There is a distinct change in the lifestyle outlook of the modern family. With this metamorphosis, homes have acquired a new meaning of accomplishment. Modern communication advances, ability to travel at ease (with the exception of the pandemic) and exposure to global standards and style – all this has led to a demand for themed luxury homes.
From Lucknow to Mumbai to Delhi and southwards, there has been a revolution in architectural designs that have wowed home buyers and swept them off the floor. Be it Greco-Roman, Spanish, Mauritian, Portuguese or the general ‘European’ themes or very Indian, the list is endless and the architecture and style gets better and better.
Home buyers today have an option from myriad choices. It is not just the elevated look but the whole packaging that attracts buyers and builds a reputation for such homes.
Mauritius architecture, influenced by French and Spanish Colonists in the Indian Ocean is about adapting to the tropical environment. But it comes with elegance and sophistication. Be it in the over-all looks, there is attention to the sun, natural light, ventilation, making interior spaces comfortable. The architecture, in similar projects, features include smart designs for air ventilation for natural cooling, LED lighting, classic Portuguese styled clay or cement tiled roof, high-grade exterior metal paint with epoxy, video door telephone system, handcrafted teak main door, decorative lighting in the verandah, food-grade coated sump tank, amongst others.
Mauritian architecture is typical in its ‘tropical’ style, which enlivens the senses – being primitive and responsive to the local climate, with buildings designed to circulate air. There is a ‘green’ consideration – water-based landscaping and natural, locally-sourced materials taking precedence. It is rejuvenating as it has that vibe of a relaxation: an overall use of light and glass, indoor plants, shading from the sun, protecting from midday intense heat, natural wood finishes and neutral colours. The trademark elements consist of large shaded wrap-around veranda that goes around the house, vaulted ceilings, large windows and four-sided roofs, wooden sculptures and creole art, stone claddings which harmoniously blend with the surrounding and manicured gardens, wrought iron balustrades, decorative cornices. One cannot miss the ornate and intricate handcrafted wrought iron work too.
As a former colony of Portugal, the legacy of the architecture has been impactful. While some claim it is uniquely Goan – such as by Paulo Varela Gomes, an architectural historian, who said that the churches and houses are unique in the world history of architecture. Whatever the verdict, there is an amalgamation of styles and the Portuguese influence is hard to miss. Some of these projects boast of immense value, by looks and by location, surrounded with the tranquillity of a thick green patch of tall trees that forms a therapeutic view for each home.
The façade of most such houses is symmetrical with tripartite divisions. Wooden rafters are a feature very prominent as an origin-based architectural element. The dining and drawing rooms are usually decorated with the element of blue china ceramic azulejos hand-painted tiles. There is much thought that goes into the exterior aesthetic with cornices, balcão arched in shape, corbelling, ornamental arched windows with detailed stucco mouldings, textured stone cladded walls, steep sloping roofs. There are more structured, manicured and curated gardens with pergolas as an outdoor aesthetic feature for shaded seating spaces.
Origin specific elements incorporated in some projects include clever floor plans to optimise space and provide comfort and conviviality; generous glazing allows abundance of sunlight; well-manicured gardens with verdant palms; large wrap around verandas; four sided roofs; glorious front façade, high vaulted ceilings; hand-crafted wrought iron work; sloping wooden rafters; warm lights and glass; natural wood finishes; green, forest and turquoise tones as the colour palette; more vibrant and exuberant tropical elements on the indoors, use of indigenous materials like antique basalt stone, ceramic mosaic tiles, teak wood and cane furniture and braided rope chairs, etc.
The Look and Feel
A comparison of styles and finesse of each architectural brilliance is difficult as all have their oblivious traits and some very obvious positive differences. You can fall in love at first sight or it will be slow, sensual and measured response. The Mauritian architectural style is spaces sunlight, soothing ventilation: exteriors finished to perfection. The elements mix pleasantly with the surroundings. With 400 years of being under the Portuguese influence, architecture was definitely one of the main residues that remains even today. With columns and red roof tiles, decorative embellishment, and intricately designed railings: all signifying its distinct Portuguese architecture.
While the elevated look and some quintessential aspects provides for the general characterization of the theme – whether it is Mauritian or Portuguese, how you do up the interiors makes the final difference to the home. An interior designer would tell you that you have to carry the style forward in your designing the interiors. Not really true. You can choose something that goes with the rooms. Whites are an all-time favourite. Fruit bowls with lime or oranges add a tangy feel to the décor. Walls can have Moroccan feel with paintings or tapestries… your passion and feeling should govern your design but it should not be too different to be jarring.
One of the most visible characteristic features of Mauritian architecture is the use of colours. True, colour is a feature that stands out in every style. But locals most of the time use colour to display their natural tendency to stand out or to merge with the natural settings. Case in example could be the colourful attire and dwellings of the desert dwellers – such as Rajasthan, or the red cloak of the Masai Mara natives who wear red to send a warning to wild animals. So Mauritian architecture use natural landscape, as also locally man-made structures, as starting point. Bright bold colours are found everywhere in the lush tropical setting, emerald of the sea, blue of the sky, green of the plants, etc. There is a playfulness and freshness that oozes from this ambience and depending on how you deck up your home and office, people will know instantly that you have a penchant for a colourful life.
Portuguese architecture can be accented by using Portuguese décor and style for the interiors. You can be minimalistic or go all out, making it lively and dynamic. Portuguese decoration also uses rich and colourful decoration. There is consistent use of space. And you cannot miss the Azuléjos – glazed coloured tile traditionally used in Spanish and Portuguese buildings. From bathrooms to kitchens to the living rooms, you can use Azulejos everywhere in different forms. Sardines, swallows and rooster symbols are a feature that are common. Ceramics, stoneware and glass, and coloured vases, are another distinct feature.
Why they suit the Indian milieu…
The Indian climate and the weather are perfectly suited for homes such as these. Whether they are situated in the beach areas or in the plains, thick greenery or amidst the hills, with a few modifications one can have the finest Mauritian or Portuguese theme-styled houses or commercial spaces. While the exteriors and the elevation can be altered to suit the local environs, the interiors are a matter of décor and taste that can be fulfilled according to one’s aesthetics and capabilities. From minimalistic applications such as wall decorations to table vases, the colours of your sofa to your curtains, one can go the whole nine yards and make an indelible impression, with whatever the décor demands and, however you please.
(By Lincoln Bennet Rodrigues, Chairman & Founder, The Bennet and Bernard Company, known for luxury holiday homes in Goa)