Different Strokes

DIG Architects break away from all things conventional in their design of this Mumbai apartment by using new concepts and material strategies.


The furniture in the room — like the coffee table, dining table and crockery unit — was crafted on site using burma teak. With clean and defined lines, the pieces were customized by the design team to suit the minimalist decor. The flat screen television appears to be suspended mid-air on the surface of the study’s wall.

If there’s one phrase that residents of cookie-cutter Mumbai apartments tirelessly chant it’s ‘there’s never enough space’. But then again, Mumbaikars are also the kings of living it large in any space. Small, smaller, smallest… you name it, they’ll show you how. Economist EF Schumacher once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” And one can see how DIG Architects channelled these two qualities in designing a home within 1,000 square feet for the Bendres.

The Bendre apartment sits high on the 25th floor of the plush, 33-storey Oberoi Springs Apartments in suburban Mumbai. With an eight- and four-year-old being one half of their family, the Bendres were clear about what they wanted — a clutter-free, modern environment which would optimize the footprint of the apartment. What’s new, you may ask. Well, that’s where genius and courage step in. With the aim to make it look different, Advait Potnis, the principal architect, and his design team tackled this challenge using the Wrap and Box concept. “Initially, the flat had no clear definition of the rooms. It was ordinary. We didn’t want to do the conventional hotel-like interiors that most homes have nowadays. It had to be different, elegant and homely,” says Advait. To suit these needs, they opted for a European-style colour palette: shades of white, grey and the natural tone of wood. The flooring varies between grey vitrified tiles and wood, while the furniture underscores the minimalist ethos of the apartment. Sliding/pocket doors make a style statement; backlit Barrisol stretch ceilings and large windows light up this austere yet warm home.

Besides offering a picturesque view of the cityscape, the balcony adjacent to the living room provides the perfect place to the occupants to nurture their green thumb.

The layout of this compact house is fairly simple. Past the entrance, to the right, is the kitchen. The entry further leads to the living room, a section of which is demarcated for dining. A small passage to the right of the living room takes you through the rest of the house — the study, the master bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the bathrooms and the service area. The existing spatial configuration failed to delineate visual connections between different areas, and thus came into play an ingenious design proposition: the Wrap.

It’s not often that your eye is drawn upwards to the ceiling as you enter a ‘regular’ city flat. The Wrap does just that. It includes a spectacular sliver of light in between the sloping ceilings of the living-dining area and an elevated partition that separates the study from the dining. “It quite literally creates a wrap around the whole volume. Plus, the light streak serves as an illumination to the outer area and visually connects the rooms inside,” says Advait. The end result was impressive: not only did it define the space effectively, but also increased the area by one precious metre. Rules and regulations from the builder made them opt for gypsum board as the choice of material for the false ceiling and the raised platform of the passage, as it is lighter and easier to install.

The view outside the ‘Box’ study is blurred by the frosted acrylic door. The white interiors give the room a fresh, contemporary sensibility.

The Wrap is pierced by the Box which separates the study area from the living and dining. This cosy container of sorts seems to float, thanks to the raised structure that it is sits on. To blur the boundary between the different functional pockets, the box was given walls of frosted acrylic. Not only does this make the living room look bigger, but also adds a contemporary counterpoint to the remaining cement walls. Inside, a burma wood white shelf placed against the acrylic wall accommodates accessories, artefacts and books. The red backlit softboard is where the kids can put up crayon and felt pen masterpieces. The quaint office area also serves as a guest room.

Though austere, the kitchen exudes undeniable warmth, thanks to the grey vitrified tiles on the floor and wall, and brown quartz on the countertops. “We decided to go with this colour palette as it gives the space a warm look and also hides stains,” says Advait. Simple and fresh, the bedrooms have been designed to fulfill the needs of their occupants. The master bedroom looks sophisticated and classy in the white, brown and grey theme, while the children’s room is lively and animated and has ample space for all their childhood adventures. A low bed ensures safety for its full-of-beans users. Storage is top priority in both the rooms, so be it in the large wall wardrobes, the secret spaces under the window ledges or drawers underneath the bed, there’s enough space for all the family’s possessions.

The master bedroom, too, follows the white, grey and wood theme. Elements of geometry make an appearance here in the form of lines and textures of the wardrobe, wallpaper
and furnishings.

The artworks around the house also toe the stark line. These were generated by an architect friend Michal Piasecki using computational algorithms. With their striking geometrical patterns, the customized wallpapers in the bedroom, too, have been inspired by mathematics. While a section of the wall in the master bedroom features a triangular design in shades of brown and white, the green and white concentric circles in the children’s room are peppered with funny caricatures of cartoon characters.

The overall result of this entire exercise was more than what the Bendres expected, and the exercise itself is a tremendous learning experience for DIG Architects. It’s true… small is beautiful.

To veer away from the conventional notions of creating unique interiors and design a new kind of aesthetic using the Wrap and Box concept.

Flooring Vitrified tiles Ceiling Gypsum board Doors and windows Existing, no alterations Furniture/furnishings BoConcept

Clients The Bendres Location Mumbai Design team Advait Potnis, Amit Khanolkar and Nilesh Patil Design firm DIG Architects Partner in charge Advait Potnis Project duration 1 year Project completion April 2011

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