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This holiday home nestled in a valley near Pune blends in with its lush surroundings

Having a holiday home a few hours away from the city is becoming the definition of luxury for the modern day traveller. A quick drive, and you find yourself living closer to nature, with access to cleaner air and the liberation of being outdoors. But, somehow, the idea of building another home to be around nature sounds like a contradiction. That’s the question that vexed Ankur Kothari and Anil Poduval, principal architects at Red Brick Studio, when a family of four approached them to build a home overlooking the backwaters of the Panshet Dam, located on the outskirts of Pune.
“The property was nestled within a valley, and had unobstructed panoramic views at every point. We initially wondered if it made sense to build a structure here and disturb the gorgeous topography,” the duo recall. Following the clients’ brief, they built Cove House—a 1,500-square-foot home on a one-acre property that would blend in with its surroundings rather than stand out.

In Tune with Nature

As we drive into Cove House, we’re greeted with ruddy earthy elements, lush greenery, and a slope that opens out into an infinite view of the valley and backwaters below. An inconspicuous set of miniature ponds flank the pathway leading to the house. “We created a stepped water-harvesting system to make the property more sustainable and make the most of the abundance of rainfall it receives for a large part of the year,” explains Kothari.
Grit-finished plaster with a deep-red sandstone pigment has been layered on the house’s exterior walls, allowing it to tonally blend in with the natural terrain of the region. The coarse finish also makes these walls resistant to harsh summers and torrential rains every year.
“Not a single tree was cut down while building this home,” explains Poduval, while describing the verdant landscape ripe with neem, chiku and champa trees. Instead of disturbing the natural vegetation, the house was built to accommodate it. A series of bamboo trees were additionally planted to shield the home from strong winds when open.

Unusual Design

“This was the most controversial element of the entire home,” laughs Kothari, explaining the house’s striking roof that’s placed strategically at the same level as the site’s entrance, and defies conventional design by curving upwards. He explains, “If you have a downward-sloping roof, you cut out a part of the view in any home. The entire floor plan was also a bit compact, and this helped open up the space in a way.” Inclined steel columns support the roof at two ends, and its unique curve also allows it to collect and harvest rainwater, which is further channeled and stored to be available for irrigation in the drier months.

An Organic Entryway

“At first glance, you don’t realise this is a home,” reveals Poduval, when describing the house’s sunken layout and design, along with its discreet entryway. In the courtyard, a series of unpolished kota-stone steps and platforms (built around flora and boulders sourced from the site) form an amphitheatre which leads down to the living room. The custom-designed entrance door is built with folded metal sheets, allowing it to extend across the entire length of the living room. When opened, the panels disappear in the cavity walls making the interiors organically blend into the outdoors.

A Living Room With a View

The other side of the living room opens into the sprawling deck with picturesque views of the landscape below. The top-half of the entry walls extend into glass windows which filter in more light and ventilation through the day. Emulating elements of a verandah found in a quintessential Indian home, this space is completely open on two sides. The two fixed walls running across the breadth of the room are finished in a combination of white and red polished oxide. In contrast with the entryway, polished kota stone is laid out on the flooring. “For subtle detailing, we included brass inlays in a zig-zag pattern to emulate a rug in the centre of the room,” describe the duo.
Sliding French doors open into the pinewood-lined deck that seamlessly extends from the living room. An additional overhanging roof shields the home while allowing the doors to stay open even during the harshest of monsoons. Thin steel railings lined with glass form a boundary around the space without obstructing the view.

Warm Bedrooms

“A majority of the space in this home has been dedicated to the outdoors and the living room. For the couple and their two children, we created three compact bedrooms that fit a queen-sized bed, a cupboard and a desk,” explains Kothari. Polished yellow-oxide walls open up each bedroom with a sunny burst, and complement the ochre inlay in the terrazzo floors below.

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