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An ancestral Kerala home is renovated for its multi-generational family

  • Ideas & Inspiration
Dec 03, 2022
Dining room leading to kitchen

This 40-year-old family home has been redesigned and expanded to create an urban oasis

Renovating an old home for the new needs of a growing family can be tricky—especially when the house is flanked by commercial buildings and sits on a busy road. But with a new floor plan and clever use of the existing space and surroundings, Kerala-based architecture and design firm Studio Nirvana has created a calm, Zen-like oasis in the heart of a city. Avinash Joshy, Founder and Principal Designer, takes us through this 5000 sq ft project that was executed in less than a year.


Beautiful Homes (BH): Tell us a little bit about the space and what the homeowners wanted from this renovation?

Avinash Joshy (AJ): This is a 40-year-old home, occupied by a multigenerational family: a couple, their three school going children, and the grandmother. The house is in the town of Aluva (near Kochi) and is in a low-lying area that was affected by the 2018 floods. Their basic requirement was that they needed more space to cater to their growing family.


BH: Were there any non-negotiable from the homeowners?

AJ: The clients were really flexible and trusted us with the process. They pitched in with their ideas, but we had 100% creative freedom. So it was a pleasure to work with them. Over the course of the project (which lasted eight months), we had to take some major decisions on site while work was in progress. In any renovation, we cannot predict things upfront, some unseen issues may crop up.

BH: Can you take us through the renovation process and major changes made?

AJ: So, his was an old home of about 3000 sq ft that already had a great structure. We needed to expand and open up the space for the family. We had two main things to consider: the house faces the road and is situated between two commercial buildings, so creating a sense of privacy was important. The advantage was that there was empty space on the other two sides of the house (the area that was protected from the road). This gave us a lot to work with.


The house is situated right at a busy junction, so we made it look inward. 

Glass brick wall

The living has a wall made from glass bricks on one end, to create a sense of privacy, since the house faces a busy road.

We changed the floor plan, brought in that unused area, and landscaped it to become part of the main home. We opened the house to the side garden and tried sealing the front section from the outside noise and dust. If you look at the images, you’ll see that the dining room faces a lovely garden, which was earlier an unused space.


BH: Did you make any structural changes?

AJ: Yes, we redesigned the living and dining areas. Previously, the formal living area was a small room with a verandah facing the road. There were smaller doorways that separated the living and dining rooms. We changed it, added new beams and now the living area flows into the dining area, making it one big expanse.


The house came with double-height ceilings, so we created a sense of vastness by introducing longer windows. Thanks to the high ceilings, all the common areas of the home are air-cooled—only the bedrooms have air conditioning. As for the kitchen, we added a few new openings. We actually changed the position of the kitchen, and built a new section towards the back, leaving the portion closer to the dining room exposed, without a door.

This multigenerational family's basic request for a 40-year-old house in the town of Aluva (near Kochi) to design a home that could accommodate their growing family is fulfilled by Avinash Joshy.

BH: The master bed features a sloping ceiling. Was this an existing feature or something you added?

AJ: Certain sections of the house were added and extended from the original house. The master bedroom is a newly built room within that extended part of the house. The home had a sloping aluminium roof, and we added a wooden ceiling.


BH: Did you retain any of the original elements or materials?

Apart from the extensions upstairs and for the garden, the structure of the house remains largely unchanged—but we introduced a lot of new materials. We created a glass brick wall in the living room, which allows for plenty of natural light, while giving the family privacy (since this room faces the road). The windows along the staircase landing were redesigned and made longer and larger. The floorings are all new, a mix of green oxide, grey oxide (for the staircase) and custom tiles from Bharat Floorings (for the dining room). The dining table has been refurbished with a stone top using a natural, granite-like stone.


The powder room area beneath the staircase features a skylight and a glass-and-metal door that opens into the back garden. 

Grey oxide stairacse

The staircase has been crafted with grey oxide.

Skylight in powder room

The powder room next to the dining area features a skylight and opens into the back garden.

BH: The home features some interesting light fixtures and furniture—were these customised?

AJ: The statement lights above the dining table are done in wood with veneer. It was done with care—the hanging rod is thin, the ceiling is high, so it took some time to get it in place. Most of the loose furniture has been custom made by a firm called FORMAVE, based in Kerala. The lights, some chairs, and the swing in the dining room—everything was done by them.


BH: What stands out is the minimal aesthetic and the use of neutral and natural tones— can you tell us more?

The aesthetic came from us. All our projects gravitate towards naturals tones and finishes; we like to keep things less busy. We try to work in the perspective of the space at hand. For this home, the idea was to unify the entire space and bring back the soul of the house, which has been reflected in the redesign. 

Bamboo divider for privacy

The home lies between two commercial buildings, so using elements like this bamboo divider to create a sense of privacy was essential.

House entrance

The entrance of the home, leading to the living room.

Redone green oxide walls

The walls have been redone in certain areas using green oxide.

Custom tiles from Bharat Floorings

The dining room features custom tiles from Bharat Floorings and opens into the garden.

Wooden hanging lights

The custom hanging lights are done in wood with veneer.

Dining room leading to kitchen

The formal dining room flows into the kitchen area.

Breakfast corner

The breakfast nook.

Redone kitchen with new sections

The kitchen was completely redone, with a new section added towards the back.

Expansive kitchen

The kitchen has intentionally been made without doors to make the space feel more expansive.

Sloped wooden ceiling inside bedroom

The master bedroom with a sloping wooden ceiling is situated in the new, extended part of the house.

Muted tone for bath

The bathrooms feature the same muted colour palette as the rest of the home.

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