Brimming with Brio

Sophisticated and vivacious, a 8,400-square-foot Gurugram penthouse designed by architect Akshat Bhatt-led Architecture Discipline embodies eclectic luxury, orchestrated as a series of stylish composites.

Text: Rupali Sebastian
Photographs: Jeetin Sharma, courtesy Architecture Discipline

The living room, with its offbeat decor.

“One of the things we keep in mind is that it’s a home, and not just a showcase for something,” says architect Akshat Bhatt in a 2015 internet interview about one of his residential projects. “A new space is an opportunity to live differently. When you allow people unusual experiences, and if they are broadly pleasant, you will find that they will engage with it.” And different, experiential and engaging are just the adjectives you’d use for the penthouse project he’s recently completed in a premium luxury condominium in Gurugram.

“The site was a typical developer apartment,” informs the principal at New Delhi-based Architecture Discipline, “it lacked character and the design, specification and the finish quality was not in keeping with the price of the place.” While, at 8,400 square feet, the footprint provided plenty of playing field, poor planning and circulation made it difficult to use in a flow. “The place lent itself to rooms and not a sequence of spaces,” says the architect. However, it had one redeeming quality — natural light, and plenty of it. And that is what they decided to work with.

The dining room features a black-stained teak table accompanied by Indo-French-style chairs in brass and red.

The brief was simple: to transform the space into a home for a young family that had lived in London for many years. The house was to have character and lend itself to growing children (intellectually) and for a young well travelled couple to entertain in. The design team decided to approach this project like a series of practical installations arranged as an experiential sequence. “An unstructured/ad hoc aesthetic is always a little difficult to explain as you have to eyeball a lot of things; it’s usually about the logic of detail, scale and proportion,” reveals the architect when asked how easy or difficult it was to convince the client to see things from his perspective. “This requires some explanation especially for the untrained eye. Once you’re on board though, it’s a fun ride. The convincing wasn’t difficult.”

Limited envelope changes were the only real challenge in the project as it involved restraint. “There’s always something you can do better when you’re working for individual programmes as opposed to mass building,” says Akshat. The alterations involved a few non-structural civil changes to enhance spatial flow of the unkempt space. Programatically speaking, the public zone (guest room, study, living room, dining area and kitchen) takes up the first level; the bedrooms (one master plus two children’s) with their en suites constitute the second level, with the terrace forming the last storey.

The black-painted, teak-accented staircase. The portion below the stairs is coloured a vivid red, and the staircase itself is painted with alternating coats of black and red. Over time, the uppermost black layer will wear down to expose the red undercoat, and the staircase will get a striking distressed finish. Copious amounts of sunlight from the terrace that abuts this hallway ensures that the stairwell is adequately lit through the day. At night, it’s the customized track lights — featuring delicate glass shades on hammered brass pipes — that come into play.

The house features a stunning neo-baroque interior with a decor that can be best described as festive, majestic and flamboyant. An in-depth knowledge of materials and surfaces provided the architect with the requisite tools to realize his unique vision of space planning. Wrapped up with frosted film, the glass-and-perforated metal entrance door provides some privacy to the family whilst giving a hint of the house to the visitors even before they enter. The glow of natural light on the door keeps varying throughout the day which gives it a transposable character. Right in the entrance lobby is a double-height bookshelf which acts as a memory shelf for the owner’s collectibles. The entrance lobby is perspective-driven wherein the bookshelf and the flooring pattern heighten the sense of depth and draw the eye of the visitor to the end of the hallway. Brass lamps are placed such that they further accentuate the linear movement. Next to the double-height bookshelf is a study that maximizes daylight penetration and uses that to a dramatic effect to enhance the overall scale and experience of the apartment.

The colour palette of the living room pivots between the shades of natural grey, metallic grey, ivory and indigo that gives the visitors a peek into the owner’s psyche — part trendy, full revolutionary. The living room is organically connected to the dining area. Elements like an Indo-saracenic-style sofa, origami bowls for displaying items and Indo-French-style brass-back dining chairs help maintain a modern-classic typology. In addition to customized track lighting featuring delicate glass-domed lights fitted along pounded brass pipes, hand-blown glass and cast glass light fixtures finished in brass illuminate the dining and living room. The bar is wedged between these two spaces, instilling a feeling of openness and continuum throughout the first floor.

The painted timber wall injects a sense of joie de vivre into the daughter’s room.

Both, the living and dining areas overlook decks: the dining room spills into a small balcony with a luscious red bench that echoes the hue of the red and gold dining chairs; while the living room is visually connected to a deck delineated with seasoned pinewood on the parapet walls and floor. This balcony, which can be accessed from the hallway, ventilates the central portion of the house and also acts as a light well. The corroded MS bowl in the terrace was purposely exposed to express its natural aesthetic. Next to it lies a wrought-iron dining table, a sibling (in form) of the teak dining table inside.

From the hallway, a staircase poised above a vibrant red-painted floor, takes you to the next level. Furnished with a teak-finish balustrade, this connecting element is painted black with an undercoat of red, so that over time and with continued use, it will assume a pleasing distressed appearance. The bookshelf element continues on the next level, too, and directs the focus on the master bedroom door made out of antique teak. Inside the room, a floor-to-ceiling upholstered headboard, featuring a dark coloured ground with pink and green flowers and leaves, adds a generous dose of whimsy. Following the footsteps of the bookshelf and maintaining the connection between the public and private, the wardrobe separates the living and the bathroom of the master bedroom.

The master suite: a floral fabric-upholstered headboard imbues the space with elegant whimsy

With a Goldilocks bed, an animated dressing table and a multi-coloured painted-timber wall, the daughter’s bedroom blossoms straight out of a fairy-tale. A glass panel in the study area was specially put in to receive her creative outpourings, as well as cater to studies, leaving behind the conventional way of studying on a table — thus making the space more playful and open to expressions. Bleached grey flooring expressed with nude lavender shades tempers the vibrancy of multi-hued wall. On the other, the flooring in the son’s room is science-inspired and works well with a painted teak bunk bed and the blue acoustic wall behind it.

The bathrooms throughout the house feature cuddapah stone on the floor and dados, with gold-plated fixtures and Sabyasachi wallpapers to add warmth and personality. Dominating the terrace and the pool is the den on the third floor, presenting an arresting picture with its black and grey sofas sitting against a wall of sea green and dull gold finish. The den was consciously placed in isolation, at a higher level than the other rooms, so that the family could spend moments of togetherness undisturbed by the routine of daily activities.

This stylish residence with its aesthetic vignettes is an oasis of calm in a bustling urban setting. Following an “eclectic luxury” approach that is both progressive and modern, the design juxtaposes well-designed modern architecture with a melange of furniture and art to spectacular effect.

To create a characterful residential space for a young family that lend itself to growing children (intellectually) and for a young well-travelled couple to entertain in.

Main door: Perforated metal sheet and glass
Floor: Parquet
Bookshelf: Wood
Staircase: Epoxy paint and timber
Dining table: Black-stained teak
Outdoor furniture: Wrought iron with marble-topped table
Deck cladding: Seasoned pinewood

Project: P1B IVY
Location: Gurugram
Area: 8,400 sq ft
Principal architect: Akshat Bhatt
Design team: Kashika Nanda
Lighting contractor: Blit