Bespoke Brilliance

Aamir & Hameeda Interior Designers craft a home for a Hyderabad-based family that is practical, stylish, whimsical and warm… on a limited budget.

Text: Rupali Sebastian
Photographs: Ricken Desai, courtesy Aamir & Hameeda Interior Designers

Architect Aamir Sharma

A 4,000-square-foot duplex in Banjara Hills. A limited budget. The brief: bright colours, good energy, natural materials. A connection with old Hyderabad. You’d think architects Hameeda Sharma and Aamir Sharma, and the team at their eponymous, prolific and multiple award-winning firm, would find this assignment smooth sailing. The truth, in fact, was it made them go — quite literally — back to the drawing board and begin from scratch. The project in question is the home of a hybrid family unit: Maya Patel and Ramesh Patel, their two kids and dog Simba, around whom the rest of the family revolves.

Being engaged in the business of plywood, hardware and veneers, Ramesh had many architects to choose from, but he went with Aamir & Hameeda Interior Designers (AANDH) “because he wanted an apartment with bright colours, good energy and at the same time he wanted it with natural materials,” says Aamir. So far so good. And then, the twist: “He wanted most of the apartment customised to fit and nothing ready-made,” he reveals. “He wanted everything made in India and nothing imported.” It was a difficult project for them, admits the architect.

This design of this home is centered around consciousness towards budget, a ‘made in India’ sensibility and references to old Hyderabad.

The apartments were very compact — they were two units, stacked atop each other, which were later connected by opening up portions of the slab — and the demands, especially when it came to storage, were a lot. The design team had to put the thinking cap quite firmly on their heads. “Maya… had so much of stuff to store… We had to balance the design with her storage and the aesthetics. We literally had to go back to the drawing board as most of the homes we design today are (made) with readymade furniture and storage options,” says Aamir.

Programmatically speaking, the lower (public) level houses a drawing room, a home theatre, a spacious kitchen, a dining area, a guest room and a puja room. The bedrooms belonging to the family — one master and two children’s — and a small lounge are accommodated on the first floor. In addition to the physical connection of a staircase, the two levels are visually linked by two cut-outs in the slab: one near the dining area, and the other between the two balconies. These create an interesting play of heights within the compact, urban environment.

Near the staircase, the flooring changes to a custom terracotta surface sourced from Pondicherry.

Ramesh’s desire for weaving references to old Hyderabad — where he grew up — in his home was articulated as large rocks, “hand-picked from project sites, excavated, collected and then hand dressed to size to fit the design requirement,” says Aamir. These now function as large focal points in the design: some of them are installed near the base of the staircase and seem to emerge out of the floor; others, sliced up, clad the double-height wall near the dining area. Other elements of the material palette are texture paint-covered plywood surfaces, wallpapers, vitrified tiles, terracotta tiles, natural stone and metal elements, with wood making a cameo appearance via certain surfaces and elements such as the top of the dining table, the wooden floor of the son’s bedroom, and wall-mounted log slices, among other. “I think the client was saturated with wood and wood products since he deals with them daily… therefore such a palette,” reasons the architect. Bright pops of colour sprinkled throughout the house reinforce the air of unpredictability.

The double-height wall of the dining area is adorned with hand-dressed slices of rocks — a reference to old Hyderabad where the man of the house grew up. In between the rocks is the gayatri mantra, on a hand scripted panel etched on stone. The artwork is hand-painted on wood.

Rocks and wood slices are just two instances of the unexpectedness and a certain whimsy that marks the design. The dining table rests at one end on an I beam, and at the other, on a scooped-out stone planter. The headboard of the bed in the master bedroom scales up the walls as a series of panels with different types of wicker weaves. The walls of the son’s room are cladded with raw logs to hang his roller blades as the young boy is a national level skating champion. A part of the ceiling in his room, again, features an enormous photograph of him with his beloved Simba. The puja room and the adjacent home theatre share a sliding door, which closes any one room at a time. The powder room features a vintage WC with an overhead cistern and a hand-pulled flush, besides the artwork of an irate Mona Lisa. All these only establish the highly tailor-made nature of the project, in which most of the furniture has been customised by AH Studio, AANDH’s furniture design arm.

A troop of langurs adds a sense of whimsy to the staircase wall.

Art, in fact, makes quite an impact in various areas: one corner of the home theatre flaunts a delicate artwork of birds perched on flower-laden boughs; the drawing room has a small wooden hand-painted panel while the double-height dining wall features something similar, in a far bigger size; the focal point of the daughter’s bedroom is a beautiful Parisian vignette hand-painted behind her bed; and the puja room is graced by a resplendent canvas painting of Balaji. The conversation-stopper, however, is the panel that runs along the staircase wall, featuring a troop of langurs. Why langurs? “Because they bring in a sense of energy and happiness; they are family-oriented and… happy beings,” replies Aamir.

While large potted plants scattered throughout the house bring in a sense of freshness, the work of connecting the urban living space with greens fell upon the balconies. “So we made a cut-out in the slab to link the balconies on the lower and upper floors and asked landscapists Pinewood Studio to help out. Their vision of a vertical garden with brass-casted leaping frogs really worked well.”

The daughter’s fondness for Paris is responsible for Hoozinc’s hand-painted art on the wall. The Art Deco sofa, too, is something she selected and was customised for the room — as is the bed. The ceiling is wallpapered, while the floor is lined with vitrified tiles.

Which areas of this unique ‘made in India’ home have resonated with the architect and his clients the most? While the family is fond of the dining room with the rocks, Aamir loves the entire home, because he “managed to fulfill all the needs and requirements of the clients.” And truly, what more could a creator wish for!

To create a customised, ‘made in India’ home that would refer to old Hyderabad, within a limited budget.

Floor: Vitrified tiles, wood and terracotta tiles
Walls: Paint, wallpaper, stone slices and wood slices
Ceiling: Paint, wallpaper and photograph print
Furniture: Wood, metal and texture-paint covered plywood

Project: Stellar House
Clients: Maya Patel and Ramesh Patel
Location: Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Area: 4,000 sq ft
Principal architect: Aamir Sharma
MEP: Veeresh
Interior contracting: Abhishek Khanna
Furniture: AH Studio
Artists: Hoozinc, Srikant Babu