At Home with Nature

A simpler design brief was never given, but the creative inputs from nature were bountiful. Architect Ashish Kesurvala of SAK Designs not only ceased the opportunity but delivered an impressive nature-centric, minimalist home for a family of four in Ahmedabad.

Text: Carol Ferrao
Photographs: Monika Sathe, courtesy SAK Designs

Instead of solid walls, the glass and aluminium partitions frame the green outdoors and make for an interesting backdrop to the larger-than-life formal living room.

Nothing exemplifies luxury today than a space that is at home with nature —surprisingly a way of living we have evolved away from. So how does one marry this ingrained quest with the minimalist approach of contemporary architecture? The newest example to illustrate this union is Resort Home (a name christened by the architect) in Ahmedabad designed by architect Ashish Kesurvala, the principal at SAK Designs, an architectural, interior design and landscape studio, based in the same city as the client. Whether it’s the dense neem trees at the periphery of the plot or the courtyard-style green insertions within the house, nature exists alongside the family of four that reside in this 7,000 sq ft ground plus one dwelling.

Impressed by Ashish’s previous work, the homeowners of the Resort House relied completely on the architect to envision their new home that is nestled in a gated community. The brief specified the requirements in terms of rooms, the rest was left in the architects credible hands — just the kind of opportunity creative minds seek. For Ashish, the extended brief came from the lush green surroundings that he witnessed during his first visit to the 10,800 sq ft plot. Given how rare it was to witness such greenery in the city, the architect decided to maximize its impact throughout the built form. “We decided to create plans in such a way that you get (green) views from every corner of the house. Other advantage was that the long side was facing north and we used it to get the daylight in the house in the best possible manner — eliminating the use of artificial light throughout the day, he informs.”

From the main entryway to the house, the unobtrusive and nature-centric approach of the space is amply evident. However, at the same time the green features within the house allow for privacy and veiled view of the interiors.

While the form itself is as simple as it can get — a rectangular plan with a linear flow of activities, each space unfolds to accommodate the outdoors. “The plot was linear hence the planning had to be linear and that worked to our advantage; as the design started taking shape the client realized it as well,” shares Ashish. A series of entry points facilitate different interaction with the house. A side entry from the parking side allows easy entry and exit with the car. On the rear side is the entrance for servants and other services so that the main living areas are not disturbed. The formal living room, with its expansive sliding windows, also opens the outdoors, unto the deck and the surrounding lawns.

When nature influences the interiors at every turn, how does the architecture emerge in this context? In the most unpretentious and welcoming way — if we look at the building exteriors here. “The architecture planning is such that it becomes part of the landscape. From every corner of the house one can see the surrounding and virtually it becomes indoor outdoor living,” says Ashish. A linear rectangular concrete wall stands tall to provide privacy where needed — often with courtyard-like gardens as buffers between this wall and the actual rooms, and a generous central cutout enclosed in glass which provides a sneak peak into the house without diverging much. The robust yet inviting structure also responds to the region’s harsh summer where temperatures easily touch 46 degrees. To mitigate this, the house is planned with maximum openings on the north side, which allow enough daylight but keeps the harsh sun at bay. On the south-west side, the neem trees provide shading and also cool the breeze from the south-west direction.

In the kitchen, Gray Alaska marble doubles up as the countertop too. Poly-coated shutter panels by Tiara kitchen add a subtle hint of colour to the otherwise unified material palette.

Solid walls are kept to the bare minimum on the ground floor that include the formal living room, kitchen, dining, servant’s room, guest room and a large deck that is perfect for gatherings. Instead aluminium and glass panels function as partitions and full length windows in the living areas, allowing for a seamless interaction between the indoors and outdoors. “The common approach in residential design is to divide spaces and treat every room individually which we avoided, instead we separated (rooms) by glass if required or else just merged different spaces into each other,” Ashish explains.

The room that best captures the design sense is the formal living room with its 14-feet high ceiling and glass partition on three sides that frame the greenery around. No wonder the experience of this room stays with visitors — a compliment like no other. In the evening, sunlight is filtered by the neem trees and cool breeze invites everyone to make memories here — the room could very well be the heart of the home. And for bigger gatherings, the room opens up to a large deck. “Winters are fun in this region where lot of gatherings happen and for that we planned the deck in a corner with green surroundings which can help evening or early morning get-togethers of family and friends,” smiles the architect.

Even with its simple material play, the master bedroom still exudes a luxurious charm, mainly because the high-quality materials and finishes are beautifully offset by the natural greens around.

As one moves up to the first floor that accommodates a study and three bedrooms with attached walk-in closets and washrooms, the tryst with nature continues. “The colour palette of the bedrooms were kept to soft pale white as we didn’t feel like adding more to the effect of marble, wood and concrete. These materials were creating enough of an interesting ambiance. A splash of yellow in kids, light purple in the master bedroom was just (enough),” points out Ashish. The common study, like the formal living room, benefits from a 180 degree view of the landscape, with bare minimum furniture and restrained material palette making nature central to the aesthetics of the space. The most captivating, however, are the individual washrooms that are mostly sky-lit and enjoy a private interior green-scape — altogether complementing the sleek bath fixtures and the neutral surfaces.

It’s amazing how a basic brief, handed trustingly to an architect, can result in a home that is anything but basic — all because nature was the guiding force.

CONCEPT
A modern home where the design language is intrinsically nature-centric, complemented by a minimalistic approach that creates a seamless indoor-outdoor living.

MATERIALS
Floor: Grey Alaska Marble and Pergo wooden floor
Walls: Exposed concrete or plastered
Ceiling: Exposed concrete, wooden and gypsum false ceiling in bedrooms
Staircase: Exposed concrete folded slab with wooden treads and risers
Display Units: A solid wood unit with mountain landscape carved on the shutters
Partitions: Aluminium and glass, wooden veneer

FACT FILE
Project: Living in the lap of nature
Location: Ahmedabad
Area: 10,800 sq ft
Built area: 7,000 sq ft
Principal architect: Ashish Kesurvala
Design team: Jinal Kantharia, Trupti Shah
Fabricator: HIFAB aluminum