The quest for quirk fun and functionality

  • Architects

  • Location

    Surat, Gujarat
  • Design team

    Niel Parekh, Pooja Shah, Grishma Gandhi
  • Civil contractor

  • Project area

    3500 Sq. Ft.
  • Initiation of project

    February 2016
  • Completion of project

    August 2017
  • Project estimate

    INR 96 Lakhs
  • Photographs

    Ishita Sitwala, The Fishy Project
October 25 / 2018

House within the house, Surat, Gujarat

Responding to a simple yet precise brief, the architects at The Company of Design (The Co.De) create a stunning interior space for a set of two separate, private apartments, one above the other, yet connected from within. With a cohesive design thread running across both flats, the design creates a cozy haven using a natural, muted palette of materials, colors and textures that imparts a timeless yet contemporary look and feel, while also introducing carefully curated elements that are fun, quirky and functional.

Text: Sharmila Chakravorty, Pooja Shah
Images: The Fishy Project
Drawings: The Company of Design (The Co.De)

Interior design is, at its core, very private, even if the project happens to be a public one. When it is residential, it becomes even more concealed. Only the few people inhabiting the house or visiting it see the work, which also runs the risk of being dismissed as simply ‘aesthetically sound’ or a collection of pretty things, or vain – a pompous expression of opulence. In fact, the problem perhaps lies in the way we are conditioned to think about architecture and design; most of the users of spaces lack the conceptual and visual sensitivity and knowledge to appreciate the beauty of our structures and the spaces within it. And yet, interior design goes beyond simply arranging a few pieces of functional furniture or decorative curios in a way that looks good. It gives the space a certain character and personality, as well as aesthetic, efficient ways to use the space better. By improving the user experience considerably, interior design often defines and guides people’s lifestyles and the way they live their life. In clichéd terms, it gives void a soul, making it a live-able and love-able space.
Infusing a quirky yet classy spirit into the interiors for one such project, the architects at The Company of Design (The Co.De) began with a simple brief. The clients – two brothers – wished to live together, but maintain their privacy. For the same, they had two flats, one above the other, in an apartment complex with different entries, yet connected from within. Thus, the clients required a common design thread to run within the two flats that were accessible by both families, yet were private apartment units on their own. To address these client concerns and requirements, the designers came up with the idea to connect both flats with a common design theme with subtle alterations that complement each other yet bind both separate units into one home – keeping alive the idea of a house within a house. The younger brother, well-travelled was inclined towards a more minimalist space whereas the elder brother desired a more rooted yet contemporary space. Their parents plan to split their time between the two brothers, so out of four, one room on each floor was to be designed for the parents.
Spatially, the lift provided by the builder was proposed to be replaced by a staircase which would connect both the floors, as when required the building lift could be used. Connecting both flats, a metal folded plate was introduced as the central element of circulation.
The idea was derived to keep the look and feel of both the floors such that their variations complement each other, while keeping the totality of the house alive.
The designers’ use of a carefully curated and balanced palette of natural finishes and materials adds homely warmth to both apartment units that are uniquely designed as single flats yet cohesive as a duplex, family home. Most walls are white, acting as a canvas for the introduction of striking colors, textures and patterns such as the raw-finish concrete wall in the living room, the brick wall near the staircase, the grey furniture, and other thoughtfully placed elements etc. Against this blank canvas, the extensive use of wood adds a natural, yet artistic touch to the spaces, sometimes reminiscent of an exciting wooden camping lodge, though with a heightened sense of luxury. The use of wood becomes a point of visual interest, arresting attention in a subtle way owing to our generic familiarity to the material. Thus, the house is minimalistic yet rich at the same time. It is modern yet classic, simple yet meticulously planned in design and execution. The addition of metal – the trellis-like blue metal on the door, the blue metal around the connecting stairwell that takes the organic shape of a tree at the second floor – brings in a rather contemporary character that elevates the overall design. The designers’ also introduce a quirky playfulness in the form of elements such as wooden cupboard door handles with birds, a light feature that grows organically from a wooden column – much like a tree, albeit with lights instead of leaves or fruits – a table that seems to be made of tree trunks joined together, and the blue metal beam that also opens up on the second floor much like a tree… these elements scattered throughout the house indicate the designers’ quest for customized functionality with a fun twist. These elements are sure to surprise visitors, as well as the residents who will always find something new, something interesting in their space.
Where the designers excel is the infusion of warmth and the feeling of ‘home’ in the apartments that work well as single units, but even better as a cohesive home. For a space that is primarily white – a color that is usually associated with cold, emptiness, and neutrality. Yet, in this house, the white plays canvas for the other design elements to take center stage. The white gives the house a sense of openness, purity, and brightness, bringing to the fore the positive aspects of otherwise detached, emotionless color. The attention to detail and wood work too are exemplary in that they add a very personal, customized and distinctive touch to the design. And overall, all these pieces of the metaphoric puzzle add up to create a very tranquil, elegant home. After all, designing interior spaces is all about utilizing design elements to create a vibe that resonates with the inhabitants and visitors, more than the placement of objects and colors to fill the space.