The new space age9 min read . Updated: 05 Dec 2009, 12:33 AM IST
The new space age
The new space age
Sure, the multi-jet shower console was exactly what you wanted three years ago, but now you feel like a relaxing soak in a tub while watching your favourite movie. The heavy crystal chandelier was perfect when you bought it, but now just looks so Bollywood. We picked five new ideas to update your luxury home.
You’re soaking in a claw-foot bathtub, water jets from your newly installed hydrotherapy system massage your muscles, and a Gustav Klimt created with gold and platinum-coloured glass chips dresses the wall before you. You feel too rested and want to spruce things up: You turn to your chromotherapy rainshower.
The new-age bathroom calls for a neologism that encompasses all that it has come to be—home spa, art space, television den, music room. Several products launched in the Indian market this year cater to this changing definition. The Italian art mosaic store, SICIS-The Art Mosaic Factory, inaugurated its India flagship store earlier this week too. Wall and floor mosaics are available in the range of Rs1.80 lakh to Rs4.75 lakh per sq. m. Once a design is selected, mosaic chips are air-freighted from SICIS’ Italian workshop.
Bangalore-based architect Sandeep Khosla says that every two of his 10 clients these days ask “at least" for a chromotherapy shower. “The bathroom is now seen as an extension of one’s living space where you can read, listen to music and watch television," says Khosla. He suggests having sofas, benches, shelves, paintings... The possibilities are endless, as long as the dry and wet spaces are separate.
The influx of international luxury bath brands such as Duravit, Kohler, Gessi and Jacob-Delafon have made the Indian bathroom’s transition to its new avatar easier. Gessi, for instance, offers showers with spray selections that include rainfall, water blades and atomization effects. And its multi-hued chromotherapy options include fixed or changing coloured light.
And if you want to make your bathroom more of a boudoir—a place to relax in for long hours— you can now avail of the wonders of digital entertainment even while you soak in those aromatherapy oils. The Korean company Saturn’s bathtub made with liquid acrylic resin comes fitted with a television (www.saturn.co.kr). Created by maverick industrial designer Karim Rashid, the foot of the oval bathtub structure holds a waterproof LCD screen which allows you to watch television and DVDs, listen to MP3 format music and even surf the Net.
Other brands are also incorporating digital entertainment into bath artefacts: Kohler launched DTV I last year, with chromotherapy and pressure jet features. But Sharad Mathur, managing director, Kohler India, says an increasing demand for digital entertainment in the bathroom prompted the brand to update with audio features this May. So in Kohler’s DTV II, which has an amalgamation of various spa techniques that create hydrotherapy experiences, users can listen to their pet tunes via an iPod plug-in. That is, if the system’s extensive pre-fed music doesn’t make the cut.
If you have a big crystal chandelier, now would be a good time to take it down, pack it up and store it. Lighting is no longer just about illumination, it is about enhancing the talking point of the room.
“The hot new concept of lighting luxury houses is more about making the light source an art piece rather than a light fixture," says Prateek Jain from Klove Studio. Jain makes 30ft installations out of blown glass, crystals and metals. The lighting is often part of the installation itself.
Experts say the design and constituent materials of the centrepiece should reflect the design philosophy of the house itself.
The influence now, Jain says, is more Scandinavian. These installations could cost anything from Rs1 lakh to Rs10 lakh, depending on the size and nature of materials used. Blown-glass pieces tend to be expensive, as are installations made of brass and copper.
“Lighting is now done scientifically. It is important to use lux (a measure of lighting) values before designing the lighting of the house. Also, earlier lighting luxury homes meant simply hanging a big chandelier irrespective of the design ethos of the room. Now, if you have leather sofas and the room is done up in tan colours, you have a choice of unusual materials, including leather for your lights," says Varun Verma, of Jaquar Concept Lighting.
The global influence is high, especially with the influx of European lighting brands such as FLOS, Artemide, etc. These lights start at Rs60,000 and go up to Rs3 lakh. If you must have a chandelier, then Swarovski crystals mixed with blown glass is the way to go.
A photo frame that magically becomes a video screen? A luxury home needs some cutting-edge technology. And that’s in its security systems. The security structures of luxury homes follow a multi-layered model. These start with access-controlled doors and gates and videophones and can go on to systems that unleash gas blankets on intruders. Video door phones and fingerprint access systems are the basic security that any luxury home must have. Videophones need not be ugly screens mounted on the wall; they now come well-camouflaged as photo frames. When the phone is activated, the photograph recedes and the image of the person outside the door becomes visible. Fingerprint access is usually installed on the doors of bedrooms or cupboards. So if you are not at home, you do not have to worry about someone accessing the jewellery cupboard or the clothes wardrobe. Fingerprint locks cost upwards of Rs25,000.
These apart, the must-have security systems are linked to mobile phones now. All alarm systems are wired to the mobile phone. This means that each time you arm or disarm an alarm, you get a message on the phone. If an intruder breaks in while you are away, it would trigger the alarm and you would get a notification on your cellphone. Zicom’s systems take it one step forward and offer you access to the company’s control rooms. Once you get the information on your phone that your security system has been breached, you can call up the control room and tell it what to do. This would include calling the neighbours or the police.
