A contemporary home becomes a welcome getaway thanks to natural light, a thoughtful segregation of public and private zones and above all a slew of unique textures.
If the idea of a weekend home conjures up a colonial retreat under swaying palms and planters chairs, it is time to get a new perspective.
For this family getaway in Surat designed by award-winning local firm Architecture & Beyond (A&B), the brief given was simple: A small weekend house for the extended family to relax and rejuvenate. Principal architects Aashish Patel and Bhavesh Patel believe in “the transformative power of architectural and interior spaces to improve the quality of life and to create a sense of pride, dignity, inspiration and delight.”
Given their experience and interest in designing spaces that are influenced by existing conditions and an understanding of the place in which they build, the architects had plenty to play with.
A plot area of 5760 square feet, existing fruit trees and palms and the brief for a simple, elegant structure dictated that nature would take precedence. “The house was pushed deep on the edge (of the plot) paying homage to the existing landscape,” explain the architects. A ground-plus-one plan included a lounge and kitchen-dining space along with a gym and bedrooms for private use.
Because the house is built on one edge of the plot, the approach to the building is through “a series of crooked lines of walkways snaking through the forest of existing trees.” The path to the house offers you hidden glimpses of the building, and you already know you are in for something different.
The wow factor is apparent right from the moment you enter the house. A lotus pond greets you and sets the ambience. A small walkway over the pond leads you to an eighteen foot tall (yes, you read that correctly) wooden door framed within a spongy concrete box. Massive as it is, the door opens ever so smoothly – a visual contradiction, surely. “The 18 foot tall single piece door can be easily opened and closed even by a small child as it hosts a customised pivot at both ends which offers an easy movement for the door,” explains Bhavesh Patel.
The door contrasts with the puffy white concrete wall, giving you a glimpse of the innovative textures that you will encounter throughout the house. “The client owns a textile company and wanted something that would resemble flowing fabric to be incorporated into the design. So, on an experimental basis we tried to cast concrete in a different way, including fabric as part of the mould. Thus the structure looks lighter than the bulkiness you see in a normal concrete wall.”
The L-shaped house has distinct public and private areas. The pool with a lounge deck is the separating and connecting factor, with each wing feeding off it. The ground floor has the foyer, the kitchen and dining area. The pool connects this first area to the other wing where the gym and the guest bedrooms are located. Three large “light wells” in the backyard flood the area with natural light throughout the day.
Upstairs, the lounge and family bedrooms make the space more personal. The lounge on the first floor has a simple glass pavilion with minimal furniture so that it can be used as a versatile space, both for large parties and small intimate gatherings.
The bedrooms have exposed concrete ceilings, freestanding beds, side tables and custom-made lamps. In the master bedroom, A&B introduced a unique bed design that “resembles the skeleton of a creature” and converts the headboard into a bench to seat visitors for a cosy chat. The design is not only elegant and a conversation starter, but a space-saver as well.
Similarly, the children’s bedroom has a study table that is built into the back of the bed, providing easy access and freeing up the wall space for other items.
The lounge connects to the bedrooms through a passageway, again emphasising the different private and public areas of the house.
The architects have used many different textures in the house to much success. From the concrete ‘fabric’ at the entrance, the woodwork on the beds, to the hollow boxes of aluminium that cover the bedroom/gym wing from the outside; there is a surprise in store at every corner. “The spaces are simple and often act as a medium to experience the landscape. The materials of glass, metal and concrete have each been celebrated in their own way using expertise and craft, such that all are read in perfect harmony,” explain the Patels.
The architects used local craftsmen and materials wherever possible to create bespoke furniture such as the foldable seating in the bedroom, the staircases – one in a plainly folded rustic metal and the other, light wooden treads resting delicately on a metal frame.
This contemporary home celebrates the outside as much as the inside making it a perfectly understated retreat for the entire family.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Puja Kedia Courtesy The Architect