This expansive Bengaluru home by Channa Daswatte is rooted in Sri Lankan architecture and makes the most of the surrounding greenery, natural light and open spaces

NOV 14, 2020 | By Mrudul Pathak Kundu and Nadezna Siganporia
The sprawling villa features Mangalore-tiled gabled roofs, large French doors, courtyards and verandahs. Sadarahalli rough stone is used around the pool area, decked with stainless steel furniture from Ricco, Sri Lanka; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J
The tree-lined courtyard is peppered with treasures like a teak cart used by farmers as well as copper and brass vessels. At the entrance, the two stone pillars from a Chettiar house in Tamil Nadu, have carvings of male and female figures with folded hands to welcome guests. The steps are made from a local material called chapadi stone; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J
An antique wooden swing from Gujarat is converted into a bench; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J
The living room houses antique crockery chests from Bimal’s grandfather’s collection, vintage rosewood and teak armchairs from Lucknow, upholstery from Atmosphere, cushion covers from Sri Lanka and, finally, a pen and ink artwork of a forest—a special commission by the renowned Sri Lankan artist Laki Senanayake; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J
The first floor bedroom is adorned with British-era chandeliers from Bimal’s personal collection and his great-grandfather's armchair, which is placed near the four-poster bed from Kolkata; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J
Channa Daswatte chose a warm colour palette for the home, where simple architectural features blend with ornate furnishings. Framed photographs of Hampi in the rains by Saibal Das, line the walls; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

As you approach this sprawling, verdant property, it’s evident what owners Veena and Bimal Desai wanted from their Bengaluru home. “We used to live in the city, under the glare of tubelights. I yearned to be surrounded by trees in the forest…not concrete structures. We wanted light, air and water inside and out,” says Bimal, an entrepreneur and ardent nature lover.

Starting from scratch, he had 482 trees planted and left a natural pit to fill with rainwater, forming a seasonal water feature. When it came to designing this home, Bimal instinctively knew Sri Lankan architect Channa Daswatte was the one for the job.

“After seeing Geoffrey Bawa’s work, I was clear about the style I wanted,” muses Bimal. “Channa’s sensibilities matched mine. I like simplicity in architecture; the drama should be brought in with furniture.” Channa, who was closely associated with Geoffrey, stayed with the couple for three days to understand their requirements.

A Fabindia carpet is flanked by Sri Lankan benches made of timber from jackfruit trees. The staircase, a Channa Daswatte design, features Burma teak open risers and MS round iron bars; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

Large French doors and courtyards are important features, along with abundant natural light and garden. He also brought rainwater into the puja room—a roof cutout covered with mosquito mesh filters the rain down onto a small palm tree planted within the space.

The dining area features a vintage chandelier from Hyderabad and furniture from Kolkata. Teak, French doors lead to the kitchen, courtyard and garden; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

Two decades in the making Only a few pieces of furniture were bought during the construction phase. “I had been planning this place for a long time in my mind,” explains Bimal. “I’ve been collecting ornate objects from old havelis and the likes of Chor Bazaar for over 20 years. I needed these to seamlessly merge with the pared-back architecture.”

Designed by Sri Lankan artist Laki Senanayake, the tiles in the inner courtyard are made in Athangudi village in Tamil Nadu. The teak pillars are originally from an old house in Mysuru; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

This provided the foundation for a wonderful collaborative relationship with Daswatte; he would conceptualise an area and Bimal would suggest mementoes from his collection that would fit well in them.

A bedroom features antique twin beds. On the wall are Laki Senanayake’s owl pen and ink drawings; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

All in the details The home took over four years to complete. Today, it is filled with delightful details. “For five months, work stopped on the inner courtyard until I found the right pillars from an old home in Mysuru…another three months went by while I waited for the perfect tiles for the verandah,” explains Bimal.

In the first floor bath, an ornate cast-iron counter complements the Kohler faucet and Italian flooring and wall; Photographs by Shamanth Patil J

Everywhere you look, there’s a tale to tell—the entrance pillars were bought 22 years ago in Tamil Nadu, the pen and ink artworks in the lounge and bedroom are by the renowned Sri Lankan artist Laki Senanayake, while bathroom fixtures have been carefully chosen and imported.

Eventually, Bimal and Veena got their ideal escape that’s bursting with special spaces. While evenings are spent relaxing and listening to music in the puja room, they take their morning tea in the pavilion, looking out onto their slice of nature.