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A house that redefines luxury
Archana Jahagirdar in New Delhi
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February 23, 2008

A front door that rises 13 feet, a basement in the swimming pool with heating and a dumb waiter so you can catch a bite while you swim... Archana Jahagirdar checks out an extraordinary home

For most people a roof over their heads would mean a couple of bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen thrown in. And then, there are houses like the one Ashok Minda has built that give a new meaning to the word "house".

The Minda home in New Delhi has everything that you could ever want in a house and more. Says interior designer Raseel Gujral who was involved in the design of the house right from its inception, "Sometimes you have to understand what the client's aspiration is and build an illusion around it."

The house, in fact, is a synchronised play between illusion and reality. The front door, at 13 feet height, making anyone, no matter how tall, feel dwarfed in comparison, is an effect that the builders of ancient cathedrals like St Peter's understood and used. The front door prepares you somewhat for what lies behind -- after all, an extraordinarily tall door will not hide an ordinary interior.

If the front door is impressive, the height of the roof is breath-taking. Says Gujral of the imposing 38-feet high roof on one side of the main living area, "In all my projects I like to suggest height as something that creates a sense of serenity. And I feel that the drama of height works."

On the other side of the roof is a glass wall that gives a visitor to the living area a tantalising glimpse of the basement swimming pool. Gujral says, "I wanted an element of surprise when you come to the basement." And an indoor swimming pool in the heart of a space-starved city like Delhi is indeed a surprise.

Gujral says that the look she wanted to give this area was that of a palace. There is the jaali-work wall, the floor of the pool has lotuses in blue and there are shades of aqua all over the area.

If the pool takes your breath away, then the quietly tucked-away sauna and a room with all the amenities of a beauty parlour (yes, inclusive of that chair which makes washing your hair in a sink easy) makes you realise that the rich do live differently from you and me.

The basement area also houses an office and a remote-controlled projection system, which is now almost commonplace in the home of many a wealthy person. The fitness area has a gym, a billiards table, a dart board and a small strip of green for practicing that putt, and a well-stocked bar.

Says Gujral of the reason for putting the swimming pool in the basement, "In a city house, if you put the pool outside it takes up the garden space. An indoor pool is more private and when it's not being used, it's a captive water body."

And in case anyone is worried about the water temperature, the pool has heating. So on a really cold winter day, imagine the sheer pleasure of a hot, hot swim.

Beats having just a plain old hot shower or a bucket bath that most people are condemned to! Oh, and if you feel like having a bite, all the floors of the house are serviced by a dumb waiter, so get piping hot food in piping hot water. What luxury...

Gujral's work, however, wasn't done with the swimming pool, clearly the piece de resistance of this house. Says Gujral of her brief for the rest of the house, "I had already done a couple of homes for this client's family and friends, so my brief was to make it completely different. I prefer the classic look. For this house, I have given it a contemporary look with Art-deco detail."

Apart from that, Gujral was sensitive to the fact that each of the three Minda children was at a different age with independent personalities and this gets reflected in the way their rooms have been decorated.

From Gujral's perspective, this project, which took almost two years to complete, has been satisfying.

She says with a smile, "The owners of the house were completely involved and yet there was creative freedom for me to work." A home means different things to different people, but most will agree that the Minda home designed by Gujral is extraordinary in what it houses within.

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