A Rejuvenating Experience

Maintaining a steadfast fidelity to the intrinsic quality of space, Atelier Design N Domain rejuvenate a Gothic/Art Deco apartment by reviving existing elements and sensitively adding others — to create a home that is geared to cater to the demands of modern living.

Text: Rupali Sebastian
Photographs: © 2018 Photographix | Sebastian + Ira, courtesy Atelier design n domain

Architect Anand Menon
Architect Shobhan Kothari

In a design firm’s journey, when everything is smooth sailing, and it seems to have found a groove, there comes a project that makes them sit back, think and create something that’s a little different than what they normally do. For Mumbai-based Atelier Design N Domain (ADnD), that project is what they call The Renaissance Residence. “It rocked the boat for us,” says architect and co-founder Shobhan Kothari. “So far we’ve done work that is contemporary, bordering on the minimal. This one made us reinvent ourselves.”

The reason for this was the site itself: an apartment in a wonderful Gothic/Art Deco building in Mumbai. “As an architect, the innate need to create a space out of nothing is extremely satisfying. Working out of an urban fabric, rarely do projects with intrinsic quality of space reveal themselves,” says architect Anand Menon, the other pillar at ADnD. The elevated entrance from the road leading to a mosaic-floored corridor flanked by a wooden staircase; a carriage lift that led to the 3,400-square-foot apartment… it was love at first sight. And then, there were more treasures in the apartment itself, more vintage mosaic, gorgeous stained-glass windows and expansive rooms. “We were excited from the moment we entered,” exults Shobhan.

The linear white console in the living room is designed as a minimalist contrast to the customized flooring.

What followed was an exercise of blending this renaissance shell with the modern urban sensibilities. “At every step, we were conscious of the heritage that we had been given an opportunity to work on and rather than being empathetic about the approach we decided to be programmatically pragmatic yet sympathetic in aesthetics,” explains Anand. The need for programmatic pragmatism arose from the fact that it was a composite structure: partly load-bearing, partly concrete. Its location and age meant strictures on drastic programme changes, an emphatic no to chasing walls and floors, and being vigilant about adhering to allowed values of load-increase. “It was almost as if we were working on a heritage structure,” says Shobhan. “Unlike modern apartments where the flow is more seamless, this apartment with its load-bearing walls did not permit us to create an open-plan design,” recalls Shobhan. “Instead, we designed a flow of places as per the volumes pre-governed in the structure and looked at the adjacency of programs. Once that task was achieved, the flow of materials and aesthetics ensured that the spaces would tie up.”

The master bedroom with its chequered flooring in terrazzo tiles and large headboard. The Flos lights make for an interesting light on the side tables. This room can access the media room through its large French panel doors.

With structural changes being off limits, the architects optimized space by rationalizing allocation — which was done by simulating the family’s — a young couple and their two children — daily activities. The highlights of this exercise were the erstwhile master bedroom becoming their newborn son’s room; the bipartite living room being made into a singular entity; and the guest bedroom turning into a media room. The earlier plan also featured peripheral narrow spaces — perhaps verandahs which had been enclosed at some point — which were too narrow to turn into bedrooms and too wide to function as passages. These were transformed into a bar/lounge, the aforementioned media room; and a study. Thus, the present plan functions as a 3BHK apartment and all these ancillary areas plus a dining room. To explain the lay of the land as it were, the home has a central spinal corridor — which has been treated as an art gallery — that bisects the public zone (living room on the right; kitchen and dining to the left), the private zone (parents’ bedroom to the right; the kids’ rooms on the left), and ends at the study and the adjacent
media room.

A corner of the daughter’s room. This view looks back into the study formed in the verandah enclosed. Herringbone Nordic oak flooring is complemented with colour through upholstery and textures are achieved in felt, cotton and wool. The peg tables feature marquetry with coloured wood. While the suspended light is from Flos, the artwork is from the movie Matilda, featuring famous lines from it.

Aesthetically, it was an “easy marriage” as the lady of the house herself is avidly interested in styling and graphics. “We gelled from day one,” discloses Shobhan. “And a lot that’s gone into the project has been birthed jointly.” Besides reviving the existing flooring and stained-glass windows, the new interventions acknowledge the period architecture through wainscoting, new oak floors laid in a herringbone pattern, bold chequered terrazzo floor, graceful cornices and fluted stone surfaces. The idea was to create a neutral, versatile shell that would be warmly accepting of periodic changes of decor. While the furniture is a mix of customized and painstakingly curated European pieces, the lighting strategy features only ambient light. This is one of the few projects, say the architects, where the clients themselves did not want separate task and mood programmes, only the latter.

For Shobhan and Anand, the journey in this project has been fulfilling and rewarding. “The studio design language had to adopt and realign several times and the end result is something which we can safely say has the balance of Modern Renaissance that we set out to achieve,” they sign off.

To rejuvenate a Gothic/Art Deco space by adhering to its architectural style and update it for modern living.

Floor: Mosaic (existing; living room), chequered terrazzo (master bedroom) oak (daughter’s room, son’s room)
Windows: Stained glass (existing + sensitive additions)
Bar apron: Fluted marble
Powder room washbasin: Brass and fluted marble
Woodwork finishes: White oak, PU and Duco paint

Project: The Renaissance Residence
Location: Mumbai
Area: 3,400 sq ft
Principal architects: Anand Menon and Shobhan Kothari