Kavan Shah Design Studio’s Grey Box is a seamless display of art and textures in a minimalist setting.
Mumbai based Kavan Shah Design Studio (KSDS) is, in their words, a “whimsical” design firm intent on focusing on the narrative that is singular to a particular space. The Grey Box is an extension of a house in Mumbai where art, textures and textiles coexist to create a narrative that reflects even beyond its existing space constraints.
Speaking exclusively to Home Review, Kavan Shah says that a spatial designer’s greatest challenge today is “the creation of meaningful places for gratifying user experiences.” The Grey Box has been designed keeping in mind the owners’ hospitable nature, with comfortable spaces to host friends and family, and simultaneously serving as a wonderful display of art.
The space is similar to an art studio and amalgamates simplicity with luxury with ease. This has in turn transformed the space into a warm and inviting home with luxurious and fantastical elements too. What KSDS has managed to do is create a sublime, abstract, yet seamless representation of the passage of time.
The existing layout was restructured and was made to appear more “inward looking” in order to give it a different and singular concept. This is observed in the way Kavan Shah deals with exploring the “narrative” that is typically reflective of a space. The Grey Box’s interior and exterior share an intricate relationship that makes the space interact with the surroundings.
Shah is greatly inspired by Geoffrey Bawa, who is renowned for blending the interior and exterior of a space. With the landscape effectively coming into play with the interior spaces, the Grey Box is a stellar example of Bawa’s signature style. Shah takes this a step further by having even the bathroom open out to the landscaped view.
One of the biggest challenges Kavan Shah faced in designing the Grey Box was trying to figure out “how to divide a square box with existing floating structural members.” He goes on to say, “We extended this fractured geometry to harmonise with other spaces in the plan. Using these fractures and angles, we made a barrier against direct view to the room, and created a space in front of each room entrance.”
Shah adds, “During the design process, minimalism and honesty in detail and materials became the ultimate challenge.” Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Grey Box is the way grey concrete walls sublimely highlight the geometric layout and angles of the rooms.
Fresh and unabashedly unpredictable, these patterns and textures are characteristic of Shah’s design philosophy. He says, “My approach has been to support the application and critical questioning of our relationship with physical spaces, in reference to the specific phenomenological and cultural architectural design.” This concretised geometrically aligned narrative of the Grey Box is a perfect setting for a display of shadow and light, courtesy of the sunlight filtering through the teak staircase.
One of the main objectives while designing the Grey Box was “to accentuate the different programs of the house by establishing a relationship to the exterior.” It is masterfully connected to the interior space with a cantilevered teak stairwell. Since, self-finish materials only age better with weathering and exposure, a monochromatic palette of concrete, namely grey, and Burma teakwood have been used for both the interior as well as exterior spaces.
The Grey Box’s artistic character emerged from a constant interaction between the owners and KSDS. The owners, a couple whose interests extend towards contemporary art and textile, were quite particular that their home should be reflective of their tastes. In this vein, the Grey Box is a veritable gallery of art – from a rare photograph of Fatehpur Sikhri by Nasreen Mohamedi and Bajots from Kutch, to Thotta Tharani art and batik textiles, and even paintings by lesser-known artists too. The most prominent artistic element is a Mughal arch, dating back to the 17th century, sourced from Saurashtra.
The other side of the arch nestles a library and a bar. Even the versatile lighting has been designed keeping in mind various moods and occasions – from dim and romantic settings to a warm and inviting ambience that prominently highlights each piece of art on display. As for the exterior, dramatic lighting highlights the landscape to perfection juxtaposed against the cantilevered teak stairwell.
As we talk about the landscape, one particular area in the house that wonderfully compliments the designer as well as the owners’ natural and artistic aesthetics, is the tree from the picture window – a beautiful view that cuts out the hustle and bustle of urban city life, while maintaining the privacy and artistic sensibilities of the owners.
With the Grey Box, Kavan Shah Design Studio has effectively created a haven nestled in urban settings, yet separated from its chaos on the whole.
Text By Priyanka Menon
Photographs Kavan Shah Design Studio