This 40-year-old family home has been redesigned and expanded to create an urban oasis
Renovating an old home for the new needs of a growing family can be tricky—especially when the house is flanked by commercial buildings and sits on a busy road. But with a new floor plan and clever use of the existing space and surroundings, Kerala-based architecture and design firm Studio Nirvana has created a calm, Zen-like oasis in the heart of a city. Avinash Joshy, Founder and Principal Designer, takes us through this 5000 sq ft project that was executed in less than a year.
Avinash Joshy (AJ): This is a 40-year-old home, occupied by a multigenerational family: a couple, their three school going children, and the grandmother. The house is in the town of Aluva (near Kochi) and is in a low-lying area that was affected by the 2018 floods. Their basic requirement was that they needed more space to cater to their growing family.
AJ: The clients were really flexible and trusted us with the process. They pitched in with their ideas, but we had 100% creative freedom. So it was a pleasure to work with them. Over the course of the project (which lasted eight months), we had to take some major decisions on site while work was in progress. In any renovation, we cannot predict things upfront, some unseen issues may crop up.
AJ: So, his was an old home of about 3000 sq ft that already had a great structure. We needed to expand and open up the space for the family. We had two main things to consider: the house faces the road and is situated between two commercial buildings, so creating a sense of privacy was important. The advantage was that there was empty space on the other two sides of the house (the area that was protected from the road). This gave us a lot to work with.
The house is situated right at a busy junction, so we made it look inward.
We changed the floor plan, brought in that unused area, and landscaped it to become part of the main home. We opened the house to the side garden and tried sealing the front section from the outside noise and dust. If you look at the images, you’ll see that the dining room faces a lovely garden, which was earlier an unused space.
AJ: Yes, we redesigned the living and dining areas. Previously, the formal living area was a small room with a verandah facing the road. There were smaller doorways that separated the living and dining rooms. We changed it, added new beams and now the living area flows into the dining area, making it one big expanse.
The house came with double-height ceilings, so we created a sense of vastness by introducing longer windows. Thanks to the high ceilings, all the common areas of the home are air-cooled—only the bedrooms have air conditioning. As for the kitchen, we added a few new openings. We actually changed the position of the kitchen, and built a new section towards the back, leaving the portion closer to the dining room exposed, without a door.
AJ: Certain sections of the house were added and extended from the original house. The master bedroom is a newly built room within that extended part of the house. The home had a sloping aluminium roof, and we added a wooden ceiling.
Apart from the extensions upstairs and for the garden, the structure of the house remains largely unchanged—but we introduced a lot of new materials. We created a glass brick wall in the living room, which allows for plenty of natural light, while giving the family privacy (since this room faces the road). The windows along the staircase landing were redesigned and made longer and larger. The floorings are all new, a mix of green oxide, grey oxide (for the staircase) and custom tiles from Bharat Floorings (for the dining room). The dining table has been refurbished with a stone top using a natural, granite-like stone.
The powder room area beneath the staircase features a skylight and a glass-and-metal door that opens into the back garden.
AJ: The statement lights above the dining table are done in wood with veneer. It was done with care—the hanging rod is thin, the ceiling is high, so it took some time to get it in place. Most of the loose furniture has been custom made by a firm called FORMAVE, based in Kerala. The lights, some chairs, and the swing in the dining room—everything was done by them.
The aesthetic came from us. All our projects gravitate towards naturals tones and finishes; we like to keep things less busy. We try to work in the perspective of the space at hand. For this home, the idea was to unify the entire space and bring back the soul of the house, which has been reflected in the redesign.