Enhancing the original features of an apartment in a 1930’s heritage building in South Mumbai, FUSIONstudio gives it a new lease of life through contemporary design and craftsmanship.
There wasn’t scope for any architectural calisthenics here. None of your ‘Let’s just raze all the internal walls to the ground and pretend that it’s a tennis court,’ kind of calisthenics. The ‘heritage’ tag that came with the building meant that the original structure could not be tampered with.
Architect Tiran Driver and his wife, British architect Nicola Gerber of FUSIONstudio, are accustomed to negotiating cultural diversities as part of their everyday lives. “We were living in London, when we decided to revamp this apartment at Churchgate which previously belonged to Tiran’s parents,” says Nicola.
“We wanted the home to feel like one space, all the rooms to appear connected. To further this idea, we laid a glossy white resin on top of the old tiles. Lightweight, seamless and easy to clean, it has all the qualities we were looking for. At one point, we had toyed with the idea of a wooden flooring, because its feel would be in sync with the age of the building. On second thought though, we realised we’d prefer to look at wood, rather than walk on it,” she says.
A tall timber clad wall forms a link between the living and dining spaces in the apartment. Offset by this expanse of wooden panelling, white dominates the colour palette, pulling in natural light from the outside and lending a fresh, bright appeal. “We call it our ‘Sunshine Flat’,” says Nicola.
“Since this is an old Art Deco building, we restored features such as doors, fanlights and windows, recreating damaged ones to match the originals. There are no sliding glass or picture windows here. The views outside are of the heritage structures of the Rajabai tower and the High Court buildings,” says Tiran.
The dining table by Saarinen and the Verner Panton chairs are also in white. An even wash suffuses the rooms during the day, obviating any need for supplementary lighting. Some of the exterior features such as balustrades and columns which are part of the façade of the building, are visible outside the balconies of the apartment. This makes the vocabulary of the interior something of a fait accompli.
Furniture which had belonged to Tiran’s parents came along with the flat. The couple decided to retain some of it, such as the two chairs in dark wood which sit in the living room. However, the look and feel of the space is contemporary.
The sofa is long enough to lie down on, enabling relaxation for family members as well as adequate seating for guests. The large pendant lamp Allegro is by Foscarini, casts a pattern on the wall when switched on, creating instant interest – while the pair of wall lamps are Lane, by Luceplan. Nicola and Tiran say that they haven’t spent as much on finishes, as they have on the lighting.
Tiran says, “Light completes a room and adds character. It supports the idea of space, rather than being mere decoration and can change the mood in a subtle way.”
The white cabinet in the living room doubles as a partition which provides privacy from callers at the main door, located behind it. Yet, a visual connect is maintained at the top of the unit, appearing to extend the living space beyond the divider. The living room is also visually connected with the dining area and the corridor.
The carpets have an apparently western aesthetic, but are actually Indian dhurries; their mix of tones offering scope for future changes in the colour scheme utilised in the room. “We’ve used neutrals for elements which have a long life, with the intention that accessories can change,” says Nicola.
The master bedroom has a work station in one corner, with an award-winning shelving system from the ‘60s. Offering the flexibility of creating different configurations, it was designed by Dieter Rams, head of design at the German electrical products company, Braun.
Part of his design mantra was ‘…the development of long-lasting products, products that don’t age prematurely, which won’t become out of style.’
Of their professional partnership, Nicola says: “Tiran and I may disagree to start with, but then we improve the quality of our design, and set things right. Good design cannot be a pot pourri.”
Simple, clean lines and a no-fuss design appears to be what these architects have created in their home – using elements that will remain neutral, that one can live with longer. The guiding principle is that things can, and must, last longer. They must be designed so that they can be reused. The couple subscribes, perhaps, to the sensibility of Dieter Rams.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Allan Fernandes, Archphoto