The Saigal family home in Mumbai is set in lush environs, has a wonderful young structure and an old beating heart. Architect Dishaa Saigal weaves in memories, charm and loads of love, with a dash of her unique style in the redeveloped avatar of her ancestral home.
Text: Deepa Nair
Photographs: Sameer Tawde; courtesy architect Dishaa Saigal
Can you imagine the varied emotions one would go through while tearing down a 72-year-old ancestral home, and creating something new in its place? Ask architect Dishaa Saigal and she’ll give you a brick-by-brick account of the entire experience. More so because the property was really close to her heart — it was her ancestral home. Located in the one of the nicest parts of suburban Mumbai, Chembur, the old lavish bungalow was set in a plot surrounded by greens and is next to one of the oldest golfing clubs in the city, Bombay Presidency Golf Club. It was its high maintenance and wear and tear which got the Saigals thinking about bringing down the structure and constructing a 13-storeyed apartment building in its place. After the building was constructed, a penthouse spanning 3,800 square feet was reserved for the family home. Luck favoured them, their inhouse architect was fresh from college and was ready to take on her first assignment.
No, Dishaa didn’t have it easy, though she was designing for her own family. “The only and toughest brief given by my father was to bring back the essence of our ancestral home and to live up to the grandeur it had,” she informs. “I started with creating zones for the area distribution of the spaces. Our previous home had a lot of greenery, open spaces, private gathering areas for the family and plenty of natural light and ventilation. The idea was to incorporate most of these into the new house as well. I wanted to create a space that was an amalgamation of various bespoke materials combined with subtle hues and undertones to create a soulful living experience,” Dishaa adds.
The layout of the penthouse was designed as per usage — Dishaa and her parents are the primary occupants, with occasional visits from the architect’s two elder sisters and their families. Hence, the house is divided into two levels — the lower level comprises the open living-dining spaces, kitchen and storage rooms, two master bedrooms, and a 40-foot long deck area (a constant on both the floors) that separates them into private and public zones. The upper level includes an entertainment room, work zone, two guest bedrooms and a private terrace.
Though Dishaa had to adhere to strict spatial requirements, the interior design was completely left to her imagination and creativity, and she rested the space on the principal of minimalism. She wanted to use massive yet clean lines, clear spaces interspersed with dashes of green characterized by “protracted repetition of figurations.” The penthouse sees a mix of exposed cement surfaces and metal, and nurturing green in different corners of the house.
One enters into the Saigal’s family home and at once a sense of calmness sets in through its consciously chosen hue — white. All the carefully curated and created decor elements — from furniture to accessories to lighting fixtures and even ceiling fans — unveil their unique charm slowly… it’s almost like playing hide-and-seek. The architect has incorporated design highlights at regular intervals through the entire house which take you by surprise and compel you to stop and admire their beauty. Most of these are placed in the public domain — the deck, the open living and dining space and the bar corner.
For instance, the perforated screen in green, which you encounter before entering the living-dining space. Unlike wood or fabric, this one is completely crafted in cement — the core material used on walls as exposed textures — and adds a touch of traditional and classic in the otherwise contemporary look of the penthouse. That most of the other highlights of the space have a bespoke touch to them is evident. Like the single seater from brand Red Blue & Yellow that was customized to suit the mood of the two large suede sofas which were handpicked from store Furniturewala in Mumbai. While the bar stools were refurbished from the city’s famous Chor Bazaar, the side and coffee tables and the shelf were designed and fabricated on site. “The concept was to create light but overstated furniture following a certain character of clean lines and grid,” informs Dishaa.
Another engaging element of the living-dining space is the wall of irregular niches in exposed cement finish which forms the backdrop for one sofa. Being an “art fan” Dishaa wanted something unique in metal for these niches. Her search ended when she encountered a fabrication company located in Versova, in the suburb of Andheri, who seemed to be in sync with her ideas. The result of this exercise are the exclusive handcrafted sculptures in metal, which emote a story individually and as a collective. There are more such tailor-made gems — metal installations as wall art near the bar, the vintage chandeliers and artwork created from wooden frames at the deck, a bird cage which is now a lighting fixture hanging over the dining table, and then some more.
As for the bedrooms, the two master bedrooms on the lower level are designed with wood as the primary material. The use of cement jaalis as the headboard adds a certain character to the bed in one of the main bedrooms. The upper rooms have been designed with cane, natural wood and cement tiles that add traditional value to the space. Apparently most of the furniture was designed and executed on site.
The House We Call Home… as the architect likes to call her pet project “is a contemporary yet classic take for a residential scheme.” The architect’s experimentation with materials, textures and newer concepts, and systematizing them into one coherent experience, is worth an applause. Having said that, Dishaa has already got her reward — the biggest compliments flowed months back when some of the family members got to see the home for the very first time. And she is still raking in all the praise!
To design a space which brought back the charm and grandeur of the yesteryears in a penthouse which is part of a 13-storeyed building that now stands in the place of a 72-year old ancestral home.
Flooring: Vitrified tiles, cement tiles and engineered wood
Walls: Paint, textured paint
Furniture: Wood, metal, fabric, marble
Wall art: Metal and wood
Staircase: Metal plate
Lighting fixtures: Brass and metal
Project: The House We Call Home
Client: Mahesh R Saigal
Location: Chembur, Mumbai
Area: 3,800 sq ft
Principal architect: Dishaa Saigal
Civil work: Lotus
Metal work: Nihar Fabrication