The other interesting security feature is the home occupancy simulator. This device, when turned on, would simulate sounds and actions as though the house is occupied. This means opening the curtains in the morning, emanating normal household noises such as children playing, the hum of the washing machine and the refrigerator, switching on the lights after dark, closing the curtains at night, etc. These can also be controlled with the phone. Some systems even offer you the option of providing limited access through the phone. For example, if you are out of town and a family member wants to go to your house for some reason, you can press the access code on your phone and open and close the door. These systems costs upwards of Rs2.5 lakh, depending on the equipment you buy.
With all the talk of sustainability, harvest one of the most abundant elements to live green: earth.
Rammed earth walls—created by ramming a mix of soil and sand with minimal cement—have an embodied energy and carbon footprint about four times less than country-fired bricks. The differently coloured components and the layers of ramming create a natural pattern that imitates a cut-rock surface, eliminating the need for wall paint entirely. If au naturel is not your thing, you can opt for motifs to be engineered into your design.
This yet-to-be-popularized concept is an extension on the lines of compressed earth blocks that architects have been using over the years. But it is trickier since the entire structure needs to be created on site, making the technology redundant for apartments. Also, all structural elements such as electrical and other wiring need to be worked in at the initial stage. So if you’re set to commission a villa or a farmhouse, this could work fantastically.
Rammed earth walls encourages utilization soil from the site, eliminating the need for fuel consumed in transportation, and rendering the process highly sustainable. Though this technology requires some initial investment for the formwork, construction prices are 10-15% less than conventional fired brick walls.
Young architects Ganesh Bala and David Nightingale from Auroville used this technology in 2005 at Vérité, a community structure in Auroville with a focus on alternative technologies. It was in sync with the architectural philosophy for Vérité—a community that seeks to employ renewable energy systems.
Bala and Nightingale consulted the French architect Satprem Maïni for this project. Maïni, who pioneered this technique in Auroville in 1995 for the Mirramukhi School, is the director of the Auroville Earth Institute (www.earth-auroville.com) and the Unesco chairperson of earth architecture for Asia. He has pioneered several earth architectural concepts. His institute is dedicated to researching, developing, promoting and transferring earth-based technologies, which are cost- and energy-effective.
Another high-end sustainable solution is the earth tunnel air conditioner.
Bangalore-based green residential builder Biodiversity Conservation India Ltd (BCIL) uses the earth without actually taking from it. With its earth tunnel air-conditioning system, BCIL will arguably house the world’s largest residential earth tunnel cooling system when its residential project in Bangalore is ready early next year.
So what is an earth tunnel system? In a city such as Bangalore, for instance, the temperature at a depth of 4m into the earth is around 23-25° Celsius. By facilitating a thermal exchange with tunnels dug into the ground, the geothermal system conditions the temperature of the ambient air, reducing or increasing it to 25° Celsius. Vertical ducts then take this conditioned air to the spaces that need air conditioning and several shafts remove hot, stale air from the room. At approximately Rs160 per sq. ft, the cost of incorporating this in a 3,000 sq. ft villa would be Rs4.8 lakh (www.ecobcil.com).
The Vertical Garden, known as Le Mur Végétal in French, goes by many names—Living Walls, Green Walls, Vertical Green. Popularized by French architect Patrick Blanc, vertical gardens are a great solution for those who yearn for green but have to battle with a lack of space.
Canadian company Elevated Landscape Technologies Inc.’s first project in India was at a residential space in Mumbai earlier this year. The ELT Easy Green Living Wall panel is a modular panel that can either be pre-grown or planted in place. The panel consists of 45 individual cells and each cell is independently designed to contain enough space to add a growing medium and sustain water supply to the roots, maintaining a healthy and growing plant. Small ridges are provided at the back of the panels to allow airflow and prevent moisture damage. These cost Rs1,800-2,500 per sq. ft, depending on the choice of plants.
Anuradha Barpande, a horticulture contractor who represents ELT India, currently has 85 kinds of grass, ferns and shrubs on offer. She explains that the plants are picked with a variety of factors in mind—light intensity, available water sources and humidity. Flowering plants such as balsam and chrysanthemum are also possible but would need more care.
This design concept is being used in commercial spaces too. The ITC Royal Gardenia that opened in Bangalore recently had Jikki Parthasarathy, a horticultural expert from Singapore, create four, 30m-high vertical gardens in the hotel’s non-air-conditioned lobby as well as in the coffee shop and spa. The Vertical Garden at the hotel’s multi-cuisine coffee shop, The Cubbon Pavilion, covers an entire wall and has around 25,000 plants and reaches up to the 12th floor, to a skylight at the top.
Landscape architect Sriganesh Rajendran of Apeiron Architects, Mumbai, has been experimenting with living walls for about a year. He says these can elegantly spruce up an otherwise staid façade. He also points out other benefits of having vertical foliage on the exterior of your structure—it acts as an insulating barrier, reducing the need for artificial air conditioning. So you can look green and be green too. (www.eltlivingwalls.com)