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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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