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This Kochi apartment is styled with an intricate collection of art and colonial pieces

  • Ideas and Inspiration
Jan 04, 2023
Living room with a mix of Indian & European design - Beautiful Homes

Pairing ethnic Keralan styles with European textures, interior designer Meera Pyarelal designs a four-bedroom penthouse for a newly married couple

After designing her own apartment in 1999, Meera Pyarelal delved into her interest in interior design, which led her to making furniture at home with a group of local carpenters. “Along the way, I realised this is what makes me happy, so I read and learnt more about the subject,” recalls the self-taught interior designer who founded Temple Town, a design studio and furniture store based in Thrissur, Kerala. Today, with a workshop of 50 carpenters and craftsmen, Pyarelal and her team design homes across the country, and the furniture that goes into it.

Recently, she designed a 5,000-square-foot penthouse on the 22nd floor of the Joy Alukkas Gold Tower in Kochi for Elsa Joy Alukkas—the daughter of the jewellery label’s chairman. “She had seen my work, and wanted me to design her apartment. Along the way, she got engaged, and her father wanted this to be a gift to her. While she’s young, she loves traditional designs, eschewing anything too contemporary. She was also very conscious about the materials in the home being sustainable, which was right up my alley,” Pyarelal fondly recalls.

 

She walks us through the four-bedroom apartment—with two kitchens, a home gym and an entertainment room—describing its design journey as we step into each room.

Console table of ornate mirrors in living room - Beautiful Homes

In the living room, a console table with columns of ornate mirrors elevates the sense of space and glamour in the apartment.

Beautiful Homes (BH): What was Elsa’s initial brief for this home?

Meera Pyarelal (MP): While she loves heritage styles and wanted her roots to echo through the apartment, she didn’t want a traditional Kerala home. And, since she travels a lot and has collected a lot of pieces over the years, she wanted to marry both these elements that have played a big role in her life.

 

BH: How did you envision this space?

MP: I was eyeing a sort of arts and crafts moment—I wanted each space to be bright with vivid colours and a lot of prints. The soul of the home would be very Indian with smaller details of European textures.

 

BH: Why did a tropical botanical theme fit in this home?

MP: Most clients aren’t very keen on using colour—they tend to stick to beige shades—but Elsa did not shy away from vibrant hues. So, I had free reign over mixing and matching jewel tones with gilded metals.

Meera Pyarelal designed a 5,000 sq. ft penthouse on the 22nd floor of the Joy Alukkas Gold Tower in Kochi for Elsa Joy Alukkas, the daughter of the jewellery label’s chairman.

BH: Tell us about the art in this home—there’s an intricate collection that’s come together to echo elements of Indianness in each room…

MP: Elsa didn’t have much of a personal collection—most of this was made by us at Temple Town or created by local artists here. The key was representing the family’s stories through their art. In the drawing room, for example, you'll see a large charcoal-on-silk artwork of a lotus pond above the divan. Elsa’s father, Joy Alukkas, is originally from a small town in Kerala, but he’s made a very big name for himself—similar to the lotus which comes up from the mud and eventually shines as the most beautiful flower in the pond.

 

BH: There are a lot of rich, quintessentially Indian materials used around the home, such as teak and brass. How did the material palette come together?

MP: Since we largely live in the tropics in this country, I always find myself combining teak, cane and brass because they’re easily available here and our artisans create fascinating pieces with it. It’s becoming a signature pairing at Temple Town.

 

BH: There are also a lot of colonial pieces of furniture in each room…

MP: Every piece of furniture here has been built at our studio. While we replicated colonial-style pieces, we stuck to adding Indian elements to each of them. The regency chairs placed in the entrance of the formal living room have been upholstered in white and gold silk, reminiscent of textile styles indigenous to Kerala. We’re constantly in the practice of making replicas to keep old craftsmanship and techniques alive. Some pieces, such as the hand-carved wooden headboard in the guest bedroom design, are locally sourced antiques.

Large vintage mirror with wood side board in foyer - Beautiful Homes

A large vintage mirror hangs above a cane and wood sideboard in the foyer. A set of bird prints frame this setting.

Formal living room enterance with regency chairs - Beautiful Homes

At the entrance of the formal living room, a restored heritage door from a haveli in Jaipur is flanked by two regency chairs upholstered in white and gold silk, reminiscent of textile styles indigenous to Kerala.

BH: How did you choose the plants for this home?

MP: Since I mostly design colonial-themed homes, plants play a big role in them. I always like placing a bit of greenery everywhere to keep each space fresh. I love to scale a room with the plants I can add in it, and the height it adds to it. And flowers never fail in brightening up a room. 

 

BH: What was this project’s biggest challenge?

MP: Definitely the time frame. We had to complete this home in 90 days. The entire workshop and studio was working 24/7 to get this ready in time for the wedding.

 

BH: Sustainability plays a big role in your design process. Tell us more about this.

MP: If you build quality pieces, they’ll be long-lasting and can be handed down as heirlooms, which is a true example of sustainability. We never go further than 50 kilometres when sourcing wood for the furniture that is made in our workshop. I know exactly where every single material comes from, where it ends up, and how it’s used. And everything is sourced responsibly with each piece always telling a local story—there’s nothing imported being included in the process. 

 

BH: What would your advice be for adding antiques or colonial styles in an Indian home?

MP: There’s a general misconception that you can’t add an old or traditional piece in a contemporary space because it might be a mismatch. I don’t think that’s true—it is actually quite unique to have a piece of you or your family telling a quiet story of your heritage in your home. This works in any house no matter how modern, sleek or minimal.

Queen anne console entrance lobby for home - Beautiful Homes

A Queen Anne console and a sculpture from Anthroplogie are paired together in the entrance lobby.

Living room with a mix of Indian & European design - Beautiful Homes

The living room is a mix of Indian and European design classics, with an emerald green chesterfield upholstered in rich velvet, a Dutch colonial divan with a row of silk cushions, a traditional South Indian oonjal (swing), and a set of brass and wooden centre tables. The large charcoal-on-silk artwork of a lotus pond above the divan is by Kerala-based artist Suneesh.

Brass banana leaf pendant light echoing in dining room - Beautiful Homes

A brass banana-leaf-shaped pendant light echoes the print on the Lewis & Wood wallpaper which envelopes the entire 10-seater dining room.

Breakfast station with ample storage in open kitchen - Beautiful Homes

The breakfast station looks into the open kitchen, and provides ample storage within its space.

Mint green laquered kitchen design for home - Beautiful Homes

The bespoke mint green lacquered kitchen is designed to be unique and timeless.

Monochrome tropical wallpaper for blue bedroom - Beautiful Homes

A monochrome tropical wallpaper is the pièce de résistance behind the bed’s cane headboard in the wintery-blue bedroom.

European inspired mouldings in master bedroom - Beautiful Homes

The master bedroom showcases European-inspired mouldings and tropical furnishings.

Queen elizabeth stamps cover in the study - Beautiful Homes

A collection of Queen Elizabeth II stamps cover a wall in the study.

Powder room with green marble walls - Beautiful Homes

The powder room has green marble walls, a custom brass mirror and hand embroidered linen.

Wall of greens in verandah with plantation chair - Beautiful Homes

In the verandah, a wall of greens placed next to a plantation chair makes the space feel closer to nature.

Bed in guest room with hand carved wooden headboard - Beautiful Homes

The bed in the guest room is adorned with an antique hand-carved wooden headboard which is offset by a mix of textured cushions to make the space visually dynamic.

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