Architecture Building Materials Residential design Sustainable design

Humming Tree designs Kerala holiday home using local materials, repurposed and antique objects

June 21, 2020

Indian multidisciplinary practice Humming Tree has designed a holiday home for a Dubai-based family in the Waynad province in southern Indian state of Kerala. The brief from the client to the architects was simple – they wanted a holiday home where they can spend some quality time while visiting from Dubai. They wanted a home where they can be close to nature.

“Afnan & I are truly inspired by the works of [Geoffrey] Bawa, Ashiesh Shah (Indian architect), Gabriel Hendifar (co-founder of New York-based Studio Apparatus) among others, but our practice doesn’t stick to one palate. We have works that resonate with a lot of styles and that’s what makes our practice distinct. We tried to convince them of using contextual materials, such as clay, terracotta, reused and reclaimed wood and artifacts, which would have less carbon footprint on the environment we live in.” – Arun Shekar, co-founder, Humming Tree

The 344m² house sits on a plot size of 10acres within the foothills of Waynad, which provides a stunning architectural backdrop. Some of the design highlights of the house include colonnaded verandahs, courtyards, high ceilings, and breezy folding doors – features that take into consideration the area’s humid, tropical weather and the torrential downpour that might suddenly occur.

Due to the positioning of the courtyards, the house remains remarkably cool during the day. The house has a metal structure and clay tiled roof, an elevated roof terrace, and courtyards that blur the distinction between outdoor and indoor spaces.

The main building materials in the house are laterite stones, bricks and mud that are contextual and mud, so the design is contextual to heavy monsoons and harsh sun. The double heights and courtyards ease the cross-ventilation, so several openings, doors, and windows were added to the structure. The clay roofing also helps to regulate the microclimate. Organic bees-wax, local mixtures of lime has been used to coat the interior walls and exterior wooden surfaces to reduce heat absorption. Using well-designed water integrated systems to harvest rainwater not only increases the consumption of water usage during dry weather but also filters out the remaining water that can be used for other purposes too.

At the entrance of the house, sits a majestic teak door made out of local timber; the trunkless elephant sitting beyond the landscape is an antique. The owner purchased the door and artifacts from an old manor house near Mattancheri, a town near Kochi city.

The benches were custom-made by Humming Tree’s carpenters. The tall floor stand mirror was a gift from a close family friend; the photo frames on the wall are from Mysore.

A wooden divan along with three-legged high stools sits opposite a durable carved wooden coffee table with brass hinges; a Wabi-Sabi style rustic pot, acid-finish glass vase, and vintage Moghul painting, the cement screed flooring lends a raw, natural touch.

In the dining room, a custom dining table by Humming Tree is paired with three-legged chairs, sourced from Mattancheri-the art hub of Kerala, and a bench. Hanging clay pendants were designed by Humming Tree and produced by lighting manufacturer LIGHTS with the help of local clay makers in Kerala. The console table highlights the art. The setting is complemented by lush green views framed by large windows.

The rich burgundy custom fabric art was made from recycled vintage cloth. Underneath is a pair of antique ceramic pickle jars that were once used to store dried fish and pickles. The custom-made chair was restored from an old furniture market in southern Kerala.

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