If houses could talk, who knows what stories they may tell. Of families that have left myriad memories. Of children’s voices and footsteps echoing through the corridors. Of games they played, of dips in the small pool that has been there as long as the house has, and which many of the older neighbours remember as well, of the family talking and laughing among themselves, of shared meals amid the comforting aromas of food emanating from the kitchen. Houses could tell many stories, especially if they have been around for half a century, as this one has.
Renovations And Recollections
Situated on a two-acre plot in Thrissur (originally Thirusivaperoor and formerly Trichur) in Kerala, and sprawled over 8,000 sq. ft., the house in its original avatar was bought from its first owner by a family of jewellers. Current owner N B Lalsan is based in Bhilai where he has business interests, but was keen on having a home in the land of his ancestors, which they could maintain as a holiday retreat that the family, now settled in different parts of India, could visit as often as they wanted. He bought the house in 2000. “It looked completely different then”, recollects his son Tushar Lalsan, “and we knew we would have to make changes to suit us”. So, in 2002, for the initial renovation, they looked to Sudhir Vora, an architect they had worked with for their homes in Mumbai and Bhilai.
As the needs and tastes of the family grew and changed with time, a second, more extensive renovation followed in 2015 by a Kollam-based firm, Architects Team Sandeep. The basic structure has remained the same, with a largely traditional arrangement of interconnected rooms, but some walls were broken to create a renewed sense of space and light. The old roof was replaced with Mangalore tiles, imbuing the exterior with that quintessential Kerala look, verandahs were extended, the wooden ceiling replaced, windows and doors and the front façade given a fresh, open, more modern look, and most important, a central courtyard or naalukettu, a core feature of many tharavadus or ancestral homes, and which did not earlier exist in this one, was created. This verdant heart of the house, open to sky and encircled by the interior spaces, was built around an old well, now covered over with a grill for safety. It was also Sandeep’s idea to have the driveway paved with ‘krishnashila’ or black stone, mainly used in temples, etched in a parquet pattern. Krishnashila is porous and absorbent and when coated with oil retains a black sheen and is cool to walk on.
For Thrissur-based interior designer Meera Pyarelal, the brief was right up her street. Her firm, aptly named Temple Town, specialises in customised interiors that seek to “combine our exotic traditional crafts with global cultures through a uniquely Indian perspective”. The Lalsans, who contacted her through a mutual friend, wanted their home to have interiors that were both elegant and luxurious, with an international flavour yet remaining true to heritage and location. “Given the brief, I thought a colonial theme would work well,” she says, “As that would offer a seamless connect between East and West. At the same time some contemporary elements have crept into the design as well.” While the colonial theme is a familiar one, the challenge was to make sure it all looked ‘together’ in the end. Italian marble for the formal areas, parquet wood for the bedrooms and terracotta for the outdoor spaces make up the flooring. In the main living room, with its ornate mouldings, cornices and Botticino floors, Indian miniature paintings and Fornasetti plates co-exist quite happily with a Grosvenor sofa and an old treasure chest.
The East-West theme continues throughout the house, with William Morris wallpaper, Wedgwood crockery and Indian art and artefacts carefully sourced by Meera. Tushar commissioned some unique pottery pieces for the outdoors from Clayfingers, an art studio in Thrissur that also has cottages that they used to stay in on their visits home, while the renovation was going on. All the furniture, mostly period look-alikes, has been handcrafted at Temple Town - nothing was outsourced or imported. The colour palette is simple but effective. She thought it would be best to have white and beige predominate, with bold outbursts of colour expressed through the soft furnishings, accessories and art work.
“For example, we opted for a black and white print in the living room but then we balanced it out by using warm tones of olive green and rust. This makes redecoration easy”, she says, letting out a trade secret, “if you feel like a change, all you have to do is just change the accents for an entirely different look”.
For All Seasons
Viewed from one end of the driveway, Ratna Vihar appears almost frozen in time like an old plantation homestead. Its Mangalore tiled sloping roofs, wide pillared verandahs and expansive grounds full of rich foliage, exude a serene, secluded charm, at the same time holding out the promise of surprises beyond. The house is quite a landmark in the area and in 2000 was even the location for the Hari Kumar film Swayamvada Pandhal. For the Lalsan family, business interests may keep them away from their hometown, but the evolution of this house into a haven for all seasons, thoughtfully renovated and beautifully re-designed, an heirloom to be passed down through generations, is reason enough to bring them home as often as time and circumstances permit.
Here are some décor tips from designer Meera Pyarelal:
1. Juxtapose Indian art or a typically Indian artefact with a European sofa
2. Break a monotone colour scheme with vividly coloured upholstery or a single piece of furniture that stands out. Easy to re-do and give a fresh look to the space if one wants a change
3. Use foliage from the garden to embellish a dining table or other interior spaces instead of expensive flower arrangements
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