From Phuket.com: "A must-do in Phuket is a walk in the old part of Phuket City, around Thalang, Dibuk and Krabi roads. The beautiful architecture along these roads will take you back the charm of a century ago. A style of building in particular stand out: the shop-house (Sino-Portuguese style). "No one knows exactly when the first building in this style was constructed, but old photographs from the reign of King Rama V (1853-1910) show that it was already well established by then. The shop-house was a place for a family to both live and do business, using the front of the building for trading and the remainder, including the upper floor, as their private home.
The floor plans of all these shop-houses are very similar: five metres wide but as much as 50 metres long, creating a very spacious living space for an entire family. Across the front of each, along the edge of the street, is an arcade, offering shade and shelter to the public. Behind this, the house is usually divided into four parts. There is a living room for general purposes and for receiving guests, followed by a central space, open to the sky, with a well. At the rear is the kitchen. Upstairs is the family’s private area and bedrooms.
"In the old days, the central open area was often the heart of the house. It was here that you would find the women of the house chatting while cooking or doing the washing. It was also, in a sense, the lungs of the house, allowing air to flow through, even in the hottest month. Also contributing to the cool atmosphere were the thick, solidly-built walls."
"The core of the Old Town essentially is made up of five roads and several 'sois' (small streets). Soi Rommanee (sometime written ‘Rommani’ or 'Romanee') is located in the heart of Phuket Old Town. Like many streets in Phuket’s old quarter, there are lots of attractive Sino-Portuguese style shop-houses. Shop-houses are usually found built in rows, giving rise to the Hokkien Chinese term tiam choo, meaning a row of shop-houses." Full page with photos here.