Hippie chic3 min read . Updated: 09 Apr 2010, 09:49 PM IST
Goa means different things to different people, but to all stressed urbanites in India, it is just one thing: a dreamy escape. There’s a charm, a vibe that’s difficult to replicate. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Goa was the last European bastion in India. In supermodel and professional DJ Tinu Verghis’ colonial home in Tiswadi, everything that the state represents comes together in one beautiful picture-perfect moment.
At the centre of the 1-acre property stands a canary-yellow Portuguese-style home that’s an amalgam of all the influences that have shaped it—its Portuguese origins, Goa’s lethargic, no-fuss feel, Verghis’ childhood in Kerala, and partner Quentin Staes-Polet’s aristocratic Belgian roots. At one end is the swimming pool that’s surrounded by nothing—except the clear blue sky.
Verghis and Staes-Polet bought the home from the original owner Eduardo Correia—they went to see it on the way to the airport because the advert said “no broker", and they fell in love with it. “There was a vibe about the place that was our vibe," says Verghis, who worked hard for two years to make “Chill Om"—a typical Goan tiled nameplate embedded at the entrance wall announces the home’s purpose—what it is today. Once you enter, the home is anything but classic. From Japan’s Manga art to cow-dung paintings from Rwanda and pop music posters, it is a fusion of cultural influences from around the globe, ensconced in a bubble of bright, happy colours.
“This is bliss and home," says Verghis, which is why the two take a flight to Goa from Mumbai almost every Friday evening. Interestingly, neither has lived in a flat and the couple rent a floor of a Goan family’s bungalow in Mumbai, where they live and work. “I never appreciated it when we lived in houses like this as a child. The high ceiling had to be cleaned... too many doors to be locked, but when you travel you respect home... and I can’t call an apartment home," says Verghis.
Verghis grew up in a house with no plumbing and drew water from a well. She calls herself a gardener at heart, and has many fruit trees in the compound. Passion fruit, banana, coconut, chikoo, guava, papaya, it’s all there for the plucking. Plus, Verghis plants four crops in rotation in the adjoining fields with little help, and donates the excess to the church.
She has tried to retain as much of the façade as possible while redoing essentials, such as replacing the asbestos roof with terracotta tiles and putting up wooden beams to support the ceiling. She hired a contractor initially, but their ideas clashed—“we are hippies at heart and we like it subtle… these guys try to modify these houses to suit the youth but that’s not our style… we wanted to retain the original feeling"—so she decided to do things herself. She broke open the rooms to allow sunlight in and create space but retained original doors, windows and pillars wherever she could, even getting a mason to create new replicas of old cement pillars in the sit-out. Since skilled labour is a problem in Goa, Verghis went into DIY mode, finding out everything she needed to know about construction. Nothing went waste. Salvaged wood from beams was used in the pump room ceiling, and the 23 monogrammed chairs plus the odd bits of rosewood teak furniture that came with the home were restored, polished and used. For the flooring, she stuck to Jaisalmer, and got traditional hexagonal clay tiles from Kerala (that absorb water) for some of the other rooms. For the outside she opted for cement flooring (red oxide colour is poured into the cement, a Goan technique). She painted all the walls herself.
“I want to keep breaking and remaking. I don’t ever want to stop," she says. On the agenda is a gazebo in the fields, and a guest house on stilts.
Staes-Polet, who founded Kreeda, an online video game company, is as involved. “When I was a child my father bought an old fort in ruins, in the south of France. Every holiday we’d go there and fix something or build something new. I’m an engineer so I have a basic know-how of materials," he says.
Much of the home’s decor is also courtesy him, including a rally cry for peace that adorns their entrance. The couple, who have been together for seven years, appreciate both the hectic pace of Mumbai and the calm of Goa. “The environment is splendid. You’re all stressed and then you just sit out and it’s an instant cool down," he says.
We couldn’t agree more.
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Photographs by Anay Mann; Styled by Ragini Singh
Content provided by Better Homes and Gardens.