When the owners of this Chennai apartment—one among four duplexes in a complex—approached Ritu.Rajiv Architects, their brief was a spacious, airy home suited to frequent entertaining, but with a touch of nostalgia. “Even though it was a brand new house, the clients wanted it to feel like it had been lived in and evolved over a period of time,” says Rajiv. “They’ve collected a lot of things on their journeys and each one had to have its place.”
Also See A Look Inside the Apartment
The three-bedroom apartment is spread across the third and fourth floors of the building. Its public areas and one bedroom are located on the upper level, with the family area (two bedrooms and a utility zone) in the lower one. The challenge for the architects lay in “opening up” a rather narrow and restricted plan in order to create a larger-looking, more airy space. “Because of the split levels, they were difficult to manage,” says Rajiv.
However, Ritu.Rajiv capitalized on the fact that there were only two apartments per floor, with the surroundings free from prying eyes: They employed plenty of glass, bringing in natural light, and added more ventilation. “All spaces have windows on both sides. There used to be a pantry, a servant’s room and similar small spaces, but we broke down a lot of walls in between,” says Rajiv.
Screening off areas
The upper level now opens into a small foyer, with the formal living area screened off by a frosted-glass panel. “We’ve used plenty of free-standing, frosted-glass panels which visually cut off spaces from each other. But the basic idea was to make everything look very light,” says Rajiv.
To the right of the foyer is the kitchen, sectioned off by another free-standing partition—this time, clad in grey veneer. Adjoining it is the dining area. “The partition helps in extending the kitchen slightly beyond what it was. And we are able to hide a freezer, a refrigerator and a fairly large water dispenser behind it,” Rajiv explains.
Beyond these common spaces, through a passageway, are the bedroom and the sleeper wood-clad patio, which can also be accessed via the living-dining area. The passageway holds a contemporary puja space: a free-standing glass box, positioned right in front of the staircase that leads to the lower level (see Decorate).
The compact staircase winds around a grey partition, peppered with family photographs—quite literally, a walk down memory lane. Stepping down, you observe a small utility area tucked under the staircase, behind the free-standing grey partition.
The bedroom on the lower level mirrors one of the upstairs bedrooms, with an attached study and sit-out. The other half of the lower floor contains the third bedroom and a lavish den.
The rustic look
Individual levels are defined by their material palette. While the upper level has rustic floor tiles interspersed with motifs from Italian brand Cerdomus, the lower level has warm coconut-wood flooring. “The client wanted a very rustic look for the house,” recalls Rajiv. “At the same time, we didn’t want to get into it to the extent that it becomes a nuisance to maintain. So that’s why the focus was to make it as ‘country’ looking as possible with the use of natural materials like wood.” The chipped and weathered appearance of the rustic tiles furthers that “lived-in” ambience the owners were keen on.
The impression is completed by supplementing the owners’ own possessions with new finds hunted down specially for their home. “We’ve actually rummaged through stores that sell old junk,” says Rajiv. “So a lot of the stuff is actually restored. There are so many things in here which photographs could never do justice to.” A century-old citrus juicer and a traditional coconut grater have become installations. A marble-finish plaster of Paris Ganesh takes centre stage in the living area, and the unique footstool it rests on was sourced carefully for the purpose. An off-the-wall clock has numbers scattered directly on the veneered partition near the living area. Tiny wood-and-straw sculptures lend the sit-out its appeal. An intricately crafted bench in the foyer came from Indonesia. African tribal headgear adorns one wall of the dining space.
As for the owners, they may have finally settled down after their share of “discovering”, but there are plenty of memories and great stories to go around for a long, long time.
Decorate your home temple
In a contemporary home, the ‘mandir’, or ‘puja’ room, too often ends up looking incongruously out of step with the overarching aesthetic. This modern ‘puja’ cabinet, done in black glass, fits the home designed by Ritu.Rajiv Architects perfectly, and also overcomes the challenge of small spaces creatively. Uniformly sized and framed images of deities (rather than sculptures or cast statues) have been mounted in a regular matrix, which is also a great way to make a big impact with several small elements.
Fill your pockets with soil. Add plants, then water. These are the product instructions from the Woolly Pocket Garden Company. Handmade from recycled bottles, Woolly Pockets are soft-sided “nests” for growing plants that can spring out of tables, walls... just about any flat surface. The tiny modular pouches are easy to install individually or in groups, indoors or outdoors. The material is breathable, but built-in moisture protection keeps walls and floors dry. Click here for more information.
Sweden’s oldest manufacturer of beds, Hästens Sängar, has launched a store in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park area. The 3,000 sq. ft store showcases three collections: frame beds, continental beds and adjustable beds. A video demonstrates their manufacturing processes by master craftsmen, using naturally processed horse hair, wood and a spring system that minimizes impact on the sleeper. The company claims the beds provide perfect comfort even during pregnancy, when extra support is desired. Prices start at Rs3.5 lakh.
As the name suggests, the Vegetal chair from Vitra, conceptualized by French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, is inspired by the plant kingdom. Manufactured using injection-moulding technology, its final plant-like shape is made of 100% (recyclable) dyed polyamide. They are stackable (up to three chairs) and suitable for outdoor use too. The six colour options are cream, brick, forest, mauve grey, chocolate and basic dark. They are priced at Rs 1.24 lakh for four chairs, and are available at Vitra India Pvt. Ltd, The Great Eastern Galleria, 416, Sector 4, Nerul, Navi Mumbai (022-27710103/04).
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