Elemental Elegance

Sumessh Menon Associates take customization to a new level, and infuse this Mumbai apartment with an intensely crafted air.

 

Interior designer Sumessh Menon
Interior designer Sumessh Menon

You know your work speaks for yourself when people, previously unacquainted with you, keenly go through your portfolio and put their stamp of approval by awarding you with a commission. This is exactly how a Mumbai-based family decided to entrust the task of designing their expansive 4BHK apartment to Sumessh Menon Associates. “They saw my work for a restaurant in Manhattan and one in Mumbai, plus an apartment at Worli Seaface,” says interior designer Sumessh Menon when quizzed about how he landed this job. The project entailed converting a typical, builder-provided, assembly-line flat into something that would “reflect an upmarket lifestyle, be creative and innovative, and have a different look in every room”… words extracted from the clients’ wishlist. Barring that, it was largely up to the designer to embody these intangibles into an aesthetic entity that would draw appreciative murmurs during the regular ‘dos’ that the clients were keen on hosting in
their home.

The spatial arrangement was mostly left untouched as, “I don’t believe in reclaiming sunken slabs; they’re sure to cause a problem sooner or later,” says Sumessh. The minor tweaks that did happen, however, include changing the direct entry of the bathrooms into the bedrooms. “We created an anteroom of sorts to avoid this,” discloses the designer. They also enlarged the kitchen by borrowing space from an adjacent utility passage, and created a study in place of the fourth — and obsolete — bedroom. “The clients needed two bedrooms for themselves, a master and a children’s room, and the third room became the guest room. Therefore there was no need for an additional bedroom.”

The public domain is divided into the dining area with a bar to the side and the living room. The former sees a play of materials and textures, while the latter is relatively sedate. The thread of continuity between the two, however, are the gold accents in the furniture and the light fixtures.
The public domain is divided into the dining area with a bar to the side and the living room. The former sees a play of materials and textures, while the latter is relatively sedate. The thread of continuity between the two, however, are the gold accents in the furniture and the light fixtures.

Were you to break down the programmatic arrangement into an easy-to-understand format, you’d get, starting from the entrance and with the part-imaginary, part-reality passage that originates from it as the central axis, the study (the erstwhile fourth bedroom) and the kitchen to the left and the guest room to the right; followed by the dining area/bar to the left with the living room and its attendant outdoor deck across that block; and finally the private domain comprising the son’s room on the left and the master bedroom on the right.

Sumessh chose the word bespoke as a convergent point between the demands for an upmarket space, creativity and innovation. He treated this project as common ground for art and decor, where surfaces became recipients of eye-catching treatments, and furniture and lighting fixtures were created or chosen to fit the stylish, customized theme. Commensurate with the nature of the scheme, materials became points of intense scrutiny. “For instance, the clients wanted only the best marble for the floor. After much hunting and checking (people palm off other stone under this name), we finally laid our hands on genuine Statuario,” reminisces Sumessh. Similarly, the onyx that was to go up in the entrance couldn’t be the regular Tiger Onyx that one sees commonly, but a difficult-to-source variety, with the final selection bearing dramatic grains that glow like streaks of lighting when back-lit.

The geometric forms — prisms, lattices and faceted surfaces — that dominate this section are actually echoes of the faceted console whose top is seen in the photograph. A Meseiro chandelier is suspended over a dining table whose edge features a fusion of glass and mirror.
The geometric forms — prisms, lattices and faceted surfaces — that dominate this section are actually echoes of the faceted console whose top is seen in the photograph. A Meseiro chandelier is suspended over a dining table whose edge features a fusion of glass and mirror.

Which brings us to the points of aesthetic debate between the designer and his clients that this project bore witness to, notwithstanding the carte blanche given to the former. “The onyx is a case in point. The clients were keen on back-lit onyx, but for me that orangey glow would’ve been too reminiscent of sundry hospitality projects, especially if we’d used the regular variety. So while I was okay with the idea of backlighting, I did insist on something different. The showstopper therefore became this large sheet of back-lit lightening onyx stretching across the passage wall, which when lit up from behind resembles fissures of burning hot magma seeping out through cracks on the earth’s crust (or as the name suggests, lightening streaking across a stormy sky). My clients got their backlit onyx and I got what I wanted,” Sumessh smiles. The second space that took a bit of convincing was the son’s room, which the designer enjoyed working on the most. He went for a masculine look, dominated by greys and wood tones. “The clients thought it would turn out very drab and were very skeptical about the entire look. But once the materials were given their final finishing, the real beauty emerged, much to their satisfaction… and mine.”

