Homes and gardens

Reviving a colonial residence

Rich, vast, and a flexible design.

Rich, vast, and a flexible design.   | Photo Credit: Leena Kumar, Kumar Consultants

Rooms aplenty, large number of symmetric windows, strong columns and walls...a look by

When a building is almost a hundred years old and given possession for use as a residence, the first reaction is to demolish and build a swank new bungalow in its space. When Pramila Venugopal and Dr. Mani Venugopal took possession of their century-old ancestral house, dating back to 1922, their reaction was no different.

Especially so as the residence had been handed over in disrepair, after being used as a warehouse for stocking batteries with nil or zero maintenance; never mind if the captivating stonewall exterior with its multiple symmetric windows stood as a piece of history, the design and language of the structure smacking loudly of the colonial era.

Multiple doors

Multiple doors   | Photo Credit: Leena Kumar, Kumar Consultants

 

The couple then approached Architect Leena Kumar of Kumar Consultants. Given the excellent condition of the stone walls and 18-inch brick interior walls plastered with lime mortar, demolishing the structure and salvaging the materials indicated a time period of six months. “Though the building had been badly maintained, with acid spills from the batteries ruining the floors, the structure continued to be extremely strong, reflecting old-world glory. Restoration and functional changes to permit modern living appeared to be the right option”, says Pramila.

Massive

The 5,000 sq. ft ground-plus-one structure, sitting in the middle of an expansive 10,000 sq. ft site, has its thick exterior stone walls rising to over 30 feet, a curved lobby prevailing at the erstwhile entrance porch, flanked by symmetric windows of yore with their monkey-top sunshades. The structure, a silent testimony to a bygone era, stands in the historic area of Ulsoor, nestling amidst thick trees as well as snarling traffic.

“The residence had multiple rooms with no defined functionality, each permitting the desired use through the flexible design adopted. Each room came with multiple doors that connected one room to another in an unhindered way. Not only were the doors too many in number, so were the number of windows in each room, though their symmetric presence added character to the structure”, says Leena Kumar. “Some of the doors between the rooms as well as a few on the exteriors had to be sealed to lend privacy.”

Perfect landing

Perfect landing   | Photo Credit: Leena Kumar, Kumar Consultants

 

Though the windows along with their ventilators were all retained with merely a portion of the shutters removed and fitted with glass to permit light, not all doors were retained as double doors are cumbersome to operate. The existing windows were not expanded even though natural light was less in the interiors as the exterior stone walls were too strong to break. Though the structure is almost a century old, there is no leak, no crack on the lime-plastered walls, said Kumar.

A point worth noting was the number of layers of paint on doors and windows which needed to be laboriously scraped to reveal the fine teak wood underneath. “The windows and doors came with seven to nine layers of thick paint which was scraped”, adds Kumar.

Minimal changes

With no defined functionality in any of the rooms, it was no surprise that there was no room specifically assigned as a bedroom. “There was also a complete absence of attached toilets as such a concept did not exist during that era, with the toilets being common with an entry from the exterior to facilitate cleaning staff to enter from outside”, adds Kumar.

Stone facade

Stone facade   | Photo Credit: Leena Kumar, Kumar Consultants

 

During the restoration, four rooms were converted into bedrooms, with attached toilets built in either through a small extension from the room or by carving out a portion of the existing room.

“The changes made were minimal, with the focus purely on restoration and functionality.”

Reversed

Kumar further added, “The residence was also functionally reversed as in the original plan the living area featured at the back, and the kitchen was an independent unit on the side of the house. After the restoration, the living area was brought to the front, and a bedroom with an attached bathroom created in one of the rooms behind the lobby which was earlier the front porch. An extension was made at the back to accommodate a modern kitchen.”

A stunning granite spiral staircase takes one from the ground floor to the first floor of the house. “With a diameter of 9 feet by 6 feet, each step has a 5 feet granite slab placed one over the other around a central stone pillar”, elaborates Kumar on this grand stone spiral staircase.

The residence comes with an 18-ft.-high ceiling which was retained in its original form on the ground floor along with its rosettes, just as the 20-ft.-high tiled roof on the upper floor was retained.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 4:08:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/reviving-a-colonial-residence/article28100002.ece

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