A century-old residence gets a makeover in Chennai

Art of fine living The original porch was given a glamorous touch (above and left) while the living room turned more vibrant (right). The library (extreme right) began to let in more light and look trendier. Photos: Pallon DaruwalaArt of fine living The original porch was given a glamorous touch (above and left) while the living room turned more vibrant (right). The library (extreme right) began to let in more light and look trendier. Photos: Pallon Daruwala

A century-old residence gets a makeover, yet retains its glory at the hands of architect Husna Rahaman who deftly plays with hues and patterns. By Nandhini Sundar

When faced with a century-old residence or even one that is half the age, the immediate reaction is to demolish and develop the site or build a fabulous contemporary dwelling, money and space permitting. Restoring such a building to its former glory is beyond the radar, especially given the economics behind such an initiative. The state of the structure and the lifestyle the interior facilities offer, further promote this inclination.

Old living room

Old living room

Yet, one such stately colonial residence came up, not for being rebuilt, but for restoration, keeping intact the fibre of the structure while infusing just the right level of contemporary comforts.

When architect Husna Rahaman of Fulcrum Studio was given the century-old sprawling 7,000 sq. ft colonial home for restoration, the structure essentially a no-nonsense load-bearing piece of engineering that cannot be tampered with on whim, she realised that strategic alterations, if any, could happen only where absolutely necessary.

New-look living area

New-look living area

The entire restoration thus occurred on a delicate balance of reverence and relevance, the regal aura retained while the modern functional quotient was brought in where relevant.

Profusion of hues, patterns

In tune with the era it related to, the residence came with its accompanying hues and patterns that literally saturated the spaces, the patterned antique floor and wall tiles engulfing the ambience. Without shunning this past grandeur, Rahaman set about managing deftly the play of hues and patterns where they would enchant and refresh, without submerging the senses.

Porch after restoration

Porch after restoration

“It was literally a riot of colours and this base was used as a spring board to complement the residence where it is not eliminated but used to balance”, she explains. Keeping this intent in perspective, an elegant network of wood verticals and horizontals were brought in to frame the length and breadth of the expansive living area. A new set of chandeliers were added, yet the design of these were kept deliberately colonial in keeping with the structure.

The rich flooring was retained, along with the porcelain tile dadoing on the walls, both in the living area as well as rest of the residence. A refreshing contemporary twist was brought into the space by introducing metal motifs on the walls, the motifs reflecting the existing patterns. While the walls and ceiling continue to accommodate the wooden columns and beams, a reminder of the colonial past, the contemporary flavour wafts into the spaces through concealed lights and metal motifs.

Contemporary upgrade

The living area reveals the presence of two groups of furniture, each connected by a large back-to-back sofa cluster. The unusual blend of materials and styles seen in the living area and carried methodically into the rest of the residence, where luxury is paired with minimalism and exquisite Indian crafts tie in seamlessly with streamlined forms, reveals a reverential contemporary upgrade of a glorious past.

Lovely library

Lovely library

While the strong imperial character of the structure has been reverentially retained, the spaces have been infused with warmth to address the home it ultimately is. This has been successfully achieved through application of soft roses on the walls, neutral colours with subtle pops of colour in the rugs, strips of wallpaper and cushions in shades of pink and orange.

Likewise, the spatial poetry of the house, an element lacking in modern crowded structures, has been preserved to integrate the multiple rooms, where the past meets the present, opening the spaces to surreal vistas.

Infusing metal

Given the era of the residence, metal does not figure in its construction. Yet, a contemporary twist has been brought in by infusing metal craftily into the stately space, lightening the palette. The floral medallion in the living area serves as a symbolic confluence of the metallic motifs used in the rest of the residence. Metal also features as an artistic railing for the staircase, replacing the previous cement and brick staircase. The terrace further reveals a stunning dark grey metal gazebo to unwind and relax, besides serving as an entertainment zone when need arises.

Sun room

The first level of the building came with narrow spaces, yet the interiors were filled with abundant natural light. Rahaman decided to capture this effectively to create a sunny library. “The room came with its quota of colours and patterns like the rest of the house and the space was converted into a turquoise library with a western exposure by merely introducing rugs into the space.”

The ‘sun room’ reveals rugs in intense hues of ochre and turquoise blue, soaked in geometric patterns where they define the floor, with the turquoise blue and wood verticals on the walls complementing the same. Vibrant in conception, the space greets with a burst of exuberance, the twin daybeds created between the columns further enhancing with their presence.

Source The Hindu