by Anmol AhujaDec 05, 2020
Recollecting the experience of walking through Mayank Anand’s home a few months ago, noted Indian fashion designer Sandeep Khosla shares, “It’s amazing how much space has been carved out of such a small footprint…The house is dotted with fabulous art and textiles and there are hidden gems throughout the house that you may miss on your first visit. It’s a space that asks you to spend time in it. In one word, it is magical".
Fashion and interior architecture designer Mayank Anand has conceived a stunning house for himself and his family in Jalandhar, Punjab, India. Drawing inspiration from old castles and forts and the rich heritage of Indian history and crafts, the house reveals an assortment of labyrinthine spaces and vintage objects, each with a unique story of its own.
In a conversation with STIR, Mumbai-based Anand narrates the design journey of the project.
Zohra Khan (ZK): Can you describe the spirit of the building?
Mayank Anand (MA): The house evokes a memory of the past and very gently nudges it into the present. And it has a name. It is called Sat-Chit-Ananda (meaning: Being-Consciousness-Bliss).
ZK: Where is the house located? What does the neighbourhood look like?
MA: Jalandhar, in the state of Punjab, is one of the oldest living cities in India but has over the years lost its connection to history and has evolved into a quintessential industrial city with haphazard construction and tight public spaces. It has expanded into the surrounding farmlands and has enveloped various rural villages into its embrace. In the middle of these farmlands is a gated community of row houses and bungalows. The house sits on a south facing corner plot that is open on three sides.
ZK: Can you describe the architecture of the house?
MA: The house is designed like a Lego house where vertical and horizontal spaces are set on a grid. The spaces interact with each other by way of certain strategic walls and ceilings that have been subtracted from the Lego block.
The floor plan is fairly simple. It is a series of rectangles and squares that run perpendicular and parallel to each other and are stacked horizontally and vertically. A friend’s daughter had a basket of coloured blocks that I borrowed, and I combined it with some pieces from my own Jenga to make the first 3D model of the house.
ZK: Where did you seek inspiration in conceptualising the interiors? What was the starting point?
MA: Anything that I have ever designed, the starting point and the inspiration has always been India. We have such a long, varied and extensive history in design that even if I explore just one aspect in every house that I make, I will have to make a million houses and I would have just scratched the surface.
ZK: Can you walk us through the various spaces?
MA: The house is spread over three levels with double height spaces juxtaposed with single height alcoves and extensions that give the building a sense of being a maze. One room opens into another, just like in old castles and forts, to reveal an unexpected space that embraces yet another room, a staircase or an internal balcony.
The first level is in three linear segments: the garage, the library bar, the staff quarters and a powder room occupy the first segment. The second houses the foyer, the staircases, the storerooms, a sitting alcove and part of the formal dining. The third segment encloses spaces with 20ft high ceilings. These include the anteroom, the formal living and rest of the formal dining.
The second level is the family’s living floor, which in effect is only half a floor owing to the double height spaces on the first level. This floor includes the kitchen, a powder room, a family dining, a family parlour, and a staircase going up to the third level.
Everything that we could save and salvage from the past has been used in some form or other for us to enjoy stories about on cold winter evenings. – Mayank Anand
ZK: The house reveals a potpourri of styles, influences and imagery. From where were these cues drawn?
MA: Each piece that is in the house has a story to tell. The family already owned various pieces of antique and vintage elements that were employed to dress the spaces. We have an extensive collection of vintage china; rugs, carpets, kilims and french paisleys; antique furniture from the Edwardian and Victorian era and some Art Deco and mid-century modern pieces. Each piece has a sense of history attached to it: from the wheel of my great grandfather’s tonga, to my father’s Victoria, to the dining chairs and Victorian sofa sets and settees that were part of my mother’s dowry. There are old land revenue records rendered in beautiful Urdu calligraphy that have been framed and used as wall art. Dining tabletops have been suspended from ceilings to make light fixtures. Everything that we could save and salvage from the past has been used in some form or other for us to enjoy stories about on cold winter evenings.
Other pieces were meticulously picked on travels from antique stores in London and Rome, quaint shops in Pondicherry, Kochi and Jodhpur, auction houses and flea markets, and some were hand me down from friends and family.
