Architects in ChargeRobert Verrijt, Shefali Balwani, Khushboo Asrani
ClientForest Hills, Tala
Soft FurnishingNicobar, Pride, Shift
Text description provided by the architects. The Tree Villa perches on the cliff of a 160 acre hilltop 'treesort' property surrounded by a meandering river landscape. The idyllic setting in Tala on the West coast of India, is a stone’s throw away from the Kuda caves. Nearly 20 centuries ago, Buddhist monks instinctively understood the qualities of this meditative landscape and made the hills their home. The Tree Villa was conceived as a celebration of this landscape by creating a series of blurred transitional spaces with different levels of transparency and openness within this forested tropical setting.
Upon arrival, a timber bridge takes the visitor off the forest floor on to a large stilted deck that wraps around the house and culminates on a viewing platform. The constant reminder of breathtaking views enhances a reflective ambience that is mirrored throughout the house.
The architectural elements of the house have been carefully curated, each conveying a message of its own: the bathroom enclosure is crafted out of vertical timber slats filled in with mirrored panels that reflect the surrounding forest and the other forms occupying the space.
They are abstractly reminiscent of tree branches that droop, giving nature opportunities to peek through within a constantly animated shadow play of hide and seek.
The horizontal openness and airiness of the large voluminous space below a dominating thatched roof is emphasized by wrapping it with a layer of operable glass. The curved corners of this glazed wooden framework display a panoramic exhibit of nature. The curves create a sensual kind of luxury and bring softness to the space. A second layer of a tie dyed bordered sheer curtains filters the harsh light during the midst of the day and nestles three other enclosures as well.
The villa accommodates 4 adults and 2 children. The functions included provide for two double beds, a loft bed for children, two bathrooms, a lounge, a place for breakfast or paying board games with an outdoor deck and a large viewing deck. Rather than compartmentalizing those activities into distinct rooms, the main space is broken up by three smaller enclosures that are positioned within it, ensuring a visual connection to the forest in multiple directions from all rooms: a pantry-cum-loft unit, a semi-outdoor bathroom and a curtained bed enclosure act as anchors and define interstitial zones such as the breakfast room and the lounge. The free flowing circulation in between creates visual permeability across the plan.
As smaller spaces within a larger space, the bathroom and pantry-cum-loft are enclosures made out of a wooden slatted framework and filled in with white plexiglass.
The pantry unit contains all the services of the room and a small kitchenette. The top of the unit is accessed with a wooden ladder and provides an additional bed. Looking down on the surrounding forest it is almost like a ‘pirates nest’, a great cozy hideout for young kids.
The enclosure of the semi-outdoor bathroom encloses an outdoor courtyard but also protrudes into the glazed interior space. An old Garuga fruit tree punctures the floor of the outdoor bathroom. One branch enters the room and exits again through the thatched roof. Other branches spread across the outdoor bathroom before exiting through multiple circular openings in the enclosure. A free standing bath tub and the indoor-outdoor feel of the space make it an ideal relaxed setting.
A large luxurious king size bed within a soft linen fabric enclosure can be open or closed off depending on demands of privacy.
A spiral staircase connects to a secret lower level that is suspended below the tree villa. This guest suite is on one side backed by a rock outcrop and on the other side surrounded by a thick forest. You can take a shower here with merely a curved glazed sheet separating you and the forest life around you. A timber floored outdoor deck and attached staircase invites you to take a hike in the forest.
Elements and textures as parts of the structure are focused on coexistence. The monochrome colour scheme of the space along with an eclectic mix of partly restored and partly custom designed furniture pieces give the interior a bohemian vibe. The restraint in the colour palette highlights the surrounding greenery.
Similarly, the crispness of geometry and the slender proportions the enclosures are a premeditated effort to amplify this untempered wilderness.
The volumetric compositions of partly white, partly reflective and transparent surfaces within a wooden framework animate and lighten up the space. It questions conventional definitions of exterior and interior and reinterprets notions of privacy and exposure within a hospitality environment. The spatial composition in an otherwise traditional tropical roof structure lends a sense of softness, sensuality, intimacy and complexity, making it a perfect setting for a retreat into the wilderness of Tala.