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Back in the day when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was making films in Hollywood, she did the rounds of TV interview shows, often times explaining Indian cultural nuances to incredulous American network hosts. While David Letterman asked her about her acting and the origins of the word Bollywood, he threw in another question: “Is it true that you still live with your parents?” Another time, on the Oprah talk show, when she appeared with her husband Abhishek Bachchan, Oprah asked them: “You still live with your parents. What is it like?” Abhishek answered: “You don’t live with your parents. What is that like?”
Adult children leaving home to live on their own has always been a rite of passage in Western culture, but we in India are only just embracing young people’s domestic independence. Especially for women, who are expected to move out only after marriage. Thankfully things are changing, and there are many different cohabitating structures beyond the nuclear family, from DINKs (double income no kids), to flat shares and, for those who can afford it, bachelor/bachelorette pads.
Actor Sumona Chakravarti found herself at such familiar crossroads when she turned 30. She rose to fame with Bade Ache Lagte Hain and then as the scatterbrained wife to host Kapil Sharma on Comedy Nights with Kapil (now The Kapil Sharma Show). The real-life Sumona is single and independent, and now in possession of her own first home in Mumbai. “This is the first time I am living by myself, a bit late in life,” she says. Sumona moved out of her parents’ home into her new apartment just a couple of months ago. “I have always been someone who has enjoyed my company. I have even gone solo travelling but never got the chance to live alone. But when my brother moved out, I got really jealous. I was like ‘why do I have to answer mum every time I step out, and whether I will eat dinner’,” she laughs. “It is all from love of course, but after the age of 32 or 33 you want your space.”
Sumana’s 450 sq ft 1BHK (one bedroom-hall-kitchen) flat in the suburb of Andheri has given her a real feeling of independence. “I wanted to experience what it is like to run my own house. I feel very domesticated, and I am enjoying it,” she says about her first two months in her new pad. This particular apartment comes with a bit of history too. She spent many years of her childhood here before her family moved to another home. In 2015 when the apartment came up for sale, Sumona’s business manager insisted that she make a smart investment and buy it. “I put it up on rent after that.”
A few years later when she decided to make the home her own, she began by trawling social media for references. Between cute dog videos and plant pictures, Sumona’s browsing history is full of interiors inspiration. And that is how she was introduced to the work of the Mumbai-based design studio, MuseLAB. “I saw their work and stalked them, and then slid into their DMs,” she laughs. “They were the only ones who offered to work backwards from my budget, and I really appreciated that.” Her brief to the designers Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani was simple: ‘break everything down’. “I knew I wanted to build something exactly to my liking. This is a small house, and I didn’t want too many walls.”
Keeping It Simple
The designers loved the challenge of the space. “For us the fun thing was that we could reconsider the entire layout of the space within the limitations of the existing building structure, and eventually create a very open space out of this standard 1BHK,” says Huzefa. Now the living space and bedroom can be experienced as one large continuous space because of the way the sliding partitions have been added. In fact, glass sliding doors have replaced most of the walls.
The designers have worked on single-owned spaces in the past and enjoy the freedom that comes with working around one person’s choices. “When you are catering to a single person the whole house has to speak one language; that person’s personality and how they use the space,” says Huzefa. And the language that Sumona preferred is Scandi-minimalism. The designers who are known for their prints, patterns and colour took this on as a challenge. “Sumona wanted a lot of black, white and grey. We made it a bit warmer with ivory and the grey was also not the cold Scandinavian grey. And then there was the hint of blue that we introduced in the bathroom. When you enter the house, you see this beautiful diagonal pattern in dark and light grey. This pattern forms the spine that ends in her wardrobe,” explains Huzefa.
For the bathroom vanity, instead of using stone, they clad it in picolo tiles in blue and the same tiles continue as the storage for her drawers under the window seat and the backsplash to her kitchen. They also added very slight hints of colour, for e.g., the lights above the breakfast bar are a dull pink. The designers have created smart solutions to hide away the utilities of the flat, and for creating extra storage space. “This is one of the most compact homes we have designed, and the idea of stealing space without making it obvious was exciting. We have concealed the storage spaces, you wouldn’t know that behind some shutter is a washer-dryer, or a linen closet.”
Two months into living on her own here, Sumona says it is the most secure that she has felt. “The society’s definition of settled is different, for them it means marriage and kids. But I already feel very settled because I have roti, kapda, makan,” she smiles. And the compliments she receives about her home add to the pleasure. “I have had to work at everything I have in my life, and so it is with my house. I wouldn’t say this is my dream home, it is my first step on the ladder. I have a long way to go.”
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