Area of home: 6,000 square feet
Number of bedrooms: 4 bedrooms, one office
Year of completion: April 2022
Design firm: Balan + Nambisan Architects
Principal architects/designers of the firm: Arun Balan, Hamsini Murali
Photographer: Yash Raj Jain
Nestled in the heart of Bengaluru is a peaceful duplex that has been purposefully cocooned from the cacophony of metropolitan city life. The occupants are a young couple, whose lifestyle epitomises the essence of ‘work hard, play hard’. They desired a home that exuded tranquillity, and this became the core of the design by Balan + Nambisan Architects. Principal architect Arun Balan explains, “We wanted to create a space that made one forget the world outside and, upon entering, is transported to a tranquil oasis, leaving all stress and worry behind. The couple was open to having a space that didn’t need to feel like a typical home, which gave us complete freedom to amp up the design, keeping it dim and distinct.”
While they were given a free hand with the design, BNA soon realised that the constraints were many. The firm was engaged to completely transform the interiors; however, being a rental home meant a lot of elements needed to be kept the way they were, including air conditioning units, major electricals, flooring, kitchen cabinetry, plumbing, and tiling. “We tried to break away from the various constraints on site and look at the space afresh—layering elements onto existing entities to make it disappear or work with the scheme,” says Hamsini Murali.
They achieved this by reimagining the duplex as a monolithic canvas with a Brutalist edge. One of the broadest design changes they made was to convert the bare white walls of the main living spaces into a single grey tone. “Micro-concrete is the main finish on all wall and ceiling surfaces; it helps to create a Brutalist interior as well as avoid paint, which the client disliked. Heavy wooden frames around the ceiling were also taken off to allow the ceiling and wall to merge into one monolithic element,” she adds. Along with the existing flooring in Crema marble, it created a sombre canvas that works as the base for the moody interiors while serving as the perfect backdrop upon which they layered carefully curated elements.
These elements included accent walls of stacked wooden slats and aged brick tiles, which served a dual purpose of layered aesthetics and cleverly concealing obsolete services on walls. Bulky and odd partitions were wrapped with marble and a mirror to become sculptural pieces. The largely custom-made furniture in muted palettes and textiles like suede, velvet, and linen was thoughtfully chosen to blend in so that lighting and art could take centre stage.
“We spent our time custom-designing specific elements, such as the ceiling lights in the living room, made out of strips of folded metal sheet and stitched together with the loveliest craftsmanship. This piece was further accentuated by a wash of unseen light, making it the piece-de-resistance in the space. We didn’t let the fact that we couldn’t find a ready fixture off the shelf stop us from making a dramatic statement,” she continues.
Lending an air of contemporary sophistication, the vibrant art and sculptures inject the home with personality. “Abundant care was taken to curate art—a marriage between Indian and modern pieces that worked hand in hand,” Murali explains. “A series of sculptural horse busts from Indonesia, a bright yellow monkey adding a splash to the wall, handmade pieces of sculpture, and lights all add to the fun.” Artists like Gurudas Shenoy, Naina Maithani, Claire Lono, Prashant Prabhu, Praveen Kumar, and Amit Ambalal adorn the walls, adding a layer of contrast and boldness to the aesthetic.
Within the four bedrooms, the design theme deviates from the public spaces. “Within these rooms, a sense of warmth and the invitation of sunlight are emphasised with the use of a lighter colour and material palette. The design of each bedroom is tailored to each user—a playful, changeable room for the eight-year-old daughter and a cosy master with an additional tinted glass walk-in carved out for the couple,” she adds. The bathrooms were completely transformed by just adding the right contrast of wallpaper and paint without touching the tiles or flooring.
The heart of the home is this double-height deck. What was originally a dead balcony was also the only source of light and ventilation. “The balcony was converted to a bar and alfresco dining. This really became the heart of the house, the one with the most amount of natural light. We screened it off from a theatre of adjoining windows with tall screening plants and transformed the space into a happy place for the clients. My personal favourite!” Murali concludes.
Story by Nadezna Siganporia