This particular Bengaluru home designed by Aakriti Saraf marries minimum upkeep with maximum storage

This particular Bengaluru home designed by Aakriti Saraf marries minimum upkeep with maximum storage

Merging beautiful design with practicality, this versatile terrace penthouse in Bengaluru is a study in smart design, playful accessorizing, and solid functionality.

When former LinkedIn Indian product head, Akshay Kothari and his fashion designer wife Manya moved to India from the Bay area in 2017, they understood the move would be immediate. Yet, what this younger couple wanted was to create a perfect home that was comfortable, fun, contemporary, and inviting—for them, their guests plus their baby girl.

Fortunately, Manya, whose family is in the building industry, signed up for the task. This wasn’t long before they determined a 5, 000 sqft penthouse apartment with a patio in Indiranagar, the stylish plus lively heart of Bengaluru. Bringing the verdant outdoors to the roomy indoors was a massive attraction for them and the patio, coupled with Bengaluru’s great climate, really just ticked all of their boxes.

Planning distinct yet seamless spaces

The informal living area opens up to the dining space
The informal living area opens up to the dining space SHAMITH PATIL

Situated on the top floor of a low-rise building, theirs was your quintessential builder’s dream (it is two flats changed into one)—a bare shell including a 1, 000 sqft patio overlooking a large, lovely children’s garden. There were also good common spaces that must be divided into different areas for the family to use. “We were keen on hunting down the designer who would help all of us convert this house into a home, who understood our own needs and was in line with our design sensibilities, ” explain the Kothari’s. And they also found their match within interior designer Aakriti Saraf, founder of Bengaluru-based Aakriti Saraf Designs.

What most appealed to the Kothari’s was Saraf’s commitment to finding the right balance between design and functionality, which is how the 4,000 sqft space was smartly divided into two 2,000 sqft areas—one for the family den, master bedroom, kids bedroom, and an art/hobby room, and the other that housed the guest, entertainment, dining, living and utility rooms along with the kitchen. It was important to have all the sections flow together to make it feel like a cohesive unit while still maintaining each area’s distinct purpose. “I completely credit my understanding of scale, proportion, and size to Nozer Wadia, with whom I worked in Mumbai in the past. He is brilliant,” exclaims Saraf, who also trained with architect Ajit Shilpi during her Mumbai tenure.

The guest area is divided into multiple cozy nooks
The guest area is divided into multiple cozy nooksSHAMITH PATIL

Saraf used partitions and played with ceiling heights to create different proportions throughout the house. For instance, a cozy family room was etched out of the larger living room via a partition, and the center foyer (which was the erstwhile lobby space) was taken into the apartment to create skylights in the naturally higher ceiling.

Little tweaks became performance enhancers in the home: a small section of the terrace was enclosed to accommodate staff quarters; a guest room was shaved off by a notch to connect a concealed storeroom to the kitchen—the resulting additional linen storage was a happy coincidence; a room without a washroom was designed to accommodate a common bathroom with two openings; and finally, the limited lighting in the master walk-in closet was fixed by widening the bathroom door to let in some natural light.

Factoring in bespoke plans and lifestyle choices

The eightseater dining table is paired with seats upholstered in tan
The eight-seater dining table is paired with seats upholstered in tan SHAMITH PATIL

The first few meetings between the designer and her clients were simple conversations. It was important for Saraf to have detailed discussions with the Kothari’s on their lifestyle, daily habits, social needs, and, at the very root, what they really just wanted from their home. It was only then that she got to work on detailed designs, inconspicuously introducing necessary functionalities while showcasing the flair and style of the young power couple. “Manya and I were usually on the same page though she sometimes did choose practicality over my designs,” smiles Saraf. At one point, the interior designer was really not happy to install a shower in the powder bathroom but finally settled for sneaking in a free-standing wall with the washbasin, which almost entirely hid the shower from view.

“For me, practicality was key,” insists Manya, “I wanted a house with natural light, a simple color palette, minimum maintenance, and loads of storage. Even our wardrobes were planned in minute detail taking into account the measurements of clothes.” Everything was meticulously designed with Saraf: sliding shutters were installed for easier cleaning; a trolley was purchased to neatly wheel in their morning breakfast; handmade, ventilated wooden vegetable boxes were bought for the kitchen; and sleek drawers were fitted for storing stationery.

