One of the first things you notice when you walk into a home is what you are walking on—the floors. Walls speak, art adds personality, but the floors of a home can set the tone and vibe of the space, and often reflect the climate and topography of the area.
Firdaus Variava is the owner of Bharat Floorings and Tiles—an iconic company that has been creating handmade tiles since 1922, laying floors in landmark buildings and homes across India, from palaces to Raj Bhavans, offices to airports. So when he decided to shift from his old South Mumbai house to a modern apartment complex in Lower Parel, he wanted to work with someone who understood the Bharat Floorings brand and what it had to offer. So, he picked Sarah Sham, Principal Designer at Essajee’s Atelier, to come on board and breathe life into his new home.
An established designer from Mumbai’s well-known Essajee’s antiques (they’re a fourth-generation family-run business specialising in antiques and custom furniture; Sarah heads their interiors arm), Sarah is familiar with Bharat Floorings since she uses their tiles in most of her projects. Firdaus and Sarah have known each other for almost three decades on a personal level, which also made her an obvious choice. And being a friend, Sarah had complete creative freedom. “It was actually crazy how little feedback they gave me! Even when I approached Firdaus’ wife, she’d say ‘Sarah knows best’, and would let me go ahead with my ideas. There was zero resistance.”
The overall aesthetic of the home is clean and minimal, with pops of colour in each room, and pattern and texture through fabrics, flooring, and furniture. And of course, both client and executor being from design and decor firms, Bharat Floorings cement tiles and Essajee’s furniture have been incorporated into the space.
“Growing up, I always had Bharat Tiles around me,” says Firdaus. “But they weren’t of my choice. They were chosen by my mother, grandmother. So when I moved into this space, it was an opportunity for me to see how to make our tiles fit into a modern apartment.” And this was a sentiment shared by Sarah. “I told Firdaus, ‘how horrible would it be to have the owner of Bharat Floorings not use his own beautiful tiles in his home?’”
Floors With Character
When Sarah began the project, the apartment was the sort of shell that typically homeowners receive from real estate companies at the handover stage—uneven walls, spotlights on the ceilings and boring standard-issue builder tiles. Naturally, she set about recasting the floors first.
She used a different kind of tile in each room, for a distinct personality and feel. The living and dining rooms have been done up in white terrazzo with brass strips, a simple palette that works well against the single-toned, clean-lined furniture in the room. “The main highlight of this space is the flooring which we have done in situ terrazzo with brass inlay. We also have a unique curved skirting detail,” she explains.
The daughter’s bedroom has a cast terrazzo tile with a colourful hexagonal pattern. With shades of white, beige, green and reddish-brown, the tiles play off the mint-green colour scheme of the bed. For the son’s room, Sarah stuck to Bharat Floorings’ best-selling cement tiles, with a white diamond pattern running through it.
The master bedroom is where Sarah got to push the boundaries and have fun. Instead of incorporating Bharat Floorings tiles on the ground, she used epoxy terrazzo as a wall. She took inspiration from wooden fluted panelling to create a giant fluted terrazzo wall that occupies the entire space behind the bed. “We have large slabs of cast terrazzo in a black and white pattern, with a large master bed in front,” she says. Creating this structure was a detailed process: Sarah and her team made an 18mm thick cast, cured the entire slab, and stuck it to the wall. But the final effect made it all worthwhile. “We used a minimalistic black and white theme for the wall, but the lovely wooden floors give you a nice warm feel,” adds Firdaus.
Colours And Patterns Make A Statement
The apartment is clutter-free and elegant on the whole—but Sarah did manage to incorporate colour and pattern without making it overwhelming. Says Firdaus, “The rooms have been done in these really neutral tones, so the art and other touches of colour really pop.”
The daughter’s bedroom, with a four-poster bed, has been dressed in mint green. “We used the colour pastel green as a pop colour—it’s a shade that’s feminine, but sophisticated enough for her to grow into once she’s a teenager,” says Sarah.
Firdaus’ son, who is already a teenager, loves red, but painting the entire room in the colour would have been too much, so Sarah added the shade on a smaller scale on the headboard (in the form of piping on the fabric) and a few cushions.
The living room is tastefully done, with a few key pieces that make a statement. Being a small room, Sarah didn’t want a centre table that would swallow up the space - so she chose a set of black metal and cane Pai coffee tables. The jigsaw puzzle-style tables aren’t just fun, but convenient as well: they can be put together and pulled apart as required, and placed anywhere in the room while entertaining. Says Firdaus, “It’s a cozy space where can just sit and watch TV or bond over a board game.”
The dining area also makes room for colour. The sideboard is a deep forest-green shade, which matches the artwork above it: painted tiles by Bharat Floorings, from a collaboration with design duo Thukral & Tagra. The patterned hexagonal tiles, which have been mounted on the wall, have shades of green, slate grey and orange, which work in sync with the green sideboard and the black-and-grey themed dining space.
The black, white and grey elements don’t end there, though. The entire home is dotted with works by photographer Shahid Datawala—his black and white images that capture some of Mumbai’s most iconic spots.
With tiles and terrazzo used in unorthodox ways, the apartment is a fitting homage to the Bharat Floorings family that crafts floors for everyone. It is a sleek, stylish abode that is testament to the fact that sometimes, less is more, and that fewer, better things can bring personality into any space. Firdaus says, “As a South Bombay boy, I really couldn’t imagine moving away from the whole Art Deco look, but having moved here, we’re super happy!”