The AIR house, for a minimalism-loving family of three, is a testament to how a lot can be expressed in a little. The clients, who affectionately refer to themselves as “AIR,” had this acronym based on the initials of their family members’ names. Wanting the home to be authentic to its name, the family aspired for it to be spacious and airy.
They had been residing in this 1000 sq ft 2BHK apartment as tenants for a good few years but came to own it very recently. With the inability to make any major changes to the place as a tenant, the newfound ownership commenced a quest for identity that resonated with them. With an attachment and multitudes of memorable moments the clients had with this place, they wanted to conceive a sense of belonging with their home, making it their own. The clients were introduced to their designers through a mutual reference.
Mercury Architects is an international practice that specializes in residential projects among other categories. They were invited by the family to help them transform their home. The principles of their design practice revolve around a solution-first approach. They believe that design not only helps you live better but also is a reflection of who you are, thus becoming timeless—unaffected by trends. Having a decluttered home was a non-negotiable for clients. Their desire to have an organised space made dedicated storage for everything a must.
“They quoted ‘Less is more’ in our initial discussions, signalling their belief in the Minimalist design philosophy”, says Santosh Satpathy, the head designer of Mercury Architects. He explains, “Rather than adhering to a pre-conceived style, we focus on discovering what the clients want and helping them fulfil their vision. The challenging part about this is that it is often as much of a discovery process for the clients as much as it is for us.” The family’s penchant for minimalism became the defining factor for the design. Each element—from a door handle to a lamp—had to establish its significance to earn a place in the house.
What resulted was a fruitful collaboration, where the Architects helped the client achieve their vision of the house. The design is accentuated by rustic textures, exuding warmth and homely comfort. The ivory walls make it spacious and airy, infusing a gentle softness without looking sterile. The entrance to the AIR house has a concave character, with the external lobby walls converging into the door, resulting in a beautiful focal point. The doorway creates a sense of anticipation of what lies inside. The entrance leads into a transitional space, with the convergence of the master bedroom walls drawing the focus.
Previously, it created a jarring experience for the viewer, with the edge sharply cutting through the expansiveness of the space. It was the first element the designers looked to solve. Curving the edge and layering the wall with veneer panels softened the space and enriched the visual experience. With the client’s evident taste for veneers—being reminiscent of their childhood home and also being loved for its texture—it became the primary material of the project’s palette.
The panelling also concealed the bedroom door, creating a seamless visual experience for the visitor and instilling a sense of awe. The vertical character of the wooden grain running along the wall accentuated the height, making the space visually taller. The experience of a visitor was completely transformed, with the doorway becoming a portal to the family’s ethereal residence.
This element also became the guiding beacon for the rest of the design, focusing on soft curves and natural components. The curved wall possesses more than just visual significance. The furniture pieces along the travel paths were softened around the edges to make them safer. This feature was added to elements across the house to integrate a cohesive design vocabulary.
The apartment is situated in the NRI Colony in Seawoods, Navi Mumbai. Having a panoramic view of a creek flowing into the sea makes the windows significantly opportune. With the desire to offer an everyday opportunity to enjoy the view, the windows were dilated. The sills were broadened, inviting the users to comfortably perch and enjoy the scenery. It allowed the family to linger around the breathtaking views and cherish them for longer. This strategy was used for seating for the dining table, maximising the available space. An aluminium clock that complements the design palette adorns the dining area, displaying the way minimalism can be explored to exhibit beauty in simplicity.
The larger windows, coupled with the ivory walls and minimal texture made the home look exceptionally well-lit and spacious. The Design of the house consists of just one primary accent texture—one that spans across all spaces and surfaces—unifying the design. Almost all the elements of the house are custom-designed, to seamlessly blend into the visual language and be interweaved in the spaces. The doorway to the kitchen was crafted into a large opening, allowing the spaces to flow into each other and look more spacious.
Even after the kitchen was made visible from common spaces, care was taken to allow privacy to anyone working in the kitchen—a pre-requisite in most Indian households. The finish used in the kitchen, lacquered glass, made the majority of surfaces reflective, making the narrow space appear opulent. The minimal allure that engulfs the home is heeded to in the bedrooms. It is reflected in details such as the side table, which contains a single drawer and floats attached to the headboard.
The family had a taste for clean unadorned walls, which if adorned, had to be done with something exceptional. The three lively paintings that grace the space as a centrepiece follow the natural minimalistic undertone and were painted by a near relative of the family. The bed was also designed to be extendable, adding accommodation capacity.
Walls alongside work desks tend to be damaged from chairs’ regular friction against them. In the AIR house, it was protected using a novel concept. The lacquered glass was used as a design element that transformed the clock into an ornate element. Having the ability to be written on, it could also be used as a whiteboard – adding functionality through thoughtful design.
With the minimalist theme of the apartment, every element was required to be visually tasteful. The door handles thus spanned the entire length of the door to add character to the expanse. The soft-furnishing became the canvas where elements and textures could be exhibited. Colours, textures and themes from the design were emulated into the fabrics that adorned the furniture, creating a curated effortless appeal.
The project thus became a testament to a designer’s role in making an apartment—by adding warmth and beauty to a home while adhering to minimalism. Rather than being delegated from the client to the designer, the process was a collaborative one, which helped the designers embed the personalities to blend in their home while being highly functional and comforting. While explaining their process, Santosh mentions, “Rather than following a stylistic approach, understanding the client and designing a home that the client could feel the most comfortable was foremost. If the design does not complement the client, it creates conflict, which often ends up in a design failure as the client would end up making necessary modifications.”
Name of the project: “AIR”
Firm Name: MERCURY ARCHITECTS
Design Team and Designation: Ar. Santosh Satpathy (Head Architectural Designer) and Ar. Arjun Madhavan (Senior Architect) and Rucha Saswade (Interior Designer)
Location of the project: NRI Complex, Seawoods, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra – 400706
Area (Sq.ft): 1000 sq.ft.