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Clean, linear and monochrome, this home is about spartan comforts

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The Yacht Club Enclave is set beside the backwaters in Kochi, adjacent to the Yacht Club and filled with upscale independent houses with high compound walls and manicured gardens. Tanya Abraham lives in a five-storey building in this enclave right in the heart of the city. As I walk out of the elevator of her building, my eyes rest on a large blue pot and white double doors that have been left open for me, there’s soft jazz filtering through the air. I ring the bell as a perfunctory measure to announce my presence and there’s Tanya.
 

The Yacht Club Enclave is set beside the backwaters in Kochi, adjacent to the Yacht Club and filled with upscale independent houses with high compound walls and manicured gardens. Tanya Abraham lives in a five-storey building in this enclave right in the heart of the city. The minimalist home has white walls, polished concrete floors, and just enough furniture to keep you comfortable. A strict colour palette defines Tanya’s space: almost entirely black and white, with some green. Her early exposure to art and her art activism is evident in her selection of works. The house is donned in unique and meaningful art pieces that bring a story with them. Her house is a peaceful abode for her that truly embraces her style of living.


As a minimalist myself, I am immediately put at ease by her home, which is best described as spartan. White walls, polished concrete floors, and just enough furniture to keep you comfortable. Tanya and I met some years ago when I was researching the history of Fort Kochi, a subject on which she’d written an entire book. Her family has lived in that historic section of the city for centuries, and perhaps because of the influence of the history and culture of that neighbourhood, Tanya has made a career out of those inclinations. She is an author, a contemporary art curator, an interior designer, an arts educator and activist.
 

SPACE MATTERS

A strict colour palette defines Tanya’s space: Almost entirely black and white, with some green. The visuals are clean and linear, with white walls, grey floors, and black and white art. The green inflections in this austere scheme are from the deep shades of the yam plants in her open terrace garden. “I grew up in a large joint family. We lived in a big house with a big backyard, and my family loved to entertain.” says Tanya. To mimic some of that openness in this simple flat, Tanya got the builder to break down internal walls and extend her living space into the open terrace. The garden is wild, lush and is a pretend jungle shielding her from the city.

Her home has three bedrooms, a large living room with a dining

The living room design is spacious with minimal interiors - Beautiful Homes

space, two terrace gardens and two kitchens. As I wonder why she has two kitchens, I remember reading about her Ammama’s kusinchya (grandmother’s kitchen) in Tanya’s book Eating with History. Her Latin Catholic grandmother loved to cook and entertain. Tanya picked up the same flair for cooking and one of her kitchens is reserved for hearty, spicy, pungent Kerala curries like the varutharacha fish curry, fish made in roasted and ground coconut paste, while the other kitchen is for light, quick meals.
 

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Tanya’s space is perfect for quiet contemplation and does just as well on a fun evening filled with friends. Tanya left Fort Kochi and moved to this neighborhood when her high-schooler son needed tuition classes. Being a single mother, she wanted a safe space. A few years after her son moved abroad for college, she felt it was the right time to focus on herself. “I spent years being a mother and daughter. I was finding my footing as a working woman. After my son left, I wanted to do something for myself. I wanted a place I could come home to.” says Tanya.

In 2017, she set out to create this space. Living in a rented house in the same neighbourhood, it was easy for her to walk over and collaborate with the builder and monitor the workers. Everything in her home is hand-crafted. The light teak dining table and chairs were made by her carpenter Antony, the cement floors polished to perfection are all hand-crafted. Tanya has no formal design education, but has made her mark in space design. She assisted architect Karl Damschen in the Old Harbour project—the renovation of a 300 year old Portuguese-Dutch building into a boutique hotel. She was the art curator at Kashi Art Gallery, and started an art residency in collaboration with the Kochi Biennale Foundation. When building her home she let her instinct and sense of harmony shine through.
 

The living room décor has artword around the walls - Beautiful Homes

The wooden dining table set has dining table & chairs with benches - Beautiful Homes

The dining room opening up to a simple bedroom - Beautiful Homes

ART MATTERS

As I sit in her living room, the black and white art on the walls stands out. Tanya grew up steeped in the arts. Her father is an actor, poet and filmmaker. Her grandfather was a patron of Chavittu Nadakam, a colourful Latin Christian dance-drama theatre. “The beauty of growing up in my household was that no one forced you to do anything. You could really follow your heart’s desire. Whether it paid you or not, was your problem.” says Tanya. Her early exposure to art and her art activism is evident in her selection of works. I am drawn to the large charcoal drawing by Akhil Mohan. It is a sketch of grains and symbolises abundance to her. She has a black and white sketch of a woman by Artist Priti Vadakkath that came out of a workshop on the female body. There is a multi-layered sketch by artist Bhagayanath that depicts a man wrestling with his numerous selves. In it, I see Tanya and the many roles she’s had to play. I ask her what this space gives her. “I feel settled. The timing was perfect, too. As we went into the pandemic, I had the ideal place to retreat to, read my books, sit in my garden and think of all the things I wanted to do. I spend most evenings in the garden.” says Tanya.

The bare space allows her to be. It is a blank canvas for all that she is and all that she wants to be. It is comfortable enough to hold all the aspirations of a young woman who grew up in a large family surrounded by art. And it is ideal for a woman who wants to chart her own course. As I walk away, I understand how conducive her home is for deep work, reflection and healing. Her home is an extension of her, simple, minimal and comfortable. It's the kind of place I’d like to build some day. With the soft jazz still playing in the background, I walk away feeling inspired by women making their own homes.

Maneesha Panicker owns a bespoke travel company called Silk Route Escapes, and a 4-room island hotel called Kayal Island Retreat in the backwaters of Kerala.
 

Photographs

Syam

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