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A farmhouse in Karjat designed to coexist with its surroundings—and without air-conditioning

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For our series The Way We Live this week we tour a holiday home in Karjat. Sitting under the shade of a mango tree on a farm outside the city, this home affords its residents a pause from their daily lives. The well-thought out design allows for unobstructed views of the farm, ample natural light and even reduces the temperature

"Long before the house was built, sitting under the sprawling canopy of one of the old mango trees on this little farm in Karjat, architect Nishita Kamdar was reminded of the opening couplet from WH Davies’ famous poem, ‘Leisure’; “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”

Owned by a couple in their late 50s, the space was designed to be an occasional holiday home. The busy entrepreneurs now spend most of their weekends here along with their two daughters and sometimes with friends. Kamdar says, “The couple wanted a space to offer a solace their hectic lives lacked in the city.” It fit into her own philosophy, “A house is a space, a home is a feeling; a collection of the owner’s memories. Homes need to be tailor-made for their occupants and not driven by trends.”

Modern bungalow with wall of windows on open-space living room

The architect believes the entrance to any home is a portal to a new world and viewing the farmhouse, flanked by foliage, from the driveway, is like a ‘sneak peek’ into what is to come.

Primarily agricultural, Karjat is at a slightly higher altitude and experiences heavy rainfall and extreme temperatures. The plot itself overlooks a dam to one side and a farm to the other. Kamdar’s primary objective was to bring nature ‘in’ as efficiently as possible. “For that sense of openness, we wanted the built form to be as minimal as possible,” she says. The team built a beautiful shell structure, “a teak wood clad exposed steel roof, large glass and metal doors and a monolithic granite clad plinth forms the architectural and design language of the space.”

Tour this holiday home in Karjat that has been named ‘Under the Mango Tree’

As they spent time on the property, taking refuge from the searing sunlight or the soaking showers, the group realised how integral the mango tree was to the site and decided to place the house just below its canopy. “And that’s how the project was named ‘Under the Mango Tree’,” says the architect.

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Double bed in the forefront of a wall with two big windows and storage space

“We wanted the shell layers of the house to do all the talking and let the rest of the elements take a backseat,” the architect explains. Wireframe lamps highlight the exposed teak wood batons on the ceiling.

Karjat’s environmental challenges were negotiated within a few ways. Kamdar says, “To overcome the extreme rainfall, the house’s continuous, long pitched roof allows water to slope down into a dedicated drainage space. The angle of the pitch is designed to allow unobstructed views of the farm.” A layer of XPS sheeting on the roof caused a reduction in the temperature of the interiors by as much as five degrees.

The home itself was orientated so the light in every room is diffused and no space is bombarded with direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the open plan of the house ensured there’s plenty of cross ventilation. The architect says, “The linearity of the house almost creates a wind tunnel which means the owners have never used artificial 

air-conditioning either during the day or even in the summer. And because of the large doors, there is no need for artificial lighting during the day. As a result, the energy consumption of the home is very low and makes it very sustainable.” Such is life under the shade of an old mango tree. In the monsoon, while the city buckles under the onslaught, here the house comes into its own. Kamdar says, “This farm, surrounded by greenery, the mountains in the background, is at its absolute best in the monsoon. Everything is lush, green and you’re treated to the sight of several sorts of visitors – animals, birds, even peacocks. It’s the perfect space to drink a hot cup of chai and watch the rain.”

WH Davies would have approved.

Size (square footage): 5,500 sq ft

Years lived: 2 

Style: Industrial 

Interior design philosophy: The architecture of the space seamlessly flows into the interiors. We did not want to differentiate the two from each other. The outside is unabashedly allowed to flow into the inside.

Favourite materials to work with: metal and wood for their malleability 

3 thumb rules to follow when designing a home: declutter, tailor make to your sensibility, keep it utilitarian

Best compliment: You've given us a beautiful home to create beautiful memories in!

Artist the client enjoys: The clients love collecting memories and making coffee table books. They own a lovely collection of Dayanita Singh’s Box of Shedding, which they often replace with their own photographs.

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