Celebrating Nostalgia

Architect duo Sharanya and Raghuveer from Studio Context bring new dimensions to nostalgia by giving a contemporary makeover to an ancestral home. By Aarthi Mohan

For every occasion, there’s always one home that serves as the official venue. More often, it’s the family home where many of us grew up in. While one can splurge on a renovation, preserving the home’s nostalgic feel and details is also important. The architects at Studio Context attempt at creating simple, neatly crafted spaces that are contextually and climatically responsive to the immediate environment. To them, the beauty of a design is expressed best through details, which is strongly rooted in traditional values of architecture interpreted in a contemporary sense.

Designed on the same ideals is a lovely quaint 80-year old house in the heart of Chennai which is a subtle intelligent exercise on sensitive restoration. “The residence, a ground, and first-floor structure is a space that holds fond memories of the clients’ childhood. We were approached by them to revamp the first floor of the home and reproduce its unique old-world charm in today’s context, for their daughters to live and experience”, says Raghuveer.

The planning of this 1200 square feet space is typical of a traditional Madras home. The “thinnai” at the entrance, small compact rooms with multiple doorways, slender wooden roof beams supporting a brick roof, lime plastered walls, etc. are some of the interesting features that required careful treatment in the design. “The aim was to retail the old-world charm and any design insertions had to strike a conscious balance, keeping the essence of the space intact and at the same time infusing a contemporary touch to it. We decided to retain most of the inherent value of these elements while exposing the honesty of the structure”, they said.

Enamel clad rafters, doors, and windows were scraped to their bare skin, bringing out the beauty of the seasoned Burma Teak wood. Traditional red oxide and cement floors were polished and treated to restore their original character.

The thinnai / verandah of an ancestral Madras home acts as a transitional space between the outside and the private space of the house. A long shoe rack along the expansive openings of the North East façade of the residence doubles up as a seater. This, along with a couple of armchairs, becomes a lovely spot to enjoy a cup of tea in the early morning light or social space in the evening for the family to gather together.

The addition of a perforated screen divides the long corridor-like space into a living room and a vestibule. The living room now with an added layer of privacy is adorned with elements typical of a South Indian household. Most of the upholstery for the curtains and the cushions were sourced from traditional Silk sarees. The furniture has been sourced from antique shops so that they blend in with the period style of the residence. The top portions of the walls have family photographs, framed in the black and white reminiscent of yesteryear images.

The cozy vestibule is transformed into a study space with a comfortable corner and a plantation chair to relax in. A unique double fold wooden door detailed with vertical grooves and custom made slender brass handles leads to the bathroom which takes everyone by surprise. This treatment was necessary to not draw too much attention to its awkward position in the center of the house.  The Bedroom, small yet cozy defines this space. The blue of the ethnic wallpaper in tandem with the carefully selected upholstery contrasts beautifully with the sloping terracotta tile roof.

The artwork brings out the clients’ love for their childhood memories: school children’s moral science posters from the ’80s and ’90s are neatly framed. Whites and blues tied together by a grey cement floor highlight the elegant bedroom.

“At Studio Context, each project is welcomed with great enthusiasm and we believe the best in us comes out when we interact and exchange ideas. Our workplace inevitably ends up as a hub for our friends to endlessly discuss work, life, and challenges and just about how to make everything better. We are here to create a change,” shares this enthusiastic duo.