‘Casa BRIO’ is the personal home project of Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijt of the Mumbai-based firm, Architecture BRIO. It is a masterpiece of intelligent space usage and clutter-free, multi-purpose interior designing.
Space constraint has become as synonymous with Mumbai as vada pav. It has become somewhat of a blessing in disguise for designers and architects too, pushed as they are to re-imagine the limits of their creativity to realise projects in the city. Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijt of the Mumbai-based firm, Architecture BRIO, came face-to-face with this challenge when designing their 7th floor apartment located amidst the bustle of Bandra.
They had to turn 80 sq m of precious space into their dream home. “The floor plan was a clean slate with only external columns. In that sense we had complete flexibility to rearrange spaces and look at it as a blank canvas. The challenge was really how to connect the apartment with the park in front. We love nature and the outdoors. But how do you connect with the surroundings in an urban setting? You’d like to open up the apartment to the view but at times, you’d also like to isolate yourself from all the noise and dust. It’s something that most people struggle with and we solved it here by designing windows that can completely disappear into the walls when you don’t want them,” say the architects.
Purportedly, the home had to be minimal, classy, and devoid of clutter while of course also accommodating all the essentials. And for the benefit of their young daughter, it also had to be fun, with a bit of colour and whimsy. These are fairly common, reasonably divergent expectations a family demands from a home. Besides the BRIO duo had professional experience to their advantage.
As a result they have used their collective mettle to create a home whose different sections play hide-and-seek with a viewer. As the architects put it themselves, “by opening and closing, sliding and folding it up, the home is restructured, expanded, fragmented, connected or isolated.” The brilliance of the space division here indeed is in the extremely thoughtful detailing.
Practically every wall space, nook and surface have been put to multiple uses. The storage segments double up as partitions, and sliding doors crop up wherever walls’ underbellies have to be covered up to form an unbroken surface. “We liked the idea of designing elements that look different from what they actually are. So, for example, the yellow-stained birch ply bookshelf is actually a wall and it also hides a secret door that leads to the master bathroom. Or, behind the master bedroom, a graphite stained birch plywood wall hides a his-and-her walk-in wardrobe, and even a shaving sink. Or, on a different scale, the electrical points for example don’t appear like the usual white plates with switches but are actually customised with just a metal toggle placed on the timber wall.”
Aside from breathy, open-ended spaces, the home is livened up by the use of building materials that are allowed to exist in all natural glory – grain, tints, et al – sometimes splashed with unexpected colour. Sunlight is aplenty, and the living room especially is party to it due to an attached veranda-cum-dining room overlooking the park.
“The house itself is west-facing and allows us to capture the south-west sea breeze. All the spaces in the house get cross ventilation and natural light. We have used insulated glass in our windows which are protected from direct light for most of the day, so we can do without air-conditioning for about 4 to 5 months of the year. We recycled wood from some old furniture we had to make the bathroom vanity and dining table. Other than that, more at a user level we do composting of the wet waste from the kitchen.”
The open kitchen in this section is remarkable for its bar unit and island that are of custom blackened steel panelling. Contrasting this is a solid oak wood counter, and an oak wood panelled wall that can slide open to reveal the pantry, and also holds the fridge, freezer, oven, microwave, and a shoe cabinet. The main door is fashioned after the split, 2-part Dutch doors.
There is a slight harry potter-ish excitement for wizardy going on here!
A dash of whimsy is the canary-toned birch plywood bookshelf. “The edges of the bookshelf show the detail of how the shelves are joined together. It is a simple detail but just adds a layer of sophistication to an otherwise ordinary shelf. For the surface grain we wanted to give it a stain which would bring out the grain as opposed to paint that would have completely hidden it,” explain the architects.
The home re-design saved more space by placing one common bathroom wedged between 2 bedrooms. But for the master bedroom, “we did feel like an additional shower would be useful to have. We can now shower in a large space while being able to look out onto the park over the shower curtain without the bedroom getting wet.”
The lighting scheme of the home relies on natural bounty as much and wherever possible. The gaps are filled by rimless fittings from Easy Kap by Flos. “The lamps were bought in the Netherlands and belong to different Scandinavian and Dutch design brands. The door handles are from Emtek and sourced from Simons hardware in New York.” The architects designed the bed, side-tables, the dining table and the study table themselves.
The child’s small bedroom is understandably the most playful, and it features a modern interpretation of the traditional medieval Dutch ‘Bedstede” or Closet Bed. Casa BRIO is what all homes should be – warm, spacious, green inside and out, modern, prosperous, and, capable of pulling off magic tricks.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs By Jignesh Jhaveri, Photolink Creative India Pvt.Ltd.