Mar 1, 2021

Two different color palettes help a residence in India balance cultural heritage and the modern world

By Katie Nale

Typically, the terms “traditional” and “modern” are rarely used together to describe home design in India. When faced with the task of providing a contemporary space that physically represents the characteristics of Indian culture, architects must take into account the color, diversity, religious and historical elements, and vibrancy associated with Indian heritage. An example of this combination is an eye-catching 9,300-sq ft home in Chennai. Completed by Sajith and Vivek Architects, the transitional-style home is a perfect blend of old and new.

Dotted with ethnic finds, furniture and prints that reflect the client’s cultural roots, the home is grounded by a contemporary layout that uses sleek geometrical lines to fulfill the owner’s desire to reside in a chic modern space. “The client realized early on how important lighting design would be in his mission to highlight the modern/traditional elements that represent his roots and aspirations,” says Amardeep Dugar of Lighting Research & Design (Chennai). Dugar worked within two different color palettes: a neutral and a darker scheme, each of which serves to highlight cultural pieces and design work.

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The home’s subdued front façade, which falls into Dugar’s neutral palette, is defined by deep overhangs, stone cladding, a wooden ceiling and sliding windows. Lines of warm light seamlessly integrate in-line with the wooden slats of the overhangs. This provides the façade with an industrial nighttime character while also delivering appropriate levels of general illumination between 5 to 10 footcandles. “Care was taken to minimize light trespass into neighboring properties as well as to reduce sky glow,” recalls Dugar.

When visiting the grounds guests are greeted by the statue of sleeping Ganesha (Elephant God) by the outdoor fishpond highlighted with an adjustable spotlight. Golden lotus engravings on the wall behind the statue are complemented by soft “eclipse-style” illumination from wall-mounted luminaires on the adjacent boundary wall.

Behind the house, a large terrace with a tensile roof combines the neutral palette with a darker one that runs through specific rooms in the interior. Placed over dark geometric patterned flooring, a unjal (swing) adds throwback character to the contemporary space, exemplifying the balance and harmony between the contrasting styles. The textured wall displaying intricate carving is highlighted using lines of light similar to those in the other overhangs of the façade.

Inside, the entry foyer also showcases the two different color palettes used throughout the home. Dark wood dominates the base furniture while the sectional of brightly colored seats takes up major space. A painting of a wedding, highlighted by an adjustable spotlight, injects just a hint of the Indian tradition.

Farther inside, rooms with sophisticated furnishings accentuate a neutral palette of muted grey and beige tones. Warm wood, contemporary décor, and a variety of luminaires can be found throughout the residence, bringing life to the color scheme and highlighting intricate design details. “The warm glow reminiscent of traditional diyas (lamps) emanating from the modern, unobtrusive recessed downlights gives the interior a cozy feel. Soft furnishings in mellow shades of beige and grey match the concrete and wood tone of the architecture. A few dark and stark base notes help to anchor the light décor scheme, but it is the snug haze from the downlights that most effectively colors the space, setting a modern/traditional mood,” says Dugar.

The living/dining room serves as a perfect example of this, with table lamps lending an old, historical feel while also complementing the modern sofas and decorative downlights. The space’s design merges clean lines, muted colors and cultural motifs. A dining table and chairs stand out on the polished flooring while an ethnic painting takes over the wall behind the dining table. While the furniture, flooring and layout of the dining space speak volumes about contemporary design, the intricately carved wooden entrance to the pooja (Chapel) room, accentuated with ethnic motifs, points to a traditional look. Large decorative gold-reflection-based downlights providing soft diffuse illumination add to the character of this space.

On the opposite side of the color spectrum, the theater uses a darker scheme with several dominating and a few subtle details to achieve the same current yet cultural landscape. The sofa and a modish ceiling luminaire are set against dark wood paneling and the backlit onyx of the television wall. The sleek staircase points to a more modern approach in design while the use of wood gives the home an earthy appeal. Finally, the Indian classical painting in the foreground seals tradition inside the fusion interior. The bird-shaped decorative wall luminaires set against the staircase design visually “sing” of Indian traditions.

The bar, located at the back of the theater, is the pinnacle of this meshed design. The fully reclining sofas, pouffes and tables coupled with the dark ceiling and flooring imbues the space with a modern, quirky vibe. The backlit mother of pearl bar counter adds richness to the space while decorative bubble pendants add character. “A fiber-optic starry sky and color-changing downlights enhance the movie watching experience,” says Dugar. Ethnic printed red and blue acoustic walls with LED strips seamlessly integrated into the pleats create a stark effect, while adding in a slice of the traditional.


Katie Nale

Katie Nale