Hidden away in the city’s urban sprawl are some eye-catching houses that break the monotony of the metroscape. Anusha Parthasarathy and Aruna V. Iyer report

They have been around for a while, so much so the neighbours no longer talk about them. But, they continue to raise eyebrows and spark curiosity when somebody sets eyes on them for the first time. They are homes that belong more in the fairy tale realm we dwelt in as children. Castles, ships, chariots and Mughal palaces doubling up as homes, lie hidden here and there in the city’s concrete jungle. Property Plus this week profiles some interesting houses that beat the monotony and boredom of the metroscape.

Just off the bustling TTK road is the quiet Shrilabdhi colony and at its very end is a building that is easy to overlook unless you happen to look up. Suddenly, you find yourself looking at a three-storey palace, complete with four domes on its terrace. Dashing pink with gold fringes and intricate glass paneling, it literally towers over its commonplace neighbours.

Inspired by Mysore’s famed Lalit Mahal, this ‘palace house,’ as locals call it is home to Valliappan and his family of five. “We've been living here since 1977. A decade ago, we decided to refurbish the house and I wanted to do something different. We had just come back from Mysore and I fell in love with the Lalit Mahal. I decided my home should look like it,” says the industrialist.

Sprawling over 12,000 square feet, spread over three floors, the house took a year to build. “We brought in sthapathis from Karaikudi to build the domes. Now, people keep stopping outside to take pictures. Some even come inside for tea and tell us that our house is beautiful. It was an expensive feat no doubt, but if you take interest in it, anything is possible,” smiles Valliappan.

Exposed bricks and a turret that reaches high make architect K.S. Ranganath’s house in Valmiki Nagar the local curiosity. Built in 1987, it looks like a downsized castle with its grounds drawn to scale. An experiment in unusual space utilisation, the whole building resembles a sound wave, rising and dipping and culminating in the turret’s crescendo. Having worked on the house from scratch, Mr. Ranganath says he built the turret to give him a perch from where he could see the sea. “Back in the 80s, there were hardly any buildings tall enough around here to block the sea view. Now it is hidden behind all the high-rises that have sprung up,” he says. With enough space for two people, the turret is his silent getaway.

The house, an expression of his creativity, took around a year to complete at a cost of Rs. 10 lakh. “People couldn’t decide what it was and there were varied comments. People used to call on us asking to look inside because they were curious. It’s a growing neighbourhood, with new people moving in all the time. This interest sometimes borders on disturbing our privacy, but we try to take it in our stride,” he says. The house has been featured in several architecture magazines. “I started work on this house six months before my marriage and it was the first house I and my wife moved into as a couple. It was like my gift to her,” he says.

‘Oblique Projections’ is the Srinivasans’ residence on a quiet street in Kottivakkam. Just one look and you'd know that it isn’t your typical house. With elongated sides that narrow down at the sides, the house, from a distance, has the shape of a luxury yacht.

Nithya Srinivasan, the architect, says the house is a representation of her design vocabulary. “It is designed as a functional residential unit that is well-lit and airy and offers good views as well as privacy,” she says. “Its setting on a deep and narrow urban plot with the sea at the rear, on the eastern side, and the harsh sun on the west, has given rise to a solution that relates to its slope. The slope comes from a two-storeyed volume on the rear, which houses the bedrooms, and joins the inclined front facade facing the street.”

And the house has caught the attention of everyone in the area. “A part of the agenda has been to inspire thinking about design, to make people pause and reflect on architecture and built space, rather than just be a box on the street,” Nithya explains.

Keywords: real estate

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