The making of space – through light and colour

October 26 / 2018

Apartment 601, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Maximizing space in an apartment located in space-starved Mumbai, Kayzad Shroff and Maria Leon of SHROFFLEoN have transformed the existing apartment into one that is timeless in its aura, reflecting the personality of the inhabitants, and adhering to their preferences of having whiteness in the house along with abundant natural light.

Text: Sharmila Chakravorty
Images: Fabien Charuau
Drawings - SHROFFLEoN

The city of Mumbai is a constant fight for space. Be it on the roads in traffic where vehicles fight to inch ahead, in the trains and busses where commuters fight to keep their footing, or in the urban fabric where the concrete jungle encroaches upon green, open spaces. This struggle for space also extends into Mumbai’s houses. Though there are a few who are blessed with villas and bungalows with private gardens, a vast majority is struggling on a daily basis to accommodate themselves into match-box sized houses. In fact, this constant struggle for space is so deeply ingrained in Mumbai’s psyche that you hardly bat an eyelid anymore. Yes, there is a severe, crippling lack of space, but the important question to ask is – what are you going to do about it?
Displaying remarkable resilience and optimism in spite of the urban blight that the city suffers from, architects and designers working on Mumbai projects have adapted to the limiting conditions that the city offers, working within the parameters to create the illusion of space, if not space itself! This makes Mumbai’s designers a rather interesting tribe that specializes in finding the silver lining to every dark space-starved cloud, and opening up cramped spaces to impart a sense of lightness and airy grandeur that was hitherto hidden under layers of inefficient design. Thus, the quest for maximizing space in the most efficient manner is perhaps what sets designers working in Mumbai apart.
Case in point is the Napean Sea Road apartment in Mumbai that was refurbished by Kayzad Shroff and Maria Leon of SHROFFLEoN. The 1100 square feet, sea-facing apartment designed decades ago needed a facelift; one that gave it the illusion of being larger, more open, and washed the interior spaces in fresh natural light – classic strategies to maximize spaces to make them appear larger than they are. To begin with, the designers identified that the old 3’ x 4’ windows were outdated, and a hindrance for natural light to illuminate the space. Thus, the façade was opened up by introducing French windows – floor-to-ceiling glass windows – that brought abundant natural light inside the house.
The clients – a couple in their late 40s – share the house with his parents and two teenaged daughters. Thus, the existing apartment was used by a larger joint family, and had to be reconfigured to accommodate the client and his family. Their primary concern was for the rooms in the house to become larger, minimizing the circulation space, along with a possibility of making the bathrooms more luxurious.
The original configuration was dismantled to create a larger living room, bedrooms, and toilets as per the clients’ requirements. They were also very keen on the house being ‘white’, and so, the color white runs throughout the house, almost like a theme. As a sensory perception, color has the power to produce effects that are symbolic, associative, synesthetic, and emotional. It is perhaps why color therapy and color psychology have flourished in contemporary times. Even in the architecture and design world, color is no longer just a decorative element.

White, for instance, exudes a clean, crisp, and bright vibe that adds to the openness created by bringing in natural light by helping diffuse light sources and reduces shadows. For the clients’ house, it also provides an excellent canvas to insert elements with detailing and textures that will complement the space. Thus, the sudden pop of color – teal dining chairs, green plants around the house, bright yellow chairs in the bedroom, blue floor mat besides the bed – becomes pleasant additions that actually stand out because of the white background. The overall muted tones and colors of the furniture, walls, and flooring blend together wonderfully to further the spaciousness agenda, as well as the classic, timeliness luxury that the interiors convey.
Overall, the designers have transformed the house into a contemporary chic space, large and airy, awash with natural light. Not only creating spaciousness in the house, SHROFFLEoN have also redefined the program for the house to best suit the current inhabitants. Every piece of furniture seems like it belongs within the larger scheme of things. There is especially the feeling of being a ‘home’ for a family. While the use of white as the dominant color sometimes results in unwanted psychological and physiological effects, the designers have successfully introduced other elements that offset the clinical emptiness of white and add warmth and character, reflecting the personality of the inhabitants of the house.