Beauty in Economy

Juggling the limitations of a budget and the desire to create an ever-fresh sensibility, interior designer Manmeet Arora of Mumbai-based Studio Drift creates a demure, yet stylish, home for a family of five in Orissa.

Manmeet Arora

Design wise, a carte blanche, could very well turn out to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, is a working process unhindered by too much (and often) undesired intervention. On the other hand, is the danger of an aesthetic misalignment between the creator and the receiver of that creation. A tricky situation indeed, but one, which, in the case of this sprawling Bhubaneshwar bungalow, was handled masterfully by Mumbai-based Studio Drift.

The 6,000-square-foot, three-storeyed structure is home to a family of five. On the ground floor lie the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the powder room. The private areas are accommodated on the remaining two levels: the kids’ rooms and the family lounge on the first floor, with a lavish master suite, a puja room and a terrace occupying the second level.

The well-heeled, well-travelled clients, represented by the man of the house, had only one thing to say: keep it simple. In addition to this succinct brief came a request to stay within the budget. “The challenge in this case was to convey a sense of richness through a limited palette of materials,” says interior designer Manmeet Arora, the brain behind the design. “And also to select the constituents of that palette, such that it included expensive elements, ‘tempered’ with not-so-expensive ones.”

The living room chooses comfort rather than ostentation for its personality. Colour and texture are added as overlays on a white shell constructed out of Vietnam White marble on the floor, and paint and ribbed Indian marble on the walls.

Since the project was based in Bhubaneshwar, the materials, furniture and other fixtures had to be procured from Mumbai to ensure the right quality. This also meant that the project could not afford to be a piecemeal affair. The right decisions had to be taken quickly, and the right purchases had to be made with a holistic view of the project in mind. Artefacts, furniture and building materials such as stone had to be transported, literally, by the truckload.

Spatially speaking, the house has, to a great extent, stuck to its original functional configuration. So a living room has stayed a living room, and bedrooms have remained just that. But changes were wrought within each of these pockets by bringing down walls. The decently proportioned floor-plate of 2,000-square-foot was thus psychologically enhanced. Physical separation, wherever needed (especially in public areas), was effected through transparent glass.

A smaller seating island is positioned closer to the dining area. Here, the wall is dressed in cork paper. The jaisalmer ledge serves as a display point for artefacts and a bench.

An example of this is the living-dining area, a sprawling space that was divided functionally by a bench-like block of jaisalmer topped by plate glass. The jaisalmer block serves as a display point for artefacts, or can be pressed into service as impromptu seating. “The glass also serves a practical purpose: you can section-off the spaces and optimize AC costs,” reveals the young designer. Which was important since the dining area is a double-height space, with the family lounge and the son’s room overlooking its volume.

“This section required considerable consideration as it could not be designed in isolation, merely as a dining area. We had to account for the spaces overlooking this pocket and the manner in which they could be screened off from it.” As a result the windows of the upper level are ‘dressed’ in rows of wooden fins of uneven width, which add a design element to the dining space, the family lounge and the bedroom.

Wooden fins of uneven width are used to screen off the dining from the private spaces above.

The base of the selected colour palette for the project was white, a hue that would be receptive to being layered with vibrant touches through hard and soft furnishings. In the more private spaces, such as the bedroom, this stance shifts a little, in order to give them their own personality. “The users needed to have a sense of ownership, a feeling of individualism, when it came to bedrooms,” emphasizes Manmeet. The flooring is a good example of this line of thinking. While Vietnam White flaunts its unadulterated snowy attractions in the living-dining room and other public areas, it is combined with either Oliva (a type of limestone) or hardwood (walnut) in the bedrooms. For the elder daughter, a shy young lady, the designer opted for window dressing of white-embroidered curtains teamed with shimmery grey sheers, instead of the non-fussy blinds seen elsewhere. While the son got a rustic brick wall in his study, his twin sister got a work table topped with Tosca semi-precious stone and a mosaic-work of Vietnam White and jaisalmer in her bathroom. The kids can venture out of their private domain and hobnob with their siblings in the family lounge, especially designed for this purpose. Bright cushions, vibrant artwork and commodious table and shelves make this congregational space quite pleasant. It is sectioned-off from the neighbouring staircase/elevator lobby by a delicate cane screen sourced from China.

The backdrop of the onyx bar counter is an example of nifty thrift. The wall is clad in leftover pieces of marble: Vietnam White, ribbed Indian marble and onyx. It fits beautifully in the overall scheme of teak ceiling and brass lamps.

Most of the top floor is occupied by the sprawling master suite, which comprises of two long rooms connected by a passage. Functionally, it is divided into the seating area cum lounge, the sleeping area, the dressing space and the bathroom. The first two are segregated by a ‘part wall’ that functions as a suede-covered backdrop to a study table in the lounge, and an entertainment unit on
the side of the bed. The design highlight of this suite is the wall that leads from the entrance to the interiors of the room, its surface clad in a stunning marquetry of graphic lotuses rendered in walnut wood (as the base) and white oak (as inlay). The other stunner is the bathroom, clad, almost monolithically, in yellow travertine and Ita Gold stone, singly or in a combination.

The family lounge is the gathering place for the children of the family as their bedrooms lie on this level. The slatted window looks over the dining area.

The puja area is simple, its location (you see such spaces on lower floors of bungalows or multi-level residential units) is dictated by Vastu, while the terrace sees diagonally-laid deck flooring and an onyx bar counter delicately poised on wood-encased metal legs.

“The client was a dream to work with,” reminisces Manmeet. “He was a one-point contact as he wanted the house to be a surprise for the family, especially his wife. I had perhaps a fleeting five-minute interaction with the other family members. So in effect, I had to draw upon my experience from earlier projects to work out the whys and hows when it came to personal spaces and the kitchen.” And so, we come back to the dangers of a carte blanche. But happily, Manmeet emerged out of this potentially dangerous situation unscathed… the family loved their house, and their personal spaces in particular. A happy ending indeed!


To keep things simple, and create a design whose appeal would withstand the datedness that time stamps on spaces.


Flooring Vietnam White marble (RK Marbles), Oliva (Indian stone from Art Deco), teak wood flooring (Squarefoot) Walls Natural wallpapers such as jute and cork (Kalista), textured Indian White marble (Art Deco), panelling in veneer and coloured lamination, veneer and wood marquetry and exposed red brick  


Project Residence of PK Batra Area 6,000 sq ft Location Bhubaneshwar, Orissa Principal designer Manmeet Arora Design team Studio Drift



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