The Brick Kiln House in Munavali, near Alibaug, derives inspiration from the simple beauty of the rural Maharashtrian landscape which preferres to blend in rather than stand out.
There are a few peculiar things about the rural Maharashtrian landscape. There is the vegetation, amazingly green in the fertile season and all depressingly brown in the dry months. This colour change is mirrored even by the humble huts around. There are the cattle folks, there are the dusty lanes, and there are the occasional tractors carrying turbaned men and overflowing harvest products. There are patches bracketed by fields of low-growing cucumber and showy corn stalks. There are rough-cut streets landmarked by random shops selling knick knacks. So yes, Bollywood has got it mostly right.
But one detail, though fairly ubiquitous has hardly ever demanded spotlight – the brick kilns. When riding by the countryside, one will encounter many of them, blending into the brownness, only given away by the smoke columns rising from them. To have noticed and examined them with more than just passing curiosity is therefore the first salvo in favour of Spasm Design Architects. To have let themselves be inspired enough to model a home around it is, well, borderline genius.
The Brick Kiln House is located in Munavali, near Alibaug, and is a simple structure at the outset. But its beauty is a sum of pockets of sunshine, some hidden by the tamarind trees on the site, some open to the rural skies.
Apart from the use of the earthy building materials, what is wonderful about this project is the lovely poetic quality to it. “The stacks (of bricks) will gradually get covered with luminescent moss; nature will fight its way back again. Living in a country home is about witnessing this war, ”the design team states, and admits to have thoroughly enjoyed the process of building this sprawling home.
The character of this house is rural through and through. All the tamarind and mango trees, slanting or otherwise, have been left untouched; instead the brick structure has come up around it. Thus, the pool is more like a natural pond, with no rigid geometric shape setting it apart, and the sinewy branches of the old trees are free to throw welcome shadows on its water. The yard space seems like a natural cove rather than a planned and carefully designed section. The tree spots, the cobbled stone flooring and all the lattice work around recreate a slice of the woods. Anyone who wanders here could naturally discover poetry.
The effect of the brick work is taken to another level of charm with the use of basalt and cuddapah stone. This combination may have ultimately meant colour starvation, but then that’s where furniture pieces turn into saviours.
The pieces from Good Earth and BoConcept are still hardly eccentric, but the wood and the stone hues around have helped emphasise their hue and form even more. The contrast of silken fuchsia and blue cushion covers against the grey muteness is a marvellous contrast. In this setting, even the white and off-white couches are striking.
The lighting fixtures help set the tone of the rooms to a range between rustic and modern-minimalist. Outside, the lamps have that alluring antique quality to them, and one can imagine them holding stout candles and not CFL lamps.
A surprising aspect of this house is its existence as separate units – one has to walk out into the common area to change rooms! A normal unified block of a house would have probably meant disturbing the existing wealth of natural sights, and the ultimate compromise only makes the house that much more charming. The scheme also ensures uninterrupted good views, good breeze and so much natural light that one would want to preserve it for a cloudy day.
The bathrooms sport a distinct aura of incompleteness, courtesy the brick walls and stone flooring. But all the pristine white sanitary equipment around combines forces with the rest to unleash the look of an edgy romance.
The thin wooden slats that form the roof at the entrance and the common area supply all the shadow play. At many spots around the house are low and high brick stacks, never letting the primary inspiration of the place from ever bring forgotten.
Designing a tasteful home is tricky business, and much trickier when the setting is rural. Because one can’t let the availability of generous resources overwhelm the need to stay true to the surroundings.
Spasm Design Architects has achieved that delicate balance by adopting a very local, very identifiable symbol and turning it into a modern home.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy Sebastian Zachariah