An old house cannot be torn down or ripped apart in a bid to renovate it. It has to retain its identity. One such dwelling, the Thottahil house in Parappanangadi, was recently up for a makeover.
When a century-old house is renovated it’s not just the arithmetic of sq ft that comes into play. You are not just pulling down and fixing a house. It’s a whole lot of history you are meddling with.
And that’s what the Thottathil family and the architect did. Not only did they meddle with the old, but also created an exquisitely crafted piece of structure integrating the old with the new. Today, the house stands as a testimony to the history of bygone glorious days. To give it a facelift was no mean task. But the owners and architect Sindhu Kumar rose to the challenge and the end product is a visually stunning Thottathil House, looking as magnificent as it did over a 100 years ago.
Retired professor T.P. Mohammed, his wife and son Muneer had for a long time been contemplating a renovation. Yet they were apprehensive about the cost involved in doing up the 4,000 sq ft place with its 15 bedrooms spread out on three floors.
It was in this quaint old house that many a political bigwig of Malabar was born. Among them were Congressmen, Communists and Muslim League veterans. C. H. Mohammed Koya, Hyderali Shihab Thangal and several others had the distinction of spending at least a day in this house.
It all began when ages ago, Aishu Umma from the prestigious Keyi family in Thalassery was brought here as the young bride of Koyakutty from the Thottathil family. It was Koyakutty, who wanted his wife to have the best and cobbled up the structure, an ultimate in luxury. The house had over 75 inmates then. Of the 15 bedrooms, 10 were in the upper story. The house, once throbbing with life, went desolate as the joint family system disintegrated and the nuclear came up.
It was the Bangalore-based Muneer, a businessman, who took the initiative to redo Thottathil house. Muneer chose to go his own way with its style and construction. He later realized that he needed an architect with vision to build something new all the while retaining the history and grandeur of the old. That’s how Sindhu Kumar was roped in to the project.
The first structure to be touched was the padippura or the gate-house. This was the entrance to the courtyard and then to the house. Guests used to stay in an outhouse adjacent to the entrance. Several dignitaries and luminaries had made their home here for days on end. With a history and heritage of its own, it was decided to retain the padippura and the outhouse.
The padippura roof has green tiles now. It’s flanked by gates on either side. From thereon, pavement tiles lead right up to the sit-out. With its black stripes the walkway looks impressive.
The sit-out is as simple as it can be. It leads to a long living room. The white vitrified floor tiles give the effect of purity and simplicity. What’s striking here are two large paintings in black and white. They are actually meant to cover two wide windows that open out to this area. The living room has fine pieces of antique furniture blending with the new.
A lot of thought had gone into utilizing space. An old, wide staircase in Iranian style, which consumed a whole lot of room was pulled down. Replacing it is a chic and elegant stairway in wood and glass. The ceiling was polished and retained.
A bedroom on the ground floor was knocked down and the dining area redone to give it a great deal of expanse. A store close to the bedroom was also brought down. This storeroom has been transformed into a lovely passage to the kitchen. The wash area sits here. There are two bedrooms on the ground floor replete with antique furniture. All new pieces in addition to the exquisite old ones were bought from the antiques market in Vatakara. The kitchen was redone using frosted glass and wood for the cabinets.
The third floor was completely brought down and the bedrooms on the second floor were re-modeled. Walls separating bedrooms were knocked down and the result was two splendorous bedrooms with regal accessories and attached bathrooms no less splendid.
Built totally according to Vaasthu priciples, almost all the windows and doors of the old structure have been reused. Thottathil House today is a mix of the old and the new.
Architect Sindhu Kumar shares her views with us
Do you think a profession in architecture is fit for a woman?
Well, as long as you don’t set limitations on yourself just because you are a woman, it’s fine. Once on the job, you have to interact a lot with professionals of the opposite sex. My initial training has helped me a lot in taking an active role in my job. I believe that when it comes to interior designing, women architects are a step ahead of their male counterparts.
Can’t you build a house without an architect?
What do you do if you want a designer dress? You will need the right fabric, the right color and the right stitching. If you want clothes like what all others wear, you can get them from readymade shops. In the same way, if you want a well designed and functional home, you definitely need an architect.
What do you expect of clients?
We respect clients who know where and how they stand. Quite a few come to us with scant respect for our profession. But there are a whole lot of women who come with pictures of beautiful homes they have collected over time. This helps us a lot.
Sindhu Kumar, Architect, Evolution, Kozhikode.