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This Mumbai bungalow brings the outdoors into the home in the best ways possible

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In our series, The Way We Live, featuring homes, people and the way private residences are created, this week we visit a bungalow in Juhu, Mumbai. With some smart restructuring, this closed-up family home is now a contemporary, open space where the residents get to live with nature as a backdrop

The home beautifully brings the outdoors into their indoor spaces

Juhu is one of the poshest addresses in Mumbai but in the great leveller that is the monsoon, this low-lying suburb drowns like every other. We reschedule the tour of Thakkar family’s Juhu home three times because of the heavy downpour. Finally, on that one almost-dry day in between, we make it to this old dignified home that was renovated for Prembhari's family. Photographers, designers and homeowners all prefer sunlit environments for shoots, but the mood set by cloudy skies and the soft drizzle on the courtyard plants is very suited to the personality of this space.

And that greenery in the courtyard is the first thing you notice as soon you enter through the main entrance. Where many in Mumbai high-rises make do with paintings of flora and fauna to bring a sense of outdoors into their homes and offices, framed by picture windows the garden here makes for the most beautiful backdrop for their living room. But having lived in the house for 34 years, Prembhari was able to experience this luxury only after the recent renovation of the space by Mumbai-based architect Rubel Dhuna. The ground floor living space of the 4000 sq ft property had no connection to the outside. The courtyard was being used as a service corridor. The windows were small, the indoors didn’t have much ventilation, the dining space was cut off from the living room and the seating was all looking away from each other.

The jhula already belonged to the family but the traditional piece was made contemporary with a new curved seat.

“I had been looking for someone to redo the living room downstairs, mainly just change the upholstery and help me place the art. But when Rubel came in, she brought a whole vision of her own. She could obviously see something that I couldn’t,” says the 38-year-old lawyer about the home she shares with her parents, husband and two-year-old daughter.

The architect Rubel Dhuna brought down the wall between the living and dining rooms and replaced it with bi-folding art deco glass and wood shutters to connect both rooms.

The architect brought down the wall between the living and dining rooms and replaced it with bi-folding art deco glass and wood shutters to connect both rooms. She then introduced large doors and wooden windows in both spaces to enable the inside-outside connect, which has given the home a new burst of energy paying off massively for the family. Colour and patterns were added with new Persian and Kashmiri carpets and some old art – works by Pratibha Wagh, Vaikuntham, Prashant Prabhu, Urmila Devi, collected through the years by Prembhari’s mother. “The one thing I was really clear about was having a live edge table, which now sits in the centre of our living room,” Prembhari adds.

With a mother who has always been a keen gardener, living with plants isn’t new to Prembhari. “If we had an empty corner, she 

would liven it up with plants. This is such a large space and it always felt empty, the living room particularly because of the high ceilings,” she says. At the moment, the family has 10 different kinds of indoor plants including Ferns, Brassia, Bromeliads and Philodendrons that do well in low or medium light and can thrive in smaller pots. The champa that they loved couldn’t be contained in a pot, so they had to get it rid of it recently.

“The family loves plants. They will tell you its scientific names, benefits and everything else about it,” smiles Rubel. For example, the mistletoe cactus, which Prembhari tells us is actually Rhipsalis Baccifera that she likes for the structural element it adds to the décor. On the second floor of the house too, which the couple shares with their little daughter, the master bedroom was attached to a room flooded with natural light and surrounded by dense foliage. The picture windows added by Rubel make this the brightest room in the house, a space Prembhari now calls the sunroom. “We feel like we are living in the treetops and can even see the squirrels running about. This has now become the space where we spend most our time as a family.”


Pulkit Sehgal

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