These are the secrets of the wall and vaults home

The house. Photo: Onmanorama

There is a saying that goes 'simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'. For Architects Reny and Lijo Jose, this 6 –member family's simplicity in interaction and lifestyle was the major influencing factor. They built for Biju Cherian, a home that was simple and honest in every sense. A beautiful house, that blends well with the natural surroundings.

The designers fondly calls this work the 'Walls and Vaults' house. A vault style roof or a roof in the form of arches is the highlight. It was after much deliberation that a plan was drawn up. The architects did a thorough study of everything from the climatic conditions to the site peculiarities. Kanjirappally experiences contrasting climatic situations with intermittent long heavy monsoons and scorching sun. The design principles of the house was in such a way as to provide adequate protection from the elements. The vault roof and the stone walls play a part in controlling the heat inside the house and there is enough rain-proofing for the house. The shape of the roof allows the heat to escape faster from the house without trapping it inside.

Living room. Photo: Onmanorama

The walls have been provided with slits and pivoted glass added. These can be opened or closed as per need and it does to some extent allow the heat to escape. Another benefit of the vault roof is the exceptional room height of 14 feet instead of the usual 10 feet. But this is not so evident from outside.

The elongated design makes it seem like the house is effortlessly tucked into the gentle slope of the site. In a way this reduces the scale of the house being visible from the road that abuts the three sides of the site. The structure of the house consists of two primary linear bays of vaulted rooms. A courtyard makes the connection between the two sections. On one side of the courtyard is the living room, the dining room and the kitchen. On the opposite side are the 4 bedrooms set one behind the other. There is a door that leads to the exterior on one end of the courtyard. Two other passageways come on both sides of the house near to the compound wall.

Central courtyard. Photo: Onmanorama

The main living room is at a lower level when compared to the other rooms. Exposed concrete portions are visible in some places. Just an idea to bring out the natural approach in design. The flooring is done using eco-friendly Kota stone and Lappato finish granite. The kitchen cabinets and wardrobes are all of teakwood. The aluminium windows and the sliding doors are the reusable kind.

There are no over-the-top decorative elements. The aim was that nothing should obstruct the view of the house. The plants on the exterior courtyards around the house helps to block the dust from the roadside and offers some amount of privacy too. The open to sky courtyards are especially enjoyable during the rains. The rain that falls on the roof is filtered and channelled to the well through the courtyard. For 8 year old Rohan and 4 year old Ryan, this also doubles up as their personal playground. The stone walls of the courtyard seems like a compound wall. The creepers and the chain link barriers given on the wall imparts this feel.

Dining room - cum - family living. Photo: Onmanorama

The design of the house complements the greenery of the Kanjirappally surroundings. The courtyard is also connected with such green elements. The architects themselves supervised the landscaping of the plot. Once the green vines over the walls are fully grown, the house will look like it is in a cradle of green. Different colour flowers and leaves for different seasons and to keep company butterflies and honey bees. Once Biju is home during the next vacations, he has plans to start a honey bee farming project.

The walls of the living room, the bedrooms and the courtyard is covered with framed pics of endearing life moments of the family and this has been done very creatively. The pictures are done on granite tiles, and adding to this is lacquered glass and mirror wood panelling to make the walls appear classy. As some portions have natural concrete finish, painting was needed only in the remaining areas. Altogether, including the final coats, painting the entire house took them just a day and a half.

Another view of the interiors

The priority in this house is given to functionality rather than decorating. Elements that beautify come naturally without making much noise. As silent as a flower blooming. So Biju, his wife, parents or the kids can be comfortable in the house without worrying too much about maintaining things. It is all about effortless living.

The Architect couple Lijo and Reny started their Thrissur based firm called Lijo Reny Architects in 2005. Their signature works mostly follow contemporary style of architecture. They are particular about innovating or ensuring that every work of theirs is unique. They have won a number of accolades for their works.

Architect Speaks

What were the major considerations while working on this project?

The kitchen. Photo: Onmanorama

Like in every other work- the plot detailing, surroundings, the owner's requirements, and the climatic changes. The place as well as the family's lifestyle is very simple. Hence we worked on a plan that gave more weightage to usability rather than keeping up appearances.

An honest interaction with nature, how true is this with regard to the project?

The surroundings of the plot is blessed abundantly with nature's bounty and we made sure that all this forms a part of the house. As the family resides abroad, we wanted to give them the chance to enjoy a green paradise every time they are here for the vacations. There is a misconception in our place that only mud houses are truly eco-friendly. Elements like the reusable aluminium windows are eco-friendly too. This mind set has to change. The success of the 'Walls and Vaults' house is no doubt the complete freedom and trust that the family entrusted us with.

Project Facts

Area – 3190 sq. ft. Architects – Lijo and Reny – Lijo-Reny Architects, Thrissur Owner – Biju Cherian, Podimattom, Kanjirappally