The Selfless House in Kerala, designed by Lijo Reny Architects, reiterates the idea of a green home by focusing on local materials and a simple look.
This home is called ‘The Selfless House’ and there probably couldn’t have been a better epithet to it. Located in the village of Thevakkalin, Kerala it revels in an aura so simple and dignified that it makes one want to re-define minimalism as a concept.
Designed by Thrissur-based Lijo Reny Architects for an elderly couple, this project marked a renewal of perspective for both the parties involved. “Our past projects were more about well decorated spaces. So this was a departure in pproach for us,” says Lijo Jos, who co-designed the house with Reny Lijo.
All the lack of frill and flamboyance in the design of the house is countered by an all-encompassing sensitivity to the couple’s needs. Admittedly, the brief for the project was sparse. The home exists within the family compound, so a lot of snippets of suggestions were blended together to form the blueprint of the house as it stands today.
The need was to have a very contemporary-looking, chic, yet comfortable abode. It had to be well-ventilated of course, and not require much time and energy towards its maintenance. And it had to be a single level building.
But it is to the designer duo’s credit that they read between and beyond these lines and came up with a representation of a perfect home for their clients. They imagined interconnectedness of spaces, so that one’s line of vision wasn’t restricted to one room and therefore, the dining area sort of opens up into the kitchen. They made sure that movement is hindrance-free throughout the interior space. The duo also presumed the coming in of much used old furniture, carrying significant emotional value and ensured that there was enough area available to accommodate it.
Reny and Lijo also relied on a more traditional understanding of building ‘green’, instead of taking off on a conventional template and allowing the budget to balloon out of control. They even took solar panelling out from the scheme when it started to overstep budgets.
“We wanted to design a project that required less or no electricity at all (for lighting and ventilation) during the daytime; hence saving a lot of energy. Upon intense calculations, solar power turned out to be financially unviable and hence we had to resort to ideas like tall rooms and courtyards and vents at strategic positions,” they share.
This scepticism of the use of elaborate and expensive materials and measures to acquire sustainability credentials led to the rooting of the project in all things local.
“All buildings built a long time ago were actually ‘green’. It was not about ‘rating’ then, but about the honesty of how you build and with what you build. This project was an exercise on similar grounds,” they state.
Rough-finished Kota therefore adorns the sit-out, harking back to the earthy feel of older homes where walking bare feet was de rigueur. The use of Kota was preferred as it is cheap and ages gracefully. Unique aesthetics and lowering of costs were further achieved by the mix of yellow oxide cement and polished Kota that makes up the flooring in the interiors.
The toilet walls sport a lighter shade of green oxide cement and break up the monotony of stone all over. The ceiling is a virtual delight – made out of poured, exposed concrete, it is patterned with sleeper wood shuttering.
The inclusion of stout mullions (made of G.I. pipes) in the bedroom courtyards is also a throwback to old structures, where the vertical shadows of the bars on the windows were almost a part of the floor scheme; the rotund columns conjure up nostalgia.
The front yard has been left largely untouched and wild, to retain a natural look. Inspite of the breezy arrangement of the rooms, the sense of privacy of the two bedrooms is not compromised. The living and dining rooms, and the kitchen and the foyer, however, hold hands to form a sinewy link of spaces where you hardly lose sight of the other person in the house. The whiteness of the facade walls is broken up by exposed Latrite sections smeared with a paste composed of powdered Latrite stone and cement. This sort of accenting exists even in the interiors.
The understanding of traditional here is less visual and more in spirit and substance. The sit-out references the traditional Malayali thinna and is utilsed for ruminating on life on quiet evenings. Sun roofs throw down natural spotlights in many places; the shaded portions are used for multiple purposes inside the home. A sunroof made up of PVC pipes of 100 mm diameter, illuminates the pooja room with ethereal light.
The 158 sq.mts. of floor space looks much more sprawling because of the angling, and the smart play of the abundant natural light. It clearly is a house where family members of all age groups will belong. “With The Selfless House, we got to see a project from a different perspective. It helped change our view totally on building spaces,” says Lijo Jos.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Lijo Reny Architects and Praveen Mohandas