero has had an impact beyond its front doors. In just four years since opening, it has helped to revitalize the Sukhumvit district, which today has six other hostels and hotels. “This area doesn’t feel as secluded as before,” she says.

Joy now employs three local maids, two receptionists, and two part-time workers. Next, she plans to bring her flair for hospitality and design to a second hotel, Mustang Blue, in another part of the city. She plans to also list it exclusively on Airbnb. It will offer workshops for the creative travelers she attracts. “I can make soap,” she says, “so I want to conduct a workshop on handmade soap.”

Joy hopes the extra rooms will help accommodate some of those visitors she now turns away. After all, she understands better than anyone the urge to live among unique things, even if only for a few nights.

 


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