In Plane Sight

DIG Architects employ a series of panels to create a clutter-free, space-savvy apartment in Mumbai.


Architect Amit Khanolkar

At first glance, you’re tempted to slot this Mahim abode into the Zen category: a predominantly white canvas underscored by an earthy grey underfoot. A closer look, though, will reveal that this home is far from a state of non-attachment to material pleasures, punctuated as it is with designer furniture by the likes of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Eames. When the Ambekars approached DIG Architects to remodel their 927-square-foot residence, the brief was to convert two adjoining 1BHK apartments into a single entity that served the needs of a family of five (parents, their daughter, son and his wife). The 1980s residence had been the victim of several renovations over the years, unfortunately without much foresight or holistic planning. “The original arrangement was organic. It had come about based on the needs of the people as and when they came up. So there was no proper circulation. The residence was in dire need of a makeover — aesthetically and structurally,” elaborates Amit Khanolkar of Mumbai-based DIG Architects.

The living room comprises three functional spaces — a seating area, a dining and a guest room — all held together by a minimal material and colour palette. Additional slit windows help bring in more light.

The first step was to reinforce the cracked and corroded structural members. Once that was in place, the architect reconfigured the layout to ensure better circulation. The two main entrances (originally to either flat across the hallway) were sealed off and a new one that straddled the adjoining apartments introduced. A tiny yet distinct entrance lobby now segregates the public spaces to the left and the private ones (two and a half bedrooms) to the right. Incidentally, the lobby includes a lavish console for shoes and paraphernalia, along with a washbasin for hired help — all neatly concealed behind floor-to-ceiling sliding shutters. “We tried to minimize openings and put some pocket and sliding doors which are real space-savers,” says Amit. This handle-free feature is seen across the home, be it as mirrored shutters that create the illusion of space in the half bedroom and bathrooms, or on all-white storage units along the media wall in the living area. The public spaces comprise a living area, kitchen and powder toilet. The living area, a particularly linear space, also serves as a dining space and instant guest bedroom (courtesy a foldable screen) when needed.

One of the bedrooms was converted into a kitchen. This move required a bit of engineering as far as plumbing was concerned. “The external walls weren’t touched. Internally, though, the kitchen was planned in a way wherein the wet counter was towards the window tucked into a niche. One plumbing point was drawn from the adjacent powder toilet for the sink and washing machine,” explains Amit.

The furniture has either been custom-designed and created onsite or is a designer piece from masters such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Eames.

Three dingy toilets were freed of their attached lofts and reduced to two largish ones with their areas extended beyond the demarcated sunken slab. Consequently, the floor was raised to accommodate necessary piping and waterproofing. A third toilet was added to the son’s bedroom; the only one where the plumbing was done afresh, externally.

Other structural edits included additional slit windows in the living area and master bedroom to facilitate better natural lighting. And the raising of a window in the latter to cut off an unsightly view of the urban surroundings. While on the subject of lighting, the architect had incorporated spot lighting into the false POP ceilings in the living room and bathrooms.

The material and colour palettes used in the apartment, are in keeping with DIG Architects’ contemporary style. “Egg-white dominates; to go with that, we chose silver grey which is an Indian stone, a variant of slate,” explains Amit. Treated teak has been used as a visual break in sections such as window frames, media wall panelling, the flooring of the bedrooms and even picture frames in the master bathroom. The highlight, albeit an understated one, of this residence, however, is its secret planes. In the living area, for instance, a white laminated wall panel unfolds 90 degrees to become a dining table for four.

The bed in the son’s room sits between black-painted walls — a bold move that makes for a cosy bedroom. Note how a simple, black and white photograph of industrial pipes adds an element of depth to this area.

Another panel along the study table in the son’s bedroom pops up to reveal a mirror on its underside turning it into an instant dressing table as and when it is required. In the half bedroom, mirrors part to reveal ample storage space, while a section of the ceiling drops down to provide easy access to utilities. Finer details, like the use of an L-shaped aluminium channel as a skirting to create the impression of cantilevered walls or the juxtaposition of traditional Indian soft furnishings with minimalist modern interiors, are what set this residence apart.

And for the big finish, DIG Architects has handpicked a number of digital photographs. Themed around the subject of depth, the artworks feature abstract patterns, architectural details and unusual perspectives that take the illusion of space to another level. It makes one wonder if space really is just an illusion.


The brief was to convert two 1BHK apartments into a 2.5BHK residence that maximized space while taking care of the needs of a family of five.

Walls Satin-finish lustre paint Flooring Silver grey stone Ceiling Paint and POP (false ceiling) Furniture A mix of custom designs in teak, marine ply and core laminate, along with sourced pieces from Le Mill and Tranceforme Accessories and linen BoConcept


Project Ambekar residence Location Mahim, Mumbai Area 927 sq ft Principal designers Amit Khanolkar and Advait Potnis Senior designer Widyastuti Prabaharyaka Junior designer Gandhalee Purohit