The balcony is transformed to house a terrace and an al fresco sitting area
The balcony is transformed to house a terrace and an alfresco sitting areaSHAMITH PATIL

“This was one of the most thoughtful and deliberate design processes we’ve ever been through,” adds Akshay. “Aakriti wanted to drill down every aspect of the project—conceptual, narrative, aesthetic, mechanical and functional.” Apart from everything else, the Kothari’s, along with Saraf, also spent some time planning a Vaastu-compliant home. Thoughtfully placed potted plants keep the space earthy, and Akshay’s home office, Manya’s prayer area, the kitchen window—all the busy and key spots of the home—face east, with a lot of natural light streaming through. The absolute highlight of the house is the spacious terrace, substituting the great San Francisco outdoors for the couple who sometimes missed their former city of residence.

Sensible furniture, a tonal palette, and touches of quirk

Mixing high and low the living area features a sofa by BB Italia next to a bespoke blue bookshelf outfitted with lights...
Mixing high and low, the living area features a sofa by B&B Italia next to a bespoke blue bookshelf outfitted with lights from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar SHAMITH PATIL

It helped that the Kothari’s were an easygoing couple who cared less about branded furniture and accessories and more about things that looked good, maintained well, and lasted long. When their furniture needs—in terms of design, functionality, and value for money—were not met by local stores, Saraf set off to China with Manya. While the vibe of the home is casual, traces of quality are evident in the Hettich hardware of the wardrobes or the Blum and Siemens fittings in the kitchen. Just a few statement elements, like the orange leather and brass console, were distinct splurges. The dark green B&B Italia sofa combines well with lights from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar in the blue bookshelf. Knobs and handles from Anthropologie were picked up during Akshay’s many travels. The live edge dining table from China is chic. And the master bedroom is designed simply with furniture from American home-furnishings company, Restoration Hardware. Practicality, thoughtful design, and logical reasoning were the main considerations for this home.

As a fashion designer, a small studio space was also designed for Manya, with detailed storage, bright lights, a sewing/measuring table, and toned-down walls to enhance her garments. Their daughter’s nursery has a set of narrow drawers for small tchotchkes, a cozy reading corner around the window, a cubby for easy access, and anti-skid tiles in the bathroom. Manya hand-painted the knobs to match the design on the wardrobe and the colors on the wall. A powder-blue headboard contrasts with shades and patterns of pink and peach.

Like the rest of the house the children's room is designed in a warm palette
Like the rest of the house, the children’s room is designed in a warm palette SHAMITH PATIL

Saraf opted for a mostly neutral palette throughout the home. It stands out, however, with the subtle layering of many textures including stone, wood, and brass. Flexibility and versatility come from fun accessories that can be played around with and replaced as and when mood strikes—like the white and gold Baker Furniture console with wooden horses placed on it.

Simplicity and versatility are key

Designed in neutral shades spaces like this television nook feature a simple wall panelling of veneer with brass inlay
Designed in neutral shades, spaces like this television nook feature a simple wall paneling of veneer with brass inlay SHAMITH PATILWhile the palette base is that of tiles and stones in sober tones, Saraf and Manya chose to introduce color through loose accessories. So, a simple wall paneling of veneer with brass inlay creates a stylized backdrop for the TV unit. A leather and brass console placed in front blends in with the theme. Bold granite dado in the kitchen and white statuary marble in the master bedroom and bathroom add dimension to the spaces. Wooden tiles placed in chevron style look chic and become clever skid-free additions for visiting grandparents. Geometric black and white tiles and a splash of blue dress up the children’s bathroom.

The bold choice of granite offers a dramatic flair to the kitchen
The bold choice of granite offers a dramatic flair to the kitchen SHAMITH PATIL

A simple teakwood sliding shutter in the living room separates the formal section meant for entertaining guests from the airy, sunlit and casual family room, which is the sanctuary of the house. It was deliberately planned right outside the master and children’s bedroom as an extension for them to sprawl out on the low, comfortable lounge sofas, and watch movies on their home theatre. The vibrant blue bookshelf pays homage to the family’s love for books; the sliding door is ideal for privacy; the furniture is light and loose and can easily be moved around to create more place for an impromptu game night. For Saraf, the real joy came from understanding the couple’s story of comfortable chic and aligning that with the layout of their house. “I personally love practical, easy-to-maintain, clutter-free spaces that become homes for my clients and not a showcase of my work,” she says.

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