The Exhibit House is a contemporary ethnic Indian residence that spells opulence inspired by regional context and traditional elements of design.
Chennai based WeBe Design Lab endeavours to provide sustainable solutions. The firm focuses on an idea-centric approach supported by strong research and a collaborative practice, which then evolves into a unique solution. Their recently accomplished alluring residence, the Exhibit House located at old Mahabalipuram road is a testimony to the same.
The Exhibit House is a penthouse on the topmost floors of the eighteen storey luxury apartment offering bewitching views of the twinkling city as well as the mesmerising coastline.
The lower level of the penthouse accommodates public areas like the entrance foyer, living room, dining space and kitchen along with a guest room. The upper level comprises of the private bedrooms.
The house breathes through its double height pool area which includes a bar overlooking the pool. Subtle impressions of leaves on the concrete panels have been artistically juxtaposed with the fire clay brick inlay work to create a pseudo-landscape.
“The client’s instinctive response was to opt for minimalistic and functional modern interiors. At the same time, he had a strong desire to hold onto his reverence for traditional Indian style, elements and crafts around which he grew up,” reveal Yogesh and Padmakshi, the principle designers of this project. Hence, a modern space was created by contemporising traditional elements. The idea was to embrace the South Indian culture in a modernist way; hence inspiration for the design were derived from elements and material palette of the Dravidian culture.
The very entrance of the house is marked by a simplified composition inspired by the stone detailing of the historic Meenakshi Amman Temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
The wall mural, which is partially carved and partially line diagrammed in an unconventional composition on variedly sized rectangular natural stone slabs, adds a distinctive character through its projections and recessions which render visual depth.
Further deeper inside the house, one confronts an alluring adaptation of a very elementary yet symbolic attribute of all traditional South Indian homes. ‘Kolam’, which is a geometric pattern usually drawn with rice flour on the ground, gives inspiration to an interesting design element for the wall running from the living room to the dining space.
The iconic pattern is etched in two different types, namely frosted and clear on the champagne mirror which clads the wall. This wall also accommodates randomly placed ledges of different thicknesses and depths to display the unique and diverse artefacts collected by the client during his sojourns.
A new tactile element in the form of a traditional ‘Kanchipuram’ silk sari, an ancestral belonging, was intricately incorporated into the décor. The sari, symbolic to the region, was cut into strips and set in the wooden ceiling; this aggrandises the primary transition passage of the house.
The typical rural houses of Tamil Nadu are marked by a raised platform, usually on the either sides of a passageway at the entrance, known as ‘Thinnai’. Inspired by this vernacular style, one of the steps of the staircase extends as a platform and culminates into the study space, thereby maximising the view of the stunning sea even below the staircase.
The wall at the staircase is further adorned with yellow marble stucco finish to reflect the colour of turmeric which is considered a sacred and auspicious connotation in South India. The brass lights above the stairwell evoke the images of temple bells thereby rendering an auspicious ambience to the space.
The heart of the house is the double height swimming pool deck area. The idea was to imbibe nature by incorporating water and fresh air to create a tranquil space. A bar, overlooking the pool area, features a black Corian countertop and a wooden bar stool custom-made in Auroville. The fabric ceiling over the pool incorporates blue and while LED lights to offer different moods to the space.
The teakwood and rosewood furniture is carefully handpicked to blend into this dialogue of tradition and modernity. A subdued colour palette in beige and white tones is preferred throughout the house to recreate the setting of a modern art gallery. Due care has been taken that the overall design retains the essence of its basics while being projected in a contemporary style.
Text By Kruti Choksi Kothari
Photographs Courtesy Maniyarasan