In the process of fine-tuning the circulation of spaces while combining two apartments in a Mumbai high-rise, Shobhan Kothari of Atelier Design N Domain also embarked on a stylish decorating journey which was not afraid of colour.
“Give us a shell which can accommodate different changes in mood,” was the brief of the erudite, well-travelled clients. To which Shobhan Kothari’s response was to create apt spaces, with prime attention to flow and circulation.
“The problem with most skyscrapers in Mumbai is that there are many shear walls in concrete, offering no flexibility in the layout,” says Shobhan. “So although there was a considerable amount of space because the client had bought the entire floor, we ended up with an ‘East bank’ and ‘West bank’ scenario, after removing the wall between the two apartments.
It was exciting to have a huge space, but the master suite was on one side of the living room, with all the other rooms on the opposite side. The sequence of spaces which is normally followed wasn’t possible and we ended up with the entrance in the centre of the apartment.”
So a conscious decision was taken to make the living room the protagonist, which would hold the two ends of the house together. However, the problem was still that, that part of the living room would have to become a circulation space, instead of one of utility.
“There was also a large window which looks out onto the world, which the sofas would normally face. But we’ve had to place the larger sofas with their backs up against the window, so that smaller single seaters could be placed opposite them. Having to view the backs of large sofas would have created a corridor-like effect in the living room, which was not desirable,” says Shobhan.
The entire ceiling in the living and dining space is a wooden expanse with two long slots which hold multiple pendant lights. Above the bar, there are spot lights in the slot instead of pendants. The arrangement ensures that the ceiling is clutter free, since the lights are restricted to a limited linear space. In the day, there is a wash of natural light from the windows.
There are two sets of seating arrangements, with the formal grouping near the entrance of the apartment and the more relaxed one near the bar.
The wall alongside the dining table has a 22 ft long floor-to-ceiling canvas depicting the Manhattan Bridge, generating interest within the room rather than relying only on the windows for a ‘view.’ While six of the dining chairs are upholstered in a pale neutral fabric, the ones at the head and foot of the table are distinguished by a floral pattern.
The master bedroom offers an unexpected vista at the entrance. Part of the ceiling is vaulted, echoing the curved outline of the bevelled mirror which stands on the floor. The flooring here is in wood, laid in interconnecting ‘tiles’ which take inspiration from the curves of the mirror.
A chair upholstered in a quilted canary yellow completes this tableau with its studied placements. The master suite has a lounge as well as ‘his n hers’ walk-in wardrobes. In the ‘her’ walk-in wardrobe, the wallpaper on the ceiling is in a pale lilac design, adding to the feminine vibe.
The children’s space has been designed like a suite, with an attached games room and two baths. The bedroom for two boys incorporates a bunk bed with a tree house feel to it; multi-coloured ‘steps’ and a hanging rope complete the picture.
Bright candy colours on some of the furniture have been created with Duco paint, announcing the likely age group of the inhabitants. In the games room there is a rainbow bar of colours on the settee under the window, which also provides storage. “But the family will not be looking at a huge revamp as the children grow. Just repainting the furniture and replacing the bright colours with more subdued tones will make the room age appropriate at a reasonable cost,” says Shobhan.
The attached bath recalls childhood games with the ‘lego’ wall behind the mirror, while the basin counter itself appears to be suspended by ropes, like a swing. In the bath attached to the games room, colour is more controlled, with just one accent in the bright yellow stool.
The study is a masculine space in leather and mustard coloured cabinetry. The kitchen has a simple dado and shutters, with the flooring in a patterned vitrified tile getting all the attention.
Says Shobhan: “If all the furniture and accessories are removed, the shell should have the correct delineation of spaces. When there are no site forces to engage with, as in a bungalow, this is what it all boils down to. At the end of it all, a bed is a bed and a wardrobe is a wardrobe. The garnishes are just aesthetic choices. But an architect is supposed to look at spaces differently. There is a reason why a table can never be square or round in a given space. And once there are strong reasons, everything falls into place.”
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Sebastian Zachariah