When contemporary design weds traditional lifestyle, what you get is a house filled with comfort, functionality and a strong sense of rootedness.
The right way to introduce this spacious 8,470 sq ft haveli or villa in Vadodara, Gujarat would be to first start with describing its contemporary architecture and charming exteriors. We could then move inside to its light-filled atrium and weave in and out of rooms that spell understated luxury. But for once let’s abandon the formal approach to reviewing and plunge right into this haveli’s most alluring feature – its windows.
To be sure, this is a house besotted with light. Architects Shourya Patel and Dexter Fernandes, co-founders of Uneven, an architectural design firm in Vadodara, have spared no opportunity to carve out as many windows as possible across this two-storeyed, five-bedroom haveli. Broad, floor-to-ceiling windows invite natural light into every corner creating an irresistible feel-good ambience.
“We make it a point to educate all our clients about the benefits of natural daylight and try and install as many windows as possible across every project”, emphasise the designers at Uneven. Vadodara is also notorious for its dry, stinging heat and windows like this can be such a comfort during the worst of summer.
The airy living room on the ground floor throws itself open to light with windows and doors that spill onto a private garden. One of the children’s bedrooms on the first floor flaunts an entire wall of glass overlooking the garden and a mango tree. This romance with light continues even on the topmost level with several sliding windows bathing an entertainment room with the ephemeral colours of dawn and dusk. Obviously Vitamin D is never in short supply at this residence.
Coming back to the heart of the home – the family area on the ground floor, Dexter says, “In a traditional Gujarati haveli, this area would have been utilised as an open courtyard.” In this case, the sense of openness is recreated by the triple height of the atrium. “This space has its own traditional charm, with a wooden Jharokha with traditional carvings, and railings punctured through an exposed brick wall, under a huge skylight comprising a wooden flower and brass-flower hanging lamps.”
This atrium thus encourages the three generations of family members to keep up old traditions of spending time together as a family, chatting or watching TV.
“In a sense, here was a very traditional Gujarati family and we decided to implement earthy materials and textures that would resonate with their traditional outlook”, point out the Uneven team. Everywhere you look, the space is invigorated by traditional Gujarati motifs, colours and furniture that keep the haveli tied to its cultural roots.
These days, it’s considered chic to flaunt walls of exposed brick, more so in an urban dwelling. But rustic elements that are not backed by any real sense of traditional lifestyles often land up looking incongruous. In this haveli however, exposed brick is used judiciously and in harmony with wood to create a natural, cosy atmosphere. The thick brick walls further help in keeping the interiors cool, say the designers.
The earthy atmosphere is effortlessly maintained with a colour palette of cream, deep browns and russets. “At the end of the day, this is a residence, and overpowering colours or elements are best avoided,” says Dexter, adding, “We tend to favour earthy colours…they never go wrong.”
In order to please all three generations of family members, the haveli’s common areas sport neutral décor whereas in the bedrooms, we see individual personalities and expressions emerge. Clutter-free, with high ceilings and a walk-in closet, the bedrooms delight with their sweet simplicity. Their spaciousness – a luxury in these times – inspires an irresistible urge to stretch, stretch and stretch.
A modern luxury that defines this residence is the private gym and sauna located on the first level. The topmost level of the house indulges the family’s craving for entertainment and need to socialise. This level, which boasts a wide terrace also houses a bar and lounge, pool table and home theatre. Each of these areas can be sectioned off or opened up to create one big entertainment space.
In the end, guided by light, harmony and Uneven, this haveli nimbly occupies a space that is comfortably modern and traditional.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Courtesy Tejas Shah