Text: Jency Samuel Photo: R Samuel
Here a garden, there a garden
Everywhere a green garden.
That is precisely how one feels in the house of Bobby Benedict, a realtor in Vellore. Every room springs a surprise with a green space, be it big or small. The butterflies are a bonus in the open gardens.
CHALLENGE FOR ARCHITECT
Having envisioned a house in a big plot, but having had to settle for a small one due to circumstances, Bobby Benedict hoped to include all the features that he had originally wished for. There lay the challenge for the architect.
The snow flake plants (Euphorbia leucocephala) in all their winter glory, tease from behind an interesting compound wall of granite slabs and posts, inviting one to walk in for a closer inspection. There are planters with russelia, lantana cultivars and palms nestled in between the granite posts and slabs.
A short driveway and a garden mark the front of the two-storeyed, tiled-roof house. A framework of wooden slats beneath the ceiling in the raised porch is reminiscent of the Madras Terrace roof. The porch runs along the foyer wall as well, its extended roof screening the foyer against heat.
The main door leads to the foyer. With simple furniture, the foyer has an open frame of a showcase that contains minimalistic metal design pieces. Given the narrow plot, the foyer, stairwell, family and dining spaces flow from one to the other, yet are demarcated using other elements. A mini garden with plants and pebble landscaping abuts the foyer. To its other side is the stairway, which partially screens the family area. A sunken floor under the stairway leads to the powder room. The ventilator here is a little too low for privacy.
The formal living room looks out to a tastefully landscaped garden. Life revolves around this central garden, as the living, family and dining are built with a complete view of this garden. A designed wooden partition lends a separation between the living and the passage and stairway. It would effectively screen the living area once the awaited designer ornamentation that matches the window grill designs are in place.
COZY FAMILY AREA
The family area has been made spacious by a double height ceiling. The delightful focus of the family area is the wooden bridge that connects the bedrooms and the living area at the first floor level. The wooden flooring in the living and family areas demarcate the same from the rest of the area, besides lending a cosy feel.
Though attributed to an initial indecisiveness about the double-storey high ceiling, the structural beam that runs across the family area could have been avoided. If it was difficult to do away with the beam, a design element could have been worked around it. In a corner of the family area, wooden cabinets with cantilever arms house minimal ornamentation. The television and its wooden counter screen the formal dining from the family area.
A French window in the family area leads on to a patio that forms a part of the garden. The wooden rafters and battens of the tiled roof are suggestive of traditional Kerala houses, as Benedict hails from the state. The compound wall facing the French window has been done up with granite and jaisalmer stone slabs and stacked-up granite pieces, enhancing the landscaping.
The dining area has another small garden, raised over the septic tank. The external wall of this garden with its granite louvers offers privacy. It can be accessed for maintenance, through the passage that runs along the compound wall. The architect is candid that the wooden framework placed above the dining table to conceal mispositioned electrical points has been a big draw with visitors!
MINI GARDEN IN TOILET
The dining leads to the pantry and the master bedroom. The bedroom with its usual elements has a walk-in wardrobe and the toilet on either side of a short passage. Given the apparent space constraint, one would not except a garden in the toilet. But there it is, a surprise feature of a mini garden, separated from the shower area by a low wall. The space, ventilated through the pergola and the mesh above, has been walled in for privacy, with hard landscaping using granite.
The master bedroom also has its own private sit-out and garden. The sit-out shows a hint of Kerala architecture with its sloping tiled roof and wooden pillars and the place itself with beautiful flowering orchids in planters hanging from the rafter edges. The quaint wooden seaters are supported on granite pillars. Meandering rough granite stones make a walk possible, lending a relief as well. The garden has been covered on top with a mesh to prevent monkeys from wreaking havoc. The monkey-proofing also shuts out the tiny birds and butterflies from the garden that is almost the same size as the bedroom.
Through a small gate, the garden can be accessed for maintenance purposes, from the kitchen garden adjacent to the kitchen. Besides vegetable plants and climbers, the kitchen garden houses many cacti. Between the kitchen and the pantry lies a small courtyard. Pet parakeets keep chattering in this green space with a miniature lawn and other plants. An ornate spiral staircase leads to the helpers’ quarters upstairs.
BEDROOMS WITH GARDEN VIEW
The first floor houses three bedrooms and a living area. The bedrooms too look out into a garden each. The bedroom in the front and those in the rear half of the building are connected by the wooden bridge spanning along the family area of the ground floor. The bedroom in the first floor, facing the road, has an awning over the balcony.
WOODWORK NOT WORTH IT
This tensile membrane awning provided in the first floor is at variance with the rest of the tiled roof. The wooden struts beneath the sloping roof overhangs, just a few, do not add to structural support or aesthetics. The wooden beading atop the skirting in the porch too is not noticeable aesthetically, considering the amount of work that would have gone into making and fixing it.
The offset that runs beside the formal living and the central garden leads right upto the pantry, facilitating supplies to be brought directly to the kitchen, even in the absence of the owners. The requisite building offsets on either side of the building are narrow for a full-fledged garden and hence these strips are dotted with potted plants; the gardens in all effecting life around them for the owners.
Architect : Ranjan Daniel
Client : Bobby Benedict
Plot size : 6500 sq ft
Built-up area : 6000 sq ft
Location : Gandhi Nagar, Vellore