The Right Measure of Modernity

Interior designer Hiral Jobalia creates contemporary sophistication with great attention to materials and finishes in this Jaipur duplex.


People move house for a variety of reasons. A larger space. Proximity to the work place. To be near a loved one. Children’s education. However sometimes, the reason may not be exactly positive. Like this well-heeled family from Jaipur who was used to a sprawling house but due to the dearth of good staff, made the shift to an apartment complex. The move was imminent and practical, given the maintenance angle. But this didn’t mean that they let go of their penchant for villa-living. In fact, that was the most important requirement that this family of five put forth to Mumbai-based interior designer Hiral Jobalia who was entrusted with the task of designing the apartment.

Striking Brazilian granite sets the stage for a contemporary composition. The dimensions of the current living-dining area have been augmented by taking in a superfluous bedroom. Seen here is the informal seating and dining space, featuring furniture from Georgetti, Poltrona Frau and Pulpo. At the far end is the staircase that connects the two levels of this duplex.

“I already knew the family, so the comfort factor was already established. They’re into imported stone; and they’re used to a certain spaciousness in their living environment. So, when the time came to move into an apartment, they naturally sought the same feeling in their new house,” says Hiral. In addition to this, the well-travelled clients needed interiors that were with the current trends. Other than these two specifications, the family was only too glad for the designer to get on with his work.

The site identified for the big shift was actually two 3-bed units stacked atop one another. The plan was to internally connect the two, create a duplex, and segregate the levels into a (lower) public zone and an (upper) private zone. “The lower level would house the living, dining, kitchen, utilities and a guest bedroom; while the upper level would accommodate a personal lounge and three bedrooms. The duplex lies adjacent to a small deer park, and the living room and the master bedroom really enjoy great views. This goes a long way in creating the villa feel,” discloses Hiral.

The staircase block is the designer’s favourite. To alleviate the compactness of this pocket, he opted for a light-on-the-eye stairwell of wood and glass. The wooden risers are sandwiched between plates of glass, with the supporting hardware hidden with the help of wooden caps at both ends.

The site, when he received it, was in a more or less raw state. The walls were finished, but the flooring had yet to be done. Since the lower level was going to be a public one, there was a fair amount of spatial re-planning that happened. One bedroom went towards creating a large living-dining space. Another went into expanding the kitchen and creating a pooja room. Both floors had to make space for the staircase block.

The direction for the interior treatment was set, strangely enough, by the flooring. “There was the usual choice of white and cream, but we didn’t want those. Since the client was in the business of imported stones, we had access to exclusive, rare varieties. After a quest of two months, he liked a granite from Brazil. It is a strong looking stone, and since the flooring is a large expanse, it would impact the interiors in a big way. We decided to go for it, and use the flooring itself as a design tool.”

The family lounge has a indulgent, casual air. It also exemplifies the designer’s attempt to create a gradient from dark to light, starting from the interestingly grained Brazilian granite to the plain white ceiling. Furniture by Poltrona Frau (Gran Torino sofas) and Molteni & C (45o /Tavolo).

This meant that other elements (that is, the walls, ceiling and the furniture) would necessarily have to be a little muted. “I decided to create a gradient from light to dark, from the floor to the ceiling. So the floor is the darkest, the furniture gets a little lighter, and the ceilings are, for the most part, white.” With the colour scheme being pivotal to the success of the project, Hiral decided to opt only for imported natural stone since “we simply would not have got the right colours in the Indian varieties.”

When asked about his favourite space in a project that is clearly close to his heart, Hiral picks out two: the staircase block and the family lounge on the first floor. “The staircase has worked out really well. It was a difficult space to design, given its small footprint. This meant that we had to keep it light, and I think we’ve been quite successful in this.” Created out of wood and glass, the wooden risers appear to float in thin air. But within each step is sturdy hardware, secreted in a wooden casing, and fixed to glass-plate bannisters. And when it comes to the family lounge, it wins because of its casual elegance, feels the designer. “It’s divided into two seating zones and uses a bevy of elements by way of furniture and accessories to create just the right air of laidback sophistication. The whole space has come together most satisfactorily,” he exults.

An acid-etched metal panel from De Castelli in a customized size, which adds warmth to the master bedroom. The wall behind the bed has fabric panelling. The wardrobes are finished in colour lacquer with metal handles.

In fact, the family lounge perhaps best exemplifies the judicious manner in which furniture and accessories have been selected, with each element picked up for character or uniqueness of form. “The client travels extensively, so he is exposed to contemporary design. A lot of the furniture was personally sourced from Europe, while the accessories came from about three to four lifestyle exhibitions/fairs,” reminisces the designer. Unfortunately, the low ceiling height didn’t allow them the same freedom where it came to lighting, but the few pendant fixtures that have been included, satisfy the criterion of being removed from the usual.

The well-equipped master bathroom sees copious amounts of natural stone, creating an almost monolithic look.

If this focus on everything imported creates an impression of being phobic to indigenous design, nothing could be farther from the truth. “I wanted to highlight the expertise of local artisans; it was a deliberate design decision,” says Hiral. Four examples of this expertise can be seen in this house. Right at the entrance foyer is a mesmerising three-dimensional cube design crafted painstakingly in Travertine. Then there’s a striking table in the family lounge that uses an inlay of Australian White and Belgian Black marbles. And, in wood, comes an emboss-engrave effect on wall panelling in the family lounge and an intricate groove pattern on storage shutters in a bedroom.

Hiral attributes the success of this project to the way his team worked. “It took great dedication from the craftsmen and technicians to realize the plans, maximize the spatial efficiency and fulfil the aesthetic demands. We also monitored the work carefully to achieve added value with the materials and their finishes…” Looks like when it comes to creating a bungalow-like feel in an apartment, if you have the villa, you have the way!

To create an illusion of a villa in a duplex apartment situated in the heart of a bustling city. 

Flooring Brazilian granite Walls Wallpaper from Elitis, satin paint and Italian limestone (around the windows) Ceiling Plastic paint Window treatment Pirouette series from Hunter Douglas Lights Flos and Oty Rugs Stepevi (Turkey) Artefacts Sourced from Bittosi, Kose, Pulpo and Rina Menardi Furniture Burma teak and wood veneers

Project Duplex apartment Location Jaipur, Rajasthan Built area 3,500 sq ft Principal designer Hiral Jobalia Associate designer Alankar Dandekar Project duration 10 months


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