Goa-based architect Golda Pereira tells us what goes behind designing an old home to make it relevant for the current context, without destroying its soul
Most of us visiting Goa for a quick holiday or reading about it in magazines know of the few areas with the best places to stay and dine. But those living in Goa are privy to the hidden gems that offer something entirely different. Divar island has only one hotel and some small restaurants, one supermarket and a school, no hospitals at all. Connected by ferry to the mainland, best experienced on a bicycle, Divar island is still what most of Goa was till a few decades ago. People come here to experience the beauty of nature and that slow, village life that disconnects you from everything while bringing you back to yourself.
Architect Golda Pereira, a Goa native, got a project to restore a centuries old home here. Having started out her career as an intern with Charles Correa in his Goa office, Golda is one of those few young locals who didn’t migrate to other parts of India or abroad. Deeply in love with her homeland and its heritage homes, she eventually found her calling. “I just get so excited when someone calls me to restore an old home. When you are restoring a house, it is sustainable because you are not building a new place. It's my own way of contributing to my society at a time when so many Goans are leaving. I am also very thankful when people from outside buy and allow me to restore it,” she says. We spoke to her about Casa Monteiro Dsa, this home in Divar island that was lying vacant for about 30 years. Edited excerpts:
Golda Pereira: When I went to see this house, I realized I had actually seen it before. Being from the area my father also knew about this house. Goa is very small, everybody knows about everybody. And this client had also seen my work on Instagram. The island has quite a few heritage homes some of which stay vacant and dilapidated. My clients bought this house and currently live in a heritage home next to it. I saw it had a lot of potential for change, like there was no direct access to the courtyard, only through the kitchen door at the far end, which I thought was very funny. So, when I saw these things and I saw the potential of what this house could be, it obviously excited me. Plus, I fell in love with the house. It is Goan house built in the 1880s, and the whole foundation of the house was on laterite rock craft, which was a very interesting feature which I have not seen.
GP: All the Goan houses are L type, T type, or a C type, this is a C type. So that is why it has the courtyard on one side and towards the left. Very typical of this style is that when you enter there is the balcao and then an entrada. Not all houses have an entrada, some houses directly go into the hall and then to another bedroom. This house had two rooms on either side, which I turned into bedrooms. And then when you walked in further there was a part of the living room where you start to get a C shape. I took the C-shaped living room and opened it into the courtyard, which I created now. Earlier there were just three windows that looked into the open space which you couldn't access, so I opened the windows and made them into doors.
GP: The major issue was bathrooms, because usually in these homes bathrooms are detached from the house or built at the far end. Another thing is the roof. Usually, the windows in these homes are small, so you can purposefully add more windows or add a few glass tiles to the roof for natural light. Then another thing is the flooring, which mostly has a mud base and has deteriorated so you have to completely redo it. Initially I wanted to do cement tiles for the whole house, but later decided on Kota tiles but with leather finish and coloured tiles for the living room. It helps drop the temperature of the home. I also had to make changes to the kitchen to make it more functional and added some windows there too.
GP: Of course, the shell. The roof stays, I would never put a flat false ceiling though a lot of people ask. Nowadays people automatically add a false ceiling and then install an air conditioner. I prefer to leave the rooms with the Mangalore tiles, it works better with the weather conditions. The most important thing is the use of natural materials that were used because of the climate conditions. For example, if you can afford to keep the lime plaster it will help with keeping the space naturally cool. Extra lights on the façade are unnecessary. It's very important for to understand that this is an old home; like we value art and antiques, this type of house that is standing since the 1880s needs the same respect.
GP: Goa has this tropical climate, so flashy furniture and heavy carpets etc don’t make sense. It’s important to understand the context, you cannot just bring Delhi or Bombay to Goa. Keep your balconies, they will be beautiful spaces to enjoy the monsoon here. Make your house in an inward way, don't make it feel like suite a room of 5-star hotel. Avoid large televisions in the living room, use cane furniture, restored vintage furniture from the shops here. Try lighter colours, and keep things fresh.
All Images by Fabian Franco