This special series invites you into homes of interesting people in interesting places. Read the other stories here.
If you visit Wayanad on a winter’s morning, three things are likely to greet you: the sight of green hills fading into the distance; a gentle mist floating through the trees; and the potent fragrance of plantation coffee brewing. It is these things—along with his personal and professional commitments—that keep Shreyams Kumar returning to his ancestral property on a coffee plantation in the town of Kalpetta, Wayanad.
A family home in Wayanad
Along with being a fourth-generation politician, planter and Member of Parliament, Shreyams is the managing director of Mathrubhumi, one of Kerala’s most widely read newspapers. He is, understandably, quite busy, and spends most of his time between Kozhikode, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuramram and Delhi. “I’d like to spend more time here, but I’m unable to,” he says.
On the sprawling estate named Ananda Mandiram by his grandfather, live Shreyams’ wife and son. His son is in school, and his wife manages the plantation that has been in their family for generations now.
The house was built by Shreyams’ grandfather in the ’50s and is set with a 150-acre coffee plantation. In 2013, Shreyams hired the Bengaluru-based architecture and design firm Khosla Associates to renovate it. “They’re very involved in the projects they take on,” says Shreyams of the firm’s principals, Sandeep Khosla and Amaresh Anand. “And they are home-makers—that’s what I liked about them,” he adds.
The ancestral home’s basic two-volume, gabled-roof structure was large, but essentially inward-looking with dark interiors, courtesy of its small windows. Sandeep and Amaresh decided that instead of breaking it down, they would retain its essential structure, but open the house up. This they did by repurposing some spaces, introducing skylights, and softening the connection between the house and the landscape it was set within. The landscape and history of the house also directed their material palette towards local stone, timber and laterite.
The site also has a temple that was built by the family in the ’60s. Because of the family’s multi-generational connection with the land and the local community, the house and the temple have both been historically open. “Anybody can come in,” Shreyams says, adding, “There is a gate but we never close it.”
To keep it accessible and open to visitors, the designers arranged the spaces such that the ground floor would consist largely of public areas, with the private spaces for the family on the second floor. The result is a home that, enhanced by a series of balconies, verandahs and courtyards (and importantly, no boundary wall) celebrates an openness that is both literal and metaphorical.
Is Wayanad for you?
Courtesy of its forest cover, the weather in Wayanad is pleasant for most of the year. The monsoons, according to Shreyams, are fantastic: “You can see the rain coming down all around you and it’s absolutely beautiful.” The property also has a perennial stream flowing down from the north (“My forefathers had the foresight to ensure that there was enough water wherever they planted,” Shreyams says), and during the monsoons, the water flow increases to the point where “You feel as if you’re living next to a river,” he adds.