The blank canvas effect

The blank canvas effect
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First Published: Fri, Aug 29 2008. 12 24 AM IST

Air supply: (top to bottom) Antunes spends about an hour a day watering the potted plants in her courtyard; the plot overlooks rice fields with more wildlife than ‘the Discovery channel’; Antunes says
Air supply: (top to bottom) Antunes spends about an hour a day watering the potted plants in her courtyard; the plot overlooks rice fields with more wildlife than ‘the Discovery channel’; Antunes says
Updated: Fri, Aug 29 2008. 12 24 AM IST
Patricia Antunes returned to Goa, her childhood home, from Australia in search of her roots. The 46-year-old began by buying the oldest Goan home in Ambrosa — a 1676 mansion that her partner described as “a wonderful old lady, but dark and dingy”. After a year and a half of renovation, with the help of architect Sergio Huidobro, the founder of Goa-based Bricklane Architecture (www.bricklane.in), Antunes decided that though she loved the redesign, she had had enough of her Goan roots and wanted to try something new.
Air supply: (top to bottom) Antunes spends about an hour a day watering the potted plants in her courtyard; the plot overlooks rice fields with more wildlife than ‘the Discovery channel’; Antunes says her courtyard has become the impromptu gathering spot for her friends. Photographs: Zackary Canepari / Mint
When she showed Huidobro a plot next to a rice field, he had one word for her: “courtyard”. “We were hooked. We knew we had the right guy,” says Antunes.
In May, Antunes, her partner and their seven “children” (five dogs and two cats) moved into her new home — a straight-lined, U-shaped, three-room home that circled their courtyard and overlooked rice fields stretching as far as the eye could see.
In a state known for its homogeneity in home design (red tile roofs, white stucco walls, Portuguese influences), Antunes’ contemporary house is an anomaly. It is wrapped in huge, sliding glass doors which start at the smooth rock floor and finish at the white, 13ft-high, Venetian-plastered ceiling. The flat roof has no ornamentation, and the structure is extremely angular, with the shell of a terrace jutting out of the master bedroom.
But, surprisingly, the visual effect is not jarring, in large part thanks to what Huidobro terms the “blank canvas” effect of the home. He wanted to create a space that embraced the outdoors so much that the home “eventually will disappear within the green”. Already, thanks to the monsoon, the potted jasmine vines, placed strategically around the patio, have begun to creep up the pillars of the terrace.
Everything in Antunes’ home centres, literally, around the courtyard and the view, so Huidobro made the home as unimposing as possible. The sliding doors open in such a way that the home merges completely with the courtyard.
Even though the view across the open fields stretching to the horizon gives the house an aura of vastness, the actual space available for the home and courtyard is not very large. Huidobro had to play around with optical illusions to enlarge the space. First, he split up the courtyard space, differentiating each area by raising the level of the stonework so that if one part is a 1ft-high platform, another is at the ground level, while a third is a few inches off the ground. He also grouped the plants to demarcate the areas, and Antunes decorated the pots with stonework and mirrors. Huidobro recommends placing plants in corners to soften the lines of an angular house. Antunes, a self-described “woman of leisure”, calls the hour she spends watering plants each day a therapy session.
To break the line between the home and the courtyard, a lily pond follows the line of the house right at the edge. It softens the transition to the outdoors and reduces heat in the courtyard.
Despite that one break, Huidobro wanted to continue the indoors outside as much as possible. To do so, he hung the doors from the ceiling so that the bottom tracks of the sliding panels lie level to the ground — there is no raised step from the inside to the outside at all.
However, because of all the glass used, heating was an obvious concern. Antunes tinted the windows and Huidobro made sure that all three rooms had cross ventilation so that the breeze would cool the house naturally.
Surprisingly, for a house with so many openings, it seems quite isolated from its neighbours. There are no windows in the east and west walls, and the backyard has mango trees cutting off the view from their backdoor neighbour. Therefore, the eye only travels outside to the open fields.
Huidobro admits that part of his love for glass comes from an extreme case of claustrophobia — luckily, a problem Antunes’ partner shares. So, frosted glass doors were fixed in the bathroom and master bedroom to ensure that plenty of light filters into the house without compromising on privacy.
Antunes mostly used her old furniture, including a huge four-poster bed made from Indian teak that Huidobro was terrified would dwarf the master bedroom. But with white walls and little decorative work, the bed fits the room perfectly. And the wood blends well with the Burma teak Huidobro used as an accent on the doors and cabinetry.
For the rest of the furniture, Antunes turned to her friend Guido Wolfram who custom-designs minimalistic furniture (pieces can cost anywhere from Rs20,000 to Rs2 lakh, depending on the size and the time required for making them. Write to windowfromwhite@gmx.de for details).
Along with a few built-in furniture items, Wolfram created the light fixture that hangs over their dining room table out of curtain rods and a fruit bowl.
Antunes says her new home has been dubbed “Ahh Shanti” because of the peace she feels there. She and her partner think they are home at last.
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First Published: Fri, Aug 29 2008. 12 24 AM IST