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Home > Local Rajasthani Craftsmanship Meets Traditional South Indian Vernacular Elements

Local Rajasthani Craftsmanship Meets Traditional South Indian Vernacular Elements

Sketch Design Studio creates a holiday home nestled in the Aravali valley, rooted in nostalgia and slow living

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Location: Alwar, Rajasthan
Size of the plot: 5 acres
Size of the structure: 2700 square feet
Number of bedrooms: 3
Architecture and interior design firm: Sketch Design Studio
Design team: Shipra Singhania, Gargi Thakur and Mohit Ganda
Stylist: Raahul Kukreja
Photographer: Purnesh Dev 

The home exemplifies how architectural elements from different parts of India can come together to create a unique living space

With sustainable design, there arises a need to understand and respect all that has come before us. Traditional structures and architectural techniques were purposefully informed by their context and culture; they evolved to respond to topography and climate specifications. Learning from these historical elements, and adapting them to fit contemporary constructions, is something Sketch Design Studio is not only familiar with, but also strives for with its earth-friendly projects. 

It is because of this specialisation that the design firm was chosen to build a holiday home in Alwar’s Akbarpur, Rajasthan, for a well-travelled couple now based in Singapore. Having spent their childhood in the area, the couple looked to local recommendations for designing and building a 2500-square-foot home on their farmland. Helmed by founder and architect Shipra Singhania, Sketch Design Studio is passionate about reviving and experimenting with traditional architectural techniques, moulding them to align with contemporary contextual requirements. 

In the verandah that graces three sides, native stone replaces wood in the custom pillars, while terracotta tiles and lime plaster walls add to the textural treat

Gautam and his wife (the client) are avid travellers. They frequently travelled to Tamil Nadu and Kerala in their early years and have a special fascination for traditional Tamil homes,” explains architect Shipra Singhania. They wanted their holiday home in Rajasthan to imbibe some of these beautiful architectural elements from the south, especially semi-open verandahs bordered by pillars. 

Surrounded by the Aravali range, this holiday home affords beautiful panoramic views

Populated by Sagwan trees that are indigenous to Rajasthan, the site is surrounded by the Aravalli range towards the south, west and north. It has a large lawn at the entrance, and a mud dam to channelise rainwater. As the couple loves to host large groups of family and friends, special attention was given to relaxing spaces that would be doubled for entertaining. “I wanted the house to open into the lawn and the kitchen garden, also maintaining a view of the hills from inside the rooms. To enhance functionality, the traditional courtyard has been relocated towards the west, connecting itself to the kitchen garden on the farm. This area serves as a private and relaxed open-to-sky family space,” she continues. 

Traditional Tamil homes feature pillars or an ornamental archway which served as the inspiration for these Dholpur stone pillars made with locally sourced materials
The courtyard has been shifted westward to link with the farm’s kitchen garden while diverse roof heights were designed to invite a play of natural light

Singhania’s starting point was to deep dive into the architectural techniques used in traditional Kerala and Tamil Nadu homes. Armed with this knowledge, the studio listed out those elements which could be incorporated into this home nestled in the heart of Rajasthan. “We translated these elements into a language which could work with architecture in a hot and dry region. [As such] The house features construction techniques and particular materials that enhance its functionality and aesthetics,” she says. 

The cozy interiors have exposed walls and ceilings, allowing natural light to enter
The open-plan living and dining area; Rammed earth consultants: Design Undo
While designing the home’s interiors, the process was aligned with the firm’s sustainable ethos
By incorporating all furniture from the client’s existing collection, the firm promotes adaptive reuse

The home’s interiors are divided into three bedrooms, a kitchen, and an open-plan living and dining area. Using a reinforced concrete building with exposed roofs as its foundation, its interiors include a predominant palette of locally sourced materials. Inspired by the traditional Rajasthani lime plaster techniques of thaapi and kada, generally found in kothis, Sketch Design Studio built certain walls with red bricks, using a rat-trap bond with lime mortar. Other walls were moulded with rammed earth, formed by mud sourced from land opposite the site. Lime plaster helps keep the surface cooler, while the earthen walls insulate the house. The floors are made of terrazzo and Kolams – decorative motifs – inlaid into the surface. The verandah sees a mix of local Dholpur stone for the pillars, Mangalorian roof tiles, terracotta flooring tiles, and lime plaster walls. 

“Working in remote locations and rural areas, with materials that are not typically used in  construction, comes with its own set of challenges. Sourcing these natural materials and finding skilled artisans to work with them requires time and research. Before starting any project, we also indulge in on-site experiments to understand how local soil reacts to lime, and whether it is desirable to work with. Understanding the weather and surrounding site conditions becomes equally important,” Singhania explains. 

Sketch Design Studio layered certain walls with red bricks, using a rat-trap bond with lime mortar
The bedrooms; Bed linen and cushions from Studio Noon
The house is furnished with pieces collected by the clients on their travels

Through their travels, the family has amassed an impressive collection of personal art, artefacts, furniture and rugs, which they were keen to use within the home. This allowed for the Sketch Design Studio team to repurpose various decor elements while implementing a nostalgic architectural atmosphere. Furthermore, their construction materials informed the home’s earthy colour palette, which was enhanced by carefully chosen furnishings.

Singhania studied architectural techniques used in traditional Kerala and Tamil Nadu homes
Special attention was paid to open and semi-open spaces for family and friends to relax and entertain

The interiors are also aligned in keeping with the firm’s sustainable design ethos. “For the kind of architecture we practice, we are very mindful to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can. For instance, we employed local materials and artisans without having to transport anything from the south – the farthest we went to was Gujarat to source Mangalorean tiles. We avoided unnecessary layers on the building so the structure could be true to its skeleton. Keeping the walls and ceiling mostly exposed, we used single-layer lime plaster as wall finishes only where necessary. We reused all the furniture from the client’s existing collection, thus promoting adaptive reuse and simultaneously reducing waste. This created a relaxed and slow-living atmosphere throughout the home,” Singhania concludes. 

The exterior & interior layout of the home inspires a relaxed and slow-living atmosphere


Story by Nadezna Siganporia

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