When you live in busy, bustling Mumbai, as the owners of this second home do, you begin to appreciate certain things more—space (both literal and metaphorical), silence, and a sense of calm. It was these very factors that led the homeowner to the little-known village of Zirad in Alibaug, Maharashtra.
The family of three—a working couple with one daughter—is in the business of exports. As a result, they are also avid travellers whose getaways tend to be more nature-centric, “To escape from city life, from noise and air pollution,” says the homeowner.
How they got here
“The M2M [Mumbai to Mandwa] ferry service started just the day before we went to see the house,” says the homeowner, adding, “The sheer convenience of being able to reach Alibaug so quickly was one reason to have a holiday home here.” The second was the village of Zirad itself. Close enough to the jetty for convenience—it’s a short, 15-minute drive from Mandwa—it has retained the lush greenery typical to the region.
Designing the house
SPASM Design (@spasmdesignarchitects), headed by Sangeeta Merchant and Sanjeev Panjabi, has acquired a reputation of sorts as specialists in second homes—and with good reason. Along with an unerring understanding of the purpose of a holiday home, the firm’s designs are deeply contextual and very practical.
In Ishwara—named after the four-foot-tall, Baislana marble idol of lord Krishna that the homeowners installed on the plot—this manifests as a clean-lined, airy, four-bedroom home with floor to ceiling windows that perfectly frame the view of the Sahyadris. Fronting the house is a shimmering lap pool that Sangeeta and Sanjeev describe as essential to most holiday homes in the region: “What else will you do there?”
In the architects’ experience, primary residences in urban areas tend to focus on storage, and their design revolves around their residents’ day to day activities. Second homes though, built especially to break away from routine, are a little more flexible. “People then choose to have smaller rooms and bigger verandahs,” say Sangeeta and Sanjeev. Ishwara, as a result, encases lofty volumes, that seem even larger courtesy the home’s plant-filled, skylit, glass-fronted central courtyard. “We always wanted a house that is open to nature,” says the homeowner, and that this home is—within and without.
From a material perspective, it’s wise to go largely local. For one, that means not having to deal with transporting everything to the site; secondly it means you’re dealing with material suited to the climate. The monsoons are intense in Alibag, and homes—second homes especially—have to be equipped to deal with them. “The house should not be dank, or smell damp because it’s been closed,” say Sangeeta and Sanjeev. “We’ve developed a system that works with the rains.”
Is Alibaug for you?
November to March is the best time to be here, and Alibaug is easily accessible from Mumbai. Building a home here is not for everyone, though. “We were advised against going through the entire process of buying and building here, since it is tough to do so and a huge effort,” says the homeowner. For those looking for a shortcut, the way to go about it is with a developer you trust. A good developer will ensure that land titles and permissions are in place, and will also take on the responsibility of finding a suitable architect to design the home. “We were blessed to find a developer with good taste, and architects who are aces in contemporary design and engineering,” says the homeowner.