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When you walk into Anvitha Pillai and Naveen Yadav’s home you know instantly that these folks have done a lot of homework. That their style of living is intentional, that every piece of furniture and accessory is a well-considered item with its own interesting travel itinerary. Neither Anvitha, a film-maker and editor, nor Naveen, a cinematographer in the Telugu film industry, are from Kochi but that is where they now live with their three-year-old son Aryan. The couple made this seaside city their home about four years ago after spending a month working here. Anvitha says those four weeks sealed the deal. “This city has the trappings of a small town and the conveniences of a modern city and that’s what drew us here.” Their place is a three-bedroom 1,600 square feet apartment in the heart of Kerala’s financial and film capital.
The Design Process
Anvitha designed the house herself, outsourcing the design process was never an option for the couple. She says she’s learnt a lot from going through the process herself, and by paying attention to spaces. “I’ve had no formal training in design. I learnt along the way about what works for us,” she says. “What you see here is a culmination of places I’ve been to, the things we picked up and what makes us comfortable”. But the film-buff did have some cinematic inspiration: director Roman Polanski’s cult classic, the Satanists-in-Manhattan movie Rosemary’s Baby. “I know it’s a horror film,” she laughs. “But that apartment on the Upper East Side, which is chic and compact, definitely made an impact on me.”
For more contemporary and practical ideas, she also dog-eared the coffee table books of French architect Joseph Dirand and Nate Berkus, the American interior designer first made internationally-famous on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her starting point was the understanding of what she did not want in her home. “I’ve shot a lot in high-end five-star luxurious spaces,” she says. “That kind of polished, glossy, luxe-ness wasn't for me.”
Anvitha and Naveen’s home is the very antithesis of cold and glossy. Instead, it is a composite of Indian and international tastes and craftsmanship, a suitable reflection of two people who’ve lived in many places before creating their world in a small place. “Our home mirrors India’s own design trajectory--pieces from a Colonial style daybed swing to the mid-century Chandigarh style furniture,” she says.
Everything melds into a soothing palette of complementary shades, flowing between whites, oatmeal and ivory. The space looks like it has absorbed sunshine into its pores, and that brightness is paired with nature's textures, colours and patterns throughout. Well-suited to the contemporary tropical design ethos, the living room is framed with a pair of teakwood 1920s-era Chettiar pillars, which Anvitha salvaged from a dusty godown in Chettinad, and gives the room dramatic scale.
Coming From Anywhere
Every single thing, from chair and fabric to crockery, was sourced from within the country. “You won’t believe just how many people and small businesses I found on Instagram,” says Anvitha. “These businesses go out of their way to customise designs for you. It also works out cheaper because they have no overheads like the big stores. The great thing about India is that everybody’s on Whatsapp. Even if someone can’t do something for you, they always know someone who can and connecting with people is so easy,” she says.
The house is completely plastic-free--even the dustbins, which Anvitha commissioned in concrete, a raw silk lampshade was customized by an artist in Pondicherry, a cane lamp shade made its way here from a street vendor in Vagamon, a hill station in central Kerala. In the kitchen design, all the work surfaces are Indian marble and granite. Natural tactile textures stand out everywhere, on rugs, carpets, and other accessories, most made out of natural material like banana and hemp, which also make these objects sturdy and child-friendly. “I’m always looking for tactile, natural materiality which forms a patina over time,” she says. “When I put things together, I’m trying to build a conversation between the various pieces of décor and furniture. I don’t see them as isolated pieces.”
Anvitha says she’s learned a lot about the design process and understanding herself on this journey of creation. Even for people who have an eye for design and an aesthetic sensibility, bringing a space together can be challenging. “If you’re designing your own home, I’d say a good place to start is your wardrobe. See what colours you tend to wear most. That tells you a lot,” she says. By finding things they liked, mind-mapping other spaces that felt right for them, and paying attention to the way they inhabit a space, the couple was able to really edit and curate objects, colours and patterns, to make a home that they fit right into. And for anyone who feels really overwhelmed by choices, a last piece of advice from her: “Don’t rush, always sleep on it.”
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