A Tropical Retreat

In award-winning project ‘Casa Feliz’ by Mumbai-based architecture and interior firm ADND the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces are blurred. By Amrita Shah

ADND is an award-winning Mumbai – based architecture and design firm spearheaded by architects Anand Menon and Shobhan Kothari. Alumnus from the same design school and friends for a long time, the duo teamed up only when they realised how similar their design sensibilities were when they took part as individuals in a design competition over 20 years ago and their layout plans practically overlapped.

The dining area and the double height living space beyond. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Although the firm is now more than 20 years old, Shobhan says their thought processes are still very similar and their approach to a project is always the same. It is in the ‘veneering’ or the aesthetics where they differ. With their diametrically varying takes on life and creativity, the Principal architects of ADND find their commonality in celebrating and inventing bespoke design. Anand, an artist at heart, with undeniable talent in sketching and photography, has an organic approach to design which lies in the embrace of the intangible and relies on visual expression. In contrast, Shobhan is a man of structured discipline whose approach to design is targeted, meticulous, and intensely focused. The success behind ADND relies on the precise balance maintained between the ‘Artist’ and the ‘Thinker’.

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

ADND believe there is a strong philosophy behind good architecture. “Simple is good,” Shobhan says. “The concept behind most of our projects can be captured in 2 or 3 sketches. We believe in creating a strong plan that we then explore in the 3rd dimension. Timeless appeal is what we want – not trendy.”

The pool is surrounded by lush vegetation. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

In the case of Casa Feliz, located in Alibaug, a small coastal town just off the Mumbai harbour, the plan was as simple as can be – 2 L-shaped blocks placed to create a central courtyard, thereby creating a balance of solid mass and void. Shobhan took this exploration of contrasts a step further into the 3rd dimension. The smaller of the 2 L blocks is a double height transparent glass box that forms the core of the house and seems to echo the sense of openness of the courtyard, while the other is a lower, solid mass finished in warm hued clay bricks that stretches beyond the inner core, almost shielding it from what lies beyond the courtyard.

The multipurpose room on the first floor provides a space for intimate gatherings. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Full length windows open up to the landscaped grounds. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

The Principals prefer to get involved in any project from the time the land is acquired, so conceptualisation of the project and the positioning of a house on the site are considerations for purchase of a plot. The 2 acre site selected for Casa Feliz was densely vegetated with dozens of trees and had a water body in the south east corner. Perfect for the verdant tropical paradise he had envisioned, Shobhan took a decision to leave all the existing trees on site untouched and create a house where there would be no boundary between the building and nature.

The house is set amidst a tropical forest. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

The entrance driveway meanders around a dense cluster of existing trees initiates the connect with nature that is prevalent in the entire villa. The house looks like a fortress from the driveway; a 20-foot-long metal door set into a punctuated clay brick wall greets visitors, acting as a divider between the outside and inside world.

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

“I love the idea of a reveal. Here I wanted to create a physical threshold that acts like a portal – disconnecting you from the chaos of the outside world into a world of tranquillity within,” says Shobhan. “With bright sunshine year-round and a few months of rain, we needed to curate a space around nature. We believe in living in the threshold – about enjoying the weather without getting burnt or wet,” he further explains his response to the site, pointing out the importance of verandahs, deep overhangs and covered connecting spaces to combat the elements.

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Stepping through this imposing door, a large entry court opens into the courtyard and reveals the rest of the house. In front, a covered verandah-cum-open living space with a large courtyard resplendent with frangipani trees, palms and ferns to one side and an elevated swimming pool dressed with stone masonry to the other. The transparency of the open verandah is echoed in the glass walls that surround the living and dining spaces beyond and continue into the master suite above. Beyond the courtyard and connected by deep circulating corridor is the solid single storey block comprising of bedrooms to one side and the service areas to the other. Floor to ceiling glass windows in the bedrooms look outward into the lush landscaped areas, continuing that sense of being one with nature while maintaining privacy.

The master suite on the first floor opens up to views of the pool on one side and the central courtyard on the other. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Nature finds its way into the bathrooms too. Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

The location is an integral part of the house – the air is thick with the scent of perennial blooms and the salty sea air, frangipani branches seem to wrap around the structure showing how the house coexists with nature, and the lush landscape is visible from every space in the villa – whether seen through glass walls or in the landscaped bathrooms.

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Steel and glass make the house seem contemporary, while the use of muted earthy tones and artefacts such as a petrified wood centre table and wooden sculptures on the wall seem to root the house deeper into its connect with nature. “When it comes to second homes, we like to create spaces where the residents can wind down and enjoy the slow tropical life,” says Shobhan. Casa Feliz does just that – it invites you to lose yourself in the embrace of nature and leave everything else behind at the threshold.

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Photographs: ©PHX India, Sebastian Zachariah

Project Fact File: Casa Feliz, Alibaug

Project: Casa Feliz

Location: Sasawane, Alibaug

Company: ADND

Architect: Shobhan Kothari

Design Team: Ar. Dinesh R Thakur (Senior Architect), Ar. Benson D’Souza (Project Architect)

Type of Project: Residential

Area: 10,000 sq.ft


Landscape: KMA

Structural: Mahesh Chavan

Woodwork: Woodstar

Pool Consultant: Samundar Pools

Water Filteration: Smaart Water

Windows: Elite Windows

HVAC: Cool Air

Electrical: G. Mody & Sons



Flooring: Nexion floor tile

Wall Finish: Polymer Plaster, paint, Veneer Paneling and wall tiles

Architectural Facade: Clay brick Tile (from Bombay Tiles)

Sanitaryware & Fittings: Kohler, Jaquar

Furniture & Lighting Fixtures: Bali

Roof Shingles: GAF, Timberline