Designing an apartment in Mumbai for her parents had Samira Rathod performing a balancing act, between her own convictions and their personal tastes. The end result is a timeless, functional space which does not compromise on aesthetics.
Measuring up to the expectations of one’s parents is a kind of rite of passage for all offspring, however accomplished. So when Samira Rathod designed this 3,000 sq ft apartment at Haji Ali for her parents, in the best tradition of parents all over the world, they were certainly not overawed by her not inconsiderable design talent. In fact, her father candidly told her, with the insouciant birth right of all parents, “Don’t do what you normally do.”
Celebrated for what she does do, Samira is known for exquisite spaces which have been put together with the intellectual discipline and rigour of a curator. So this sobering comment had her giving thought to what would work best for her parents. “Both are in their seventies and like sheen and gloss in interior designs. But my work is not like that,” she says.
“What was more important was that the space be convenient for them to use and be clutter free. I was particularly careful that the height of the various pieces of furniture should be comfortable for them.” All this, while paying tribute to fine living, exquisite craftsmanship and employing unlimited imagination.
Samira proceeded to convert the four bedroom apartment into a three bedroom one with a media room. Open on three sides, it had views of the city and the Haji Ali mosque in the middle of the sea. In her scheme of things, a muted grey tonality pervades the space, imparting a winter morning feel.
“We pulled down the walls and rebuilt them with siporex cladding, their exposed surface offers a soft undulating effect due to the way they’re carved.”
The floor is a glossy grey and one bathroom has Italian marble. “That is a nod to my father’s preferences – he would love to have Italian marble all over, whereas I would prefer not to use it at all,” says Samira. “My mother would often say, ‘She’s the architect, let her handle it the way she wants.’ My father is a busy man, so he would disappear after letting loose a characteristic one-liner.”
In the living room, several colours and patterns come together in the fabrics used for the upholstery. The floor lamp was designed in-house, from ceramic tubes. The terrazzo flooring recalls an old world feel. The curtains are in khadi silk and cotton, in three layers to enable a control over different levels of natural lighting.
The dining table has several steel and copper legs in a complex geometry, inspired by a millipede. The large round lights in the ceiling have been customised, while the low credenza against the wall made out of bison board, makes its own design statement. The black apple atop it is in solid stone.
In the master bedroom, there is a long wooden study table with an interesting detail on its edge, in signature Samira style. The shutters of the wardrobe are in painted Shera board. The lamp on the bedside is fixed to the wall with brackets and has a long arm descending from the ceiling. “Actually we overlooked providing an electrical point next to the bed.
Having to work with the one on the ceiling, this was our solution. We capitalise on things that go wrong, by turning them around into design assets,” says Samira. Using humble materials for statement pieces through great design and craftsmanship is a Samira specialty.
“The bath walls have in situ terrazzo, however, the guest bathroom is in a ground rough terrazzo,” says Samira. A glamorous space, the walls of the latter are clad with sheets of brass.The window is at an unusually low level, enabling a view while also retaining privacy.
In this house there are abundant examples of the subtle balance between simplicity and a healthy dose of sophistication.
“The TV room has a large flat panel TV set, meeting my father’s approval. The iconic Eames chair offers comfort for watching movies or listening to music. My father confessed that he is no hurry to leave for work and looks forward to coming home,” says Samira.
“The core of my work lies in creating small, subtle details – I enjoy them the most,” says Samira. She delights in adding beauty to some detail that may be seen only for a few seconds a day, such as the front panel of the drawer inside a wardrobe. Taking in all the detailing is like a happy journey of discovery, delighting the senses.
It’s all about the user experience and her design-led thinking and creativity, which is why her clients go to her. Good design elevates a space, it makes the ordinary distinctive. In this house, every moment is cherished and the art of living slowly is exemplified thoroughly.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Shilpa Gavane