This spa­cious, light-filled apart­ment in Mumbai’s Mal­abar Hill com­fort­ably houses three gen­er­a­tions. But what sets it apart is that it stands tes­ti­mony to the ax­iom, home is where the art is.


This Mumbai apart­ment in Mal­abar Hills by ar­chi­tect Ra­jiv Saini is the per­fect bal­ance be­tween art, de­sign and com­fort

Gu­jarati busi­ness­man Samir Mehta’s first en­counter with my work was a lit­tle over 10 years ago when he vis­ited the Devi Garh Ho­tel in Udaipur. Devi Garh com­bines lo­cal craft with tra­di­tion while giv­ing it a con­tem­po­rary con­text. The idea of moder­nity en­cap­su­lated within a tra­di­tional ex­te­rior stuck with Mehta. I knew that here was some­one who re­spected my work, and so when he ap­proached me for a project, I agreed in­stantly. The project in ques­tion was Mehta’s own home. He called it a blank can­vas and me the artist who would turn it into a beau­ti­ful com­plete whole.


The 6,000 sq ft apart­ment in south Mumbai’s Mal­abar Hill is lo­cated on the 10th floor and has gen­er­ous views of the sea. It is home to three gen­er­a­tions of Me­htas—the home­owner and his wife, their two mar­ried sons, and his par­ents. More than three years ago Mehta got in touch with me to de­sign the new prop­erty just a few kilo­me­tres away from his pre­vi­ous one in the same area. The process took around two-and-a-half years be­cause of con­struc­tion snags. Six thou­sand square feet is a lot to play with and my brief was to ac­com­mo­date all the fam­ily mem­bers. Since it was orig­i­nally two sep­a­rate flats on the same floor with a lift lobby in be­tween, plans were made and re­made sev­eral times to avoid tun­nel-cor­ri­dor like ar­eas around the house. Cor­ri­dors tend to get dark with­out light and ven­ti­la­tion and I hate the idea of a long tun­nels running along­side the rooms. So the rooms were

in­tro­duced with in­ter­me­di­ate zones in the form of dressers and sit-out ar­eas.


If light is the fourth di­men­sion in any build­ing, then in this apart­ment it be­comes the pro­tag­o­nist, bathing ev­ery area in the house with its splen­dour through­out the day. Take for in­stance the 10 am sun that makes the sea glis­ten; its re­flec­tion en­ters the apart­ment through the floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows. Large and small win­dows through­out the length and breadth of the home let nat­u­ral light into ev­ery nook and cor­ner of the home.


The five-bed­room apart­ment is at once min­i­mal and el­e­gant. Pas­tel shades are brought in through fur­nish­ings and draperies. An abun­dant dis­play of con­tem­po­rary art­works (some even from emerg­ing artists) are strate­gi­cally placed in the home; for in­stance a blown-up Cap­sule 504 print by Prajakta Pot­nis de­pict­ing a freezer dot­ted with kitchen mix­ers is aptly placed in the kitchen. Two framed FN Souzas stand out in the mid­dle of the liv­ing room, with a Roll & Hill ‘Agnes’ pen­dant lamp branch­ing out over­head. A 14th-cen­tury gran­ite sculp­ture from south In­dia and six framed Za­rina Hashmi prints are the other art­works in the same room. One goes from Za­rina Hashmi, Prajakta Pot­nis, and Atul Dodiya, to an­tique pieces bought at auc­tions. My wife Shilpa Gupta’s works also find pride of place near the en­trance as does one by my sis­ter, Reena Saini Kal­lat. In the process of do­ing up this home Mehta went from some­one who has never been to a gallery to now, where he trav­els and col­lect art works.


Art gives way to per­sonal touches. In Mehta’s study framed let­ters that mark the fam­ily’s busi­ness mile­stones over the decades can be found. Mehta’s fa­ther moved to Mumbai in 1953 from Palan­pur, a vil­lage in Gu­jarat. The mile­stones

de­pict the fam­ily’s strug­gles from a Mumbai pedi (a bed­cum-sit­ting ar­range­ment where he slept, ate and worked) to the pala­tial res­i­dence to­day. Next is the Jain prayer room done up in pris­tine white mar­ble with the idol il­lu­mi­nated. It also has wedding in­vites of all three gen­er­a­tions framed for pos­ter­ity. Since the home has to make space for all its oc­cu­pants a spe­cial sit­ting space was made for Mehta’s par­ents with a Jean Prouvé ‘Fau­teuil de Sa­lon’ lounge chair from Vi­tra in the fam­ily lounge con­nected to their bed­room.

Though the most sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ments are art, com­fort and nat­u­ral light, the home also ful­fils all the func­tional needs of the var­i­ous oc­cu­pants.

Mumbai-based ar­chi­tect Ra­jiv Saini started Ra­jiv Saini + As­so­ciates in 1994. With projects in In­dia, UK, Thai­land, Dubai, Nepal and Singapore, the stu­dio spe­cialises in high end lux­ury homes and hos­pi­tal­ity ven­tures. www.ra­jiv­saini.com

Pho­to­graph cour­tesy RA­JIV SAINI AND AS­SO­CIATES

Clock­wise from left: The sitout is en­hanced by a pan­elled art work by Tanuja Rane, a FN Souza be­sides the TV and a Shilpa Gupta next to the win­dow; one of the bed­rooms with Sachin Karne works on the wall; cus­tom made wooden pan­elling by Ra­jiv Saini

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