Deck: Shirley and Benji Varghese's elegant, green home in Neelangarai is not the work of a designer: it's a labour of love that reflects the couple's own personality, writes Hema Vijay

Location: Neelankarai

Architect: V. Jeevan

“When we built the house (1988), forget civilisation, there was not even a blade of grass here”, says Benji Varghese. That's something hard to imagine looking at the sprawling, green landscape that Benji and Shirley Varghese have created around their house.

This is a house that rolls casually down to the sea, taking off from a structure that sports a gay amalgam of sloping roofs. A two-storied structure under its umpteen sloping roofs, the house opens up from a portico to its inner spaces.

From the living room at its far end, it leads out through another portico into a backyard where most of the green action is set. Water cascades down a rockery by the portico here, and you step out on to a hilly lawn that includes walking trails, stone seats under shady trees, and a cute swimming pool flanked by a pagoda-roofed enclosure.

At the point where the Varghese residence meets the sea, there is a grove with frangipani trees, date palms, casuarinas, sea grapes and temple trees. “Since we like to have our gatherings out on the lawn, we decided to have a grove, which would act as a green barrier to create privacy”, Shirley says.

The couple was also particular about not having an interior designer do up their home. “We wanted our house to reflect our personality and our life.” So, everything that you see here — right from the gloriously hued athangudi tiles on the floor to the gorgeous figurative paintings that adorn the walls, the gleaming and intricately carved ethnic furniture, the stained glass lamps and other curios that you find all around — were collected by the

two on their travels or acquired over the years. And then of course, there are the ceramic and other art works created by Shirley herself, which Benji dotingly displays.

USP: A truly warm house that matches the grace of its inhabitants, and a very interesting garden that stretches into the seashore.

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