Kumbalangi Stories

A water’s edge retreat

Set against the enticing Kannamally backwaters in Kumbalangi, within the sprawling 89 cents of land, the beautiful residence is a picture painted right out of a dreamscape. Cocooned by the surrounding landscape, the majestic azure skies, and calm waters along the horizon against the verdant hues, the house is delicately designed to dematerialize into its backdrop. Spanning over 8200 square feet, home to a Dubai based banker - Mr. Sheryl and his family, the house is designed to serve as a family holiday retreat in summers and a homestay allround the year.

Context and zoning

Situated in a scattered residential setting, amidst the tropical greenery, abutted by an extensive waterbody on the west, the site is occupied mostly by tropical vegetation and a large pond near to its water edge with several coconut trees surrounding it.

Since the site is adjoining a waterbody, it was essential to zone the building according to the CRZ rules. The 50 m setback from the water's edge came all the way to almost the middle of the site. The building was pushed back furthermore towards the east to ensure a muchextended landscape while keeping the original one in place to make it an integral part of the design.


Ar. Sebastian Jose, our principal architect, recalls, "To design the house serving the dual purpose without costing the space was much of a challenge. We also had to ensure maximum unobstructed views to each of the spaces, without compromising the privacy of the end-user. Other than fulfilling the brief, we wanted the house to be a collection of experiences."

Concept and design: The East-west porosity

The idea to bring in the landscape into the building- to perceive it as a vast plain open land with many coconut trees overlooking the stunning backwaters, resulted in zoning all the public spaces, including living, dining, kitchen and guest bedroom downstairs and the rest in the floors above them. The structure, conceived as a pavilion that opens out on both sides on the ground level with subsequent levels above serving as a canopy, strongly expresses the east-west porosity aimed to achieve. Throughout the ground floor, the opaque walls give way for larger glazed openings, enabling an unobstructed view of the soothing landscape, flooding the space with light and gentle breeze throughout the day

Linearity in design

The project broke the conventional approach adopted while designing residences. To bring the maximum landscape into the building, to ensure maximum outdoor views to all the spaces, a linear plan was laid out. The house was raised 1.5m from the ground level and stretched out in length from North to South, with a large corridor connecting the spaces, ensuring unobstructed views, ample light, and ventilation to every part of the house along with added provision for rainwater harvesting.

The residence is designed as a sequence of multiple experiences. The attempt to bring in 'the element of surprise' to design was accomplished with compartmentalizing the spaces. This was possible due to the linear arrangement of spaces accessed from a common passage. Each of them was recognized as a compartment and treated differently.

Nature and Landscape

The expansive landscape against the astounding backdrop already had an inherent character to it. The design simply gave minute additions to compliment it. Retaining all the trees in place, further landscaped with vibrant lemon green grass and stone-paved walkways, the yard facing the backwaters is designed to double up as a gathering space. Thicker vegetation was proposed along the edges to cover the boundary walls to make it seem like a part of a broader landscape. The pond right in the middle of the yard is made slightly larger with cantilevered decks in place.

Curvilinear Form

The site called out for a floating roof form. The adoption of a curved roof mimicking the wind flow aerodynamics resulted in a lighter roof structure that blended the form rightly into the surrounding landscape.

Entrance and Roof garden

TThe main gate opens into a paved front yard with a garden, leading into the car porch. The roof of the porch is designed as a terraced garden accessed from the first-floor lobby. Lined with bushes, and wines along the edge, the porch naturally blends into the landscape like a green wall.

Interiors: Material and colour palette

The 4 bedroomed house extends vertically upwards in 3 floors. The ground floor occupies the public spaces, the first-floor holds the private spaces like the bedrooms, and the loft accommodates utility rooms, entertainment room, and the gymnasium

For a family who loves to travel, they had a collection of souvenirs and collectibles acquired over time—each of them with a unique story to tell. The intent to showcase them without creating chaos for the interior scheme resulted in adopting a subtle colour palette. It skilfully balances the vibrant colours popping out along with the greenery that extends indoors, drawing the viewer's eyes into the otherwise plain walls and nooks.

Stairway and Lift

Placed within a courtyard, the steel and wood fabricated staircase accompanied by the lift was designed as a separate entity. The glazed opening that extends across the southern wall lights up space along with the indoor greens accentuating it.

Dining and Kitchen

Treated as separate compartments, the dining and kitchen spaces are designed without any decorative additions that would disrupt the scenic view.

Like traditional houses, the design offers two different kitchens: One for heavy cooking and the other for light cooking. The first one is laid out in stainless steel, against the white walls and floors, which makes it easier to clean, and the latter opens out into a patio that can be used as an outdoor breakfast or gathering space.

Bedrooms and balconies

Three out of the four bedrooms are placed on the first floor. Accessed from a common passage with glazed openings on one side, all of them open into private balconies. Considering the dual function as a homestay, each bedroom is designed to function as an independent one. Though laid out in a "white and wooden" theme, each bedroom is personalized and treated differently. For instance: Two of the larger bedrooms are hidden away with a living space separated by a wall. The wooden headboard behind the cot extends to the ceiling, neatly concealing the wardrobe space behind it, whereas for the others, you enter directly into bedroom space.

The most striking feature of the daughter's bedroom is the specially designed 'attukattil' or the swinging bed, installed on demand. Suspended down from the ceiling, the attukattil has a provision to be anchored down when needed.

The bedrooms open out into deep balconies with deck spaces. Pergolas with winding creepers were given over, forming a canopy above the deck with an intension to bring in the outdoors indoor. The stunning view, the canopy above, with walls on either side, provides the viewer with a sense of enclosure.

The house is designed to embrace the surrounding landscape, savouring its beauty, and to slowly become a part of it. Even though the family decided to open up their home for total strangers, they chose to personalize every inch of the house, demanding us to design it with the utmost care to ensure comfort and privacy. This is precisely what makes the house unique and welcoming, as it habitually makes people feel at home.

Swipe to view more