As you walk into the Darda home, a polished gem of a duplex off Worli Seaface, you are confronted with a sense of harmony that doesn’t quite translate into outright cosiness. It takes more than a careless first glance to probe beneath the sense of elegant balance and discover what keeps you on edge. The marbled, sun-drenched space into which you enter is full of surprises, put together on different levels, the rooms flowing into each other through unpredictable points of entry, the whole bound in by the ethereal, ever-changing natural light that streams in from the sea.
The breathtaking view to the west is not all the Dardas wanted from the house. Jayshree Bhalla, architect and partner of Studio for Environment and Architecture (SEARCH) – also, incidentally, Deven’s aunt – took an inclusive approach in designing with their young family in mind. “Our initial planning took just over half a year,” Deven says. “The house was designed with a certain flow and usability in mind – but the concept actually evolved as we travelled around the world.” Some of the décor is a result of intense mixing-and-matching from a single collection, like the House of Raro pieces that make up the seating area in the lobby. Others were dreamed up and custom-made, or picked out walking through décor exhibitions in Italy and exploring little-visited parts of Dubai, Delhi and Mumbai. Even in this cornucopia, some things stand out, calling attention to themselves as well as to their harmony with each other: a black glass-and-metal chandelier from Holland hanging over their dining area, paintings by Abhijit Shinde and Prakash Deshmukh (the Dardas are passionate about discovering and promoting aspects of local culture), and an exquisite wood-inlaid cabinet, a handmade work in which Italian design meets Indian motifs.
Rachana, a designer turned full-time homemaker, laughs at the memory of moving from their sprawling family home in Nagpur to Mumbai. “This is quite enough for a nuclear family,” she says of her apartment. “I’m very particular about housekeeping, and it takes up quite a lot of my time.” So what went into the making of the house? “My husband’s taste,” she says immediately. “It seemed better to have one person concentrate their energies on it, and accommodate the personalities of all the people living here, rather than have conflicting ideas clash.” And it works. “I wanted peace of mind, and a harmony with each of our lifestyles,” Deven explains. As with the people who live here, the centerpieces around which the spaces are designed are all about a broad sensibility; more about how to bind different elements together in interesting ways than achieve a bland consistency.