Making architectural changes before embarking on the details of furniture and design, Tejal Mathur has imparted the feel of a bungalow to this apartment in Mumbai, with a skylight enhancing the perception.
Like all good designers, Tejal Mathur believes that good design should go beyond fulfilling the mere basics. So while converting a nondescript three bedroom apartment with a carpet area of 1,600 sq ft into one with two bedroom suites with walk-in wardrobes, she felt it was essential to reformat the spaces. “Like most Mumbai apartments with an open terrace, this space had a fairly simple layout, though smaller proportions and indeed smaller bathrooms. It was a shell that had squeezed three rooms as built form,” she says. But reorganising the spaces was possible only because the clients understood that the space would be served better with two bedrooms rather than three small ones.
Tejal confesses that she is driven to inject structural proportion into a space, versus creating only furniture and function driven interiors. Here, the starting point was to emphasise the height of the space, create an illusion of volume, in fact.
“Our very first goal with the space turnaround was to allow for the door frames to go up to the ceiling. Structural beams dropped to a woefully low height of seven feet, so we moved the doors out of the beam line,” says Tejal. But this was not an easy task, since they had to be mindful that the division of spaces followed a particular logic. “The apartment had to be redesigned architecturally, without ending up with shoddy offsets which would then have to be disguised.”
The brief specified a quiet, contemporary aesthetic…nothing flashy. “But the techniques I’ve used are traditional. Walls are in IPS and the teak joinery is a traditional craft. The finishes may be old-world, but the language is sharp,” says Tejal.
Creating an aesthetic devoid of fuss or self-consciousness is Tejal’s forte.
“On further understanding what the clients wanted, we put our heads together on how to create a more contemporary ambience, even though our work leans a lot more towards rugged ‘old world’ textures to stay true to our grain.”
Where walls are wrapped with Statuario marble, a sand blasted finish tones down the busy veined surface to impart a swanky but aged feel. Juxtaposed with a white brick wall in the living room, the colour palette remains the same even as the character of the two finishes offers a stark contrast. The living room has furniture and lamps sourced from Natuzzi, with large charcoal tiles on the floor ensuring a pro-hygiene finish. “Their ominous St. Bernard, we suspect was the reason they took that call!” laughs Tejal.
Ceilings have a cement pigment-like lime wash since there are no suspended false ceilings. Consequently, there is just about enough wiring to enable track lights to be suspended.
Sitting adjacent to the terrace, the dining area doubles as a transition space and has a glass roof, through which light inundates the space from the top as well as from the side, through the large glass doors leading to the terrace.This contributes in no small measure towards giving the apartment a bungalow-like feel. A bench against the wall is faced by three chairs on the other side of the table.
Limestone walls in charcoal tone down the light streaming in by absorbing rather than reflecting it. The dining table is a rough uncut timber plank, showcasing and celebrating its asymmetrical shape. Imparting a gentle old world feel are ship lamps suspended above the table,” says Tejal.
Timber and plywood sees generous use within the interior, with simple finishes and clean straight lines. Either old teakwood or plywood with an interesting inconsistent grain has been used.The flooring in the bedrooms is in seasoned hardwood in a herringbone pattern, bespoke for the project. The master bedroom has IPS walls, with plywood panels to conceal walk-in space behind.
“Polished IPS is one of our favourite wall finishes, as the process is laborious but imparts a smooth and soft result…and far more sustainable in our environment,” says Tejal. The master bathroom sports classic finishes with embossed tiles from Bharat Floors.
The headboard of the bed and wall in the daughter’s bedroom is in faceted plywood, the pendant lamp above the bedside table echoing the fragmented look. The front of one drawer adds a vivid punch of colour to the space. There is a glass separator for the bathroom. Behind the round mirror above the vanity, a sunburst pattern in wood radiates outwards, the grain and shades of colour emphasising the effect. Though heavy timber serves as a wash counter, playful ikat in cut slabs graces the floor.Comfortable and liveable are key words; the space is never about the art or important pieces. Also, reading between the lines of a client’s brief is key. “We believe that a client’s requirements are more seminal than physical, so we prefer to understand what they are looking for and to know what will work for them,” she says.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Sebastian Zachariah