How did you decide on your architect?
We met Jitesh when we came to Chandigarh. We lived in Gurgaon at that time and got to know of him through someone. What I really liked about Jitesh was that he took the trouble to visit us in Gurgaon. He said, “I want to see how you live.” I think he wanted to get a feel of how we lived before creating something for us. Very few architects will go this extra mile. He came and he saw our house and Asjit told him the basics, how many rooms he wanted and he told Jitesh that he wanted an office and discussed a budget. Jitesh was jotting all this down. Then he asked “Who made the paintings?” I said that I had made them, so he said, “What about a studio for you?” And I had never thought of a studio for me!
For me what really sealed the day was when I said, “Jitesh I don’t want marble, I want wood I want earthy.” That was the time that Jitesh said, “Yes, we are going to be working together.”
What helped make the process smooth?
Jitesh used to keep coming to Gurgaon. Building this house actually didn’t take that long. People said, “Are you crazy? At this age, you’re building a house? People get divorced at this time when they are making homes.” But we were quite clear.
Asjit was very clear with what he wanted, I was also clear about wanting something that I could look after, something that was not over the top. We wanted 4 bedrooms because of two boys and my mother-in-law. We definitely wanted larger rooms so we told Jitesh this too.
There was only a little tweaking. When you have it on paper you feel, “Ok this is the size,” but when you actually see the brick structure I felt like the living room was too small. So I remember Jitesh actually moved this wall a little back so that we could get a bigger living room. Little things happened on the way but by and large, we were quite clear, and Jitesh understood us very well. He was able to give us what he wanted.
How was the collaborative process between artist and architect?
It is very important for me that I can only work with people with whom I am comfortable, to whom I can relate to. I was here every single day that the house was made. If you go around the house you will not see anything that is ‘expensive’ expensive. It doesn’t attract me. But yet when people come here, the biggest compliment that I can get is that they say, “We don’t feel like leaving here.”
Jitesh and I would meet in Delhi. Like, we went shopping for tiles there and in the industrial area here. He knew some places, I knew some places. We were actually quite collaborative. I think that was very important.
When he gave us the contract it said “An architect will visit the site 8 or 10 times.” I told Asjit that this would not work because I need to connect, I need to talk to Jitesh, and I need to ask him to come to the site as often as possible. So I spoke to Jitesh and he said “Oh no no, I will come,” without hesitation, so it was very important to connect with my architect.
It’s been a good experience with Jitesh, good bonding with him and he’s a very good designer. He’s actually an artist, if you look at his photographs you can make out the way he captures shadows and light. And we loved the same things, that’s what matters. If I had wanted the latest Italian marble in the bathrooms he would have also not put in his heart, I think. It’s very important to get the right architect, you have to feel and you have to connect. We wanted a home, not a building.
You’re an artist and you had a clear vision of what you like and don’t like. How did this match Jitesh’s design process?
I love being with nature, I love everything earthy. Like, the bricks don’t have granite covering it. Anything green and I feel happy. That’s the kind of person I am, I just love to be with nature. Nature, texture, and colour, are the three foundations of my artwork and Jitesh made it a part of my home too.
I told him that I wanted to see green from every room and I think Jitesh has done an absolutely fabulous job with that. From every room, we can see green.
We wanted natural light and he gave us that in every room. This (light panels at the top of the walls) was to get natural light in so a lot of that. Jitesh added these little little things everywhere.
Nature and greenery aside, as an artist I love changing things around. The next time that you come you might not see the chair here. The versatility of space makes me happy. I don’t like permanent structures anywhere. Apart from the building, Jitesh just added a few shelves and lighting but he ensured that everything else is movable
What was a part of the existing house that remains today?
My Father-in-law made me plant this tree when I first came to the house, look at it now!
A lot of paath had been done in the prayer room and my mother-in-law was keen that this area was very holy so it shouldn’t be demolished or renovated. Jitesh took care and made sure that my mother-in-law’s room was as close to the prayer room as possible, it’s right next to her! He was able to give us everything we asked for and much more.
What is your favourite design element?
These wooden pillars are from down South. And the leftover wood was used to create the swing. I absolutely love the way Jitesh placed these pillars in the verandah framed on the floor by this beautiful tiled pattern.
Are there design elements that you hadn’t even imagined?
So many! The brick inside, the wooden elements, I would never have thought of these.
Asjit’s office opens up from another side right to the gate so if anybody wants to visit Asjit through the office, they don’t have to come through the house.
Jitesh gave us a little sit out from our bedroom.
Another thing that Jitesh did was that in the dining room, he put a false ceiling and decreased the height. Only in the dining room. I said, “Why Jitesh, why has this height been brought down?” He said, “You know Indu, otherwise it will look like a big hall and not have the intimate feel of a family space.” These were things that I didn’t think of.
This seating outside (on the lawn), I said, “Why are we having such a big one?” He said, “Indu because this is a big house, it needs lots more outdoor seating.” He gave us those kinds of ideas and we followed through. And he put charging points behind the seating!
I was a part of this process in every which way. Jitesh and I have actually picked up these tiles in Gurgaon. There were so many tiles that were discarded, we went into godowns and we actually handpicked some tiles (white flowers outside). We had just five of these tiles so then I placed them like that. We’ve actually picked up odd odd stuff that has made this home even more special.
There isn’t enough thanking him for all of these little things that he did.
What’s your favourite part of the house?
I must tell you, we use every part of the house. Asjit will sit here in the living room alone in the evening and have a drink. He walks outside and he’ll talk to every plant. He’ll walk around in his kurta-pyjama and his hat and go around every day. We actually use every part of the house.
But my favourite spaces are outside in the verandah and my studio. I spend an hour every morning with the maali. For 35 years I had not lived in a house with a lawn. The boulders were Jitesh’s idea, it was totally Jitesh’s idea. They are so beautiful and I went with the contractor and picked up each boulder. It was a huge project. I think they add a lot of character.
Along with Jitesh, who else made this home possible?
The workers who made this house. Each brick was put with love. I knew everybody’s name and I think that is very important. That is what makes a home, the vibrations are so so so important. When we had the housewarming, unfortunately, Jitesh was not there, but I didn’t call any relatives or friends. I called all the workers. We had a full-fledged buffet, caterers and waiters. We had a fabulous party and I haven’t had a happier day. I got my mother-in-law with us and she gave a gift to each worker. For me, it’s the loving energy, the vibrations, the greenery that makes this house.
This whole process was a lot of fun!