The outdoor deck, a warm and informal extension of the living area, has tobacco brown Italian marble flooring, a back-lit wooden trellis on the ceiling, sculptural wall with a tough bumpy texture and Indonesian rattan furniture.
The outdoor deck, a warm and informal extension of the living area, has tobacco brown Italian marble flooring, a back-lit wooden trellis on the ceiling, sculptural wall with a tough bumpy texture and Indonesian rattan furniture.

Thinking of a bespoke theme that married art into decor was all very well, but this intensely crafted space needed craftsmen for it to reach its aesthetic conclusion. “That was a challenge,” reveals Sumessh. “We had to source people from different places… The door of the pooja area needed someone from Jaipur; that of the main entrance needed a person from Delhi. There was mirror-work, stone-work, carvings…” For instance, in the son’s bathroom, Serpeggiante Italian marble arranged in 4” X 4” pieces are carved so that four pieces form a set, and the wall takes on an undulating appearance much like strips of paper woven together. And the large multi-drawer unit near the entrance to the master bedroom has a three-dimensional mirror, faceted and interspersed with a diagonally chequered grid of back-painted glass. “All this needed skill and precision.”

The son’s room sports a masculine air and is dominated by greys and wooden tones. Leather makes an appearance as a herringbone patterned headboard, teamed with upholstery to create additional texture. The pattern continues into the niche in the false ceiling too.
The son’s room sports a masculine air and is dominated by greys and wooden tones. Leather makes an appearance as a herringbone patterned headboard, teamed with upholstery to create additional texture. The pattern continues into the niche in the false ceiling too.

The clients’ request for a change of looks between rooms prompted Sumessh to style the study and guest room along classical lines, the master and son’s rooms on contemporary ones, and the living-dining block on a classic-contemporary scheme. Within each pocket, the interior designer maintained a sense of cohesiveness by repeating colours and motifs. For example, a pair of gold-leafed paintings depicting the left and right palms and dating back to the 17th century forms the focus of the dining area and is the inspiration for the accent gold colour around the room. So the grey lacquered and faceted sideboard with a grey onyx top is adorned with customized dye-cast and gold-plated handles, while the Meseiro chandelier suspended above the dining table has a 3½’ gold ring base. The facet motif is continued onto the dining chairs, while the 5½’ square dining table with a hand-sculpted glass fascia has a base that is a gold-plated chequered grid. The chequered wooden grid ceiling above the dining table is seen again in the powder room, and also carries forward in a modified avatar into the deck area.

For Sumessh, attention to detail is an inextricable part of his work methodology. But for this project particularly, it was all about details and customization as well. The whole effort seems to have hit the bull’s eye… since he’s just been given another project, a larger one this time, by the same clients!

 

CONCEPT
To create a highly customized home that would be luxurious yet functional. To employ mixed media and natural stone that would render a feel that was high on craftsmanship, materiality and atmosphere.

 

MATERIALS
Flooring: Stataurio marble (living/dining), hardwood sourced Beautex(bedrooms)
Walls: Paint (throughout the home), Lightening onyx (entrance lobby), MDF cut-outs (living room), wooden paneling (dining area), wallpaper (guest room), Serpeggiante marble (son’s bathroom) and subway tiles (kitchen dado)
Headboards: Leather
Lighting: Meseiro (dining), Artemide (living), Flos (guest room). Flos and Philips (downlighters, pinspots and wall-washers)
Furniture: Wood, glass, mirror and stone

 

FACT FILE
Location: Mumbai
Carpet area: 2,600 sq ft
Principal designer: Sumessh Menon
Design team: Nishant Desai and Namita Potnis
Wood flooring: Beautex
Air-conditioning: Diakin
Furniture: Aesthetics and Pinakin
Paint: Asian Paints
Glasswork: Khozem Glass
Marble: Flora Marble

 

Some more images…