Soft, curvy terrazzo staircases seamlessly connect three floors of this split-level home in Kolkata, West Bengal.
Designed by Pooja Bihani, founder and principal architect of Kolkata practice Spaces & Design, this renovated, 2,100 square foot Kolkata split-level house has been segmented into three 700 square foot levels, which gives the property a distinctive floor plate and unique configuration.
The house belongs to a well-travelled young couple whose request was for all the communal areas of their home to be located on the first level, and the private areas to be located on the second and third level. They also wanted their home to reflect their personal tastes, so Bihani helped them achieve this with a design concept informed by soft curves and Bauhaus-inspired shapes and colours.
Because the building was old, the walls were all a little crooked, and the beams and columns were misaligned and exposed. To correct this, she created double walls.
“This allowed us to accentuate the walls with numerous round and oval niches to make the space feel more dynamic, interesting, and in line with the narrative of the design. Double walling helped us to create the niches as well as save resources and minimise costs,” she says.
Working with the house’s split-level layout, she used organically shaped in situ terrazzo to construct half-flight staircases that were cast on-site. This enabled a visual connection between the different levels and an unobstructed view of each floor.
“The staircases, which are the highlight of this project, are treated in a way so as to render a soft, seamless, and curvy finish. The stairs act as a sculptural element and a common thread that ties different parts of the space together,” says Bihani, who incorporated plenty of the circular and rounded niches throughout the walls of the common areas and bathrooms.
Because she spent her childhood in a split-level house similar to this one, she says the project meant a lot to her.
“As a child, I lived in a house which had a split level. For spaces like this, it’s all about connectivity – the visual connection of all the levels that is achieved with the half-flight staircase,” she says.
“Somehow, my mind kept returning to the idea of connectivity. That’s why the staircase was given so much importance and turned out the way it did.”
The entrance foyer, living lounge, dining, kitchen areas, and a room for the couple’s housekeeper, have been contained within the first level. On the second level is a powder room, an entertainment den and small study, and the master en suite bedroom which adjoins to a small adjoining balcony on one side and a walk-in closet on the other. The third level contains a child’s en suite bedroom, a guest en suite bedroom, and a utility room.
On the first level, a rust-coloured wooden door opens to the foyer where guests can get a view of the entire expanse of the house from the stairwell. On the second level, a door leads into the entertainment den which has walls painted with a light, jade green. A section of this wall has circular niches that can be used as book and display shelves.
The den set-up includes a curvilinear grey sofa, a wall-mounted television, and a study desk and chair in the space behind the sofa. Quirky sketches of minions drawn by Bihani’s own son have added a fun and youthful vibe to the walls of the powder room.
The bedroom is fitted with a set of sliding closed doors that can be opened to connect to the den, and another set of sliding doors that open to a 20.48 square foot triangular balcony with plants and lanterns.
Arched display nooks were dug out of the terrazzo wall along the stairs leading up to the third level. In the guest room, floor-to-ceiling, curved ribbed wood veneer sliding doors conceal the wardrobe. The couple wanted a kid’s room in preparation for a child in the near future. This room includes a canopy bed and a bathroom with colourful, terrazzo walls.
Most of the furniture items were custom-made according to the dimensions of the interior spaces. Jade green was chosen as the dominant colour because Bihani and her clients felt this shade brought a youthful energy to the spaces and gave them a contemporary feel.
“I used a lot of curved furniture and a black charcoal finish, as well as customised door handles and hand-painted niches to make the entire space more cohesive and in line with a singular design narrative,” she says.
“The entire project was completed during lockdown and realised with a budget constraint. The most unique things about this home are how it employs a distinct design solution of double walling to resolve structural defects while at the same time making the space more dynamic, and also how the house’s existing split-level helps to give the staircases an organic, sculptural quality.”
Photos: Ishita Sitwala
Styling: Samir Wadekar