We did not want to use a modular window system as that would have ruined the mood of the house and neither we wanted flat panes of glass because that would have been downright boring. – Mayank Anand
ZK: One of the key features within the house is the use of repurposed wooden doors and windows and a feature wall embedded with stunning lattices. What was your idea and from where did you source these elements?
MA: The jaali wall was an addition that came about after much deliberation. In the original plan, this wall did not exist. This area was an open courtyard, but because of security reasons, we decided to enclose it with a wall. The challenge was to close the courtyard yet have light coming into the new formal courtyard drawing room, the sitting alcove and the library bar beyond.
We did not want to use a modular window system as that would have ruined the mood of the house and neither we wanted flat panes of glass because that would have been downright boring. Besides, glass facades on a south facing wall just do not work in a place like India. I came across this lot of old windows with shutters at an auction and grabbed it up right away. These are from various houses in Bhuj and northern Gujarat and are probably from the late 1800s. We used half of the lot and embedded the windows in the walls during the construction process and the other half was added in layers to form this feature wall. The wallpaper technique is something that we have developed in-house and together with the jaali windows and the light that filters through, the room transforms from day to evening.
ZK: Can you elaborate on the aesthetic treatment of these fenestrations?
MA: I am a compulsive buyer when it comes to something antique or vintage. I have been buying architectural salvage material for years now and one of our godowns is dedicated to only windows. Most of the ones we have used in this house are from chawls and pre-independence building from various parts of Mumbai, Pune, Satara and Sawant Wadi. In all, there are over 400 windows. Some were retrofitted with pressed stained glass in various colours and were assembled into two 20 ft windows that form the main source of natural light for the formal dining room. About a hundred odd windows were fitted with mirrored glass and mounted on the ceiling of the formal drawing room. A few others were used in the sunroom adjoining the master suite. During construction, we did refer to the house as ‘the house with many windows’.
ZK: What constitutes the material palette?
MA: To restore, reclaim, reuse, repurpose, repair and refurbish is the ethos of our practice. Concrete slabs that were poured for the flooring of the labour quarters were uprooted when the quarters were demolished and used as facing for the 'ruined' corner of the facade. Reclaimed wooden beams from a Mumbai mill have been used for the door frames and staircases. All the doors and windows have been reclaimed, restored and retrofitted with period appropriate hardware. Discarded metal sheets from factories have been used as cladding. An old die-fitter’s table has been refurbished and used as the vanity unit in a bathroom. The idea was to keep everything natural. Stone, not tile. Wood, not laminate. Metal, not plastic.
ZK: How did you take natural light into consideration? Can you describe the transformation of spaces through the day?
MA: The house is built on a plot of land that is open on the east, south and west. The building itself is configured facing south so as to get direct light into all the spaces. Rooms in the house are arranged in sections. The outer section facing the south gets the maximum light and therefore houses the wall of many windows in the formal living room and the stained-glass windows in the formal dining room. The light transforms the space not only during the course of the day but also during various seasons as the direction of the sun changes ever so slightly. The rising sun lights up the entrance and the private terrace and the setting sun warms the kitchen and the sunroom in the evening.
I get a kick from looking at people’s faces when they experience spaces of this house. I can see the hours of work that I put in and the expression that I wanted to create reflected on their faces. – Mayank Anand
ZK: What have been the key challenges through the design journey?
MA: The brief was to create a family home for a family that was downsizing from a two-acre house to one that was 250 square meters without losing the sense of space and luxury that the family was used to living in. The challenge was that the family was my own. The challenge was also to coax the team that I was working with for the first time, to get out of a mediocre way of thinking and help build something that was grander than anything that they had ever attempted before. Another challenge was to make larger-than-life vintage and antique pieces functional.
ZK: Which is your favourite spot in the house?
MA: I am torn here. I love the kitchen. I love the sense of space there. It is where the family comes together and cooks and eats and there is laughter and fun. But I also love the ‘wall of many windows’ and the formal dining room with the stained-glass windows. I get a kick from looking at people’s faces when they experience the spaces of this house. I can see the hours of work that I put in and the expression that I wanted to create reflected on their faces.
Name: Sat Chit Ananda
Location: Jalandhar, Punjab, India
Client: Mayank Anand