A decade ago, Delhi-based Anagram Architects designed a house they called Kindred House. It was, says the company’s director and co-founder, architect Madhav Raman, a “halfway house,” something between a nuclear family unit and a joint family unit, an innovative response to a new way of living for the Indian family. The clients in this case were “clan nuclear families” and a group of siblings and their families.

The design created multiple social spaces where people could gather, while each family also had their own areas. The idea was to allow the house’s four children to grow up under the care of two sets of parents, rather than just one. This was Anagram’s design response to the new Indian joint family situation, where you are together but also apart, says Raman.

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Many people now live in places where families have inherited plots of land and where siblings live crammed on top of each other, on different floors (this, of course, does not affect most people living in Mumbai). These houses are usually a single building divided horizontally into completely independent apartments, completely separated by elevators. This is very different from the shared family home we imagine, a vast communal space centered perhaps by a sweeping staircase where all the drama takes place – my mind of course is the cross-reference to Ekta Kapoor TV serials here. For Kindred House, Anagram stacked the bedrooms at the back, while at the front of the building they created three floating volumes with a terrace garden and other social spaces where families got to spend time together. This was reminiscent of ancient homes where families shared common areas, especially the dining and kitchen areas. Rather than simply creating a building full of relatives, Anagram’s design enabled the two family units to interact and socialize while providing privacy across bedrooms and other intimate spaces.

“After liberation, it took a decade for there to be a liberation of lifestyle,” says Raman. “The home was the first place where the new needs and demands of individuality emerged, so things like the man cave, the media room, the swimming pool,” he says. “Things like this are part of the checklist.” In order to make room for all this, the entire house had to be partitioned, with the ground floors often going to the eldest, and the upper floor being reserved for the younger members, with access to the rooftops. And the floors, so that Raman points out, “No matter how immoral they do it, they are kept away from the ancestors on the ground floor.” But this kind of separation did not allow for any sense of shared intimacy in the house.

Thirty years later, there is what Raman described as a “gray zone of the family unit,” which is neither entirely nuclear nor entirely shared. It is the type of family in which even members of a single family unit function as separate individuals, with adult children and parents living parallel lives in one place. This means that members are isolated in their rooms, entertaining themselves, and perhaps eating separately. Perhaps in a family where the mother is non-vegetarian, the daughter is vegetarian, and the father and son are vegetarian a family meal means four different things to four different people, and there is not much to share. Add to this the fact that we are no longer accustomed to sitting together to watch a program once a week on television.

Of course, it allows a certain degree of independence within the larger family unit, but when there is too much self-reliance, the house turns into a parking space for everyone – each one sitting in an adjacent space. The intimacy gap can only be closed by intention, by design.

The spaces we occupy scream our life stories, even if unintentionally. Our likes and dislikes, our differences, our joys and our pains; The sentiments of the people who live in the house are plastered on its walls and sitting on shelves. Some of these stories come from the things we have around us, and sometimes joy and emptiness are created by the way a space is designed. In India, a home is an aspiration, one’s own space is a mirage that people of different economic classes try to understand, and when this dream becomes possible, people get completely caught up in the aesthetic and display parts of the process and forget to think about how they want to occupy the space.

Relatives house. (architects anagram)

The intimacy you want to foster in the home should be an essential part of your design scheme. The larger the home and its capabilities, the more important it becomes. A home can bring people together or it can allow family members to disperse into individual units. In an unhappy state, space is relief; It can mean security, privacy, and peace of mind. In other cases, the same space divides people, making them like islands within a kitchen with a two-bedroom hall. Thinking about the intimacy quotient while strategizing your home design has an impact on whether relationships within the home are strengthened or estranged.

Small spaces obviously push people together, but if you’re designing a home with enough room to divide living and dining spaces, pay special attention to where you’ll be congregating, and pay particular attention to where you cook and eat. If family members have the facilities to eat separately, this is a family that rarely comes together. When there is no choice, every seat at the table will have an occupant.

The dining hall, then, is an essential gathering point in the home; It can also be around the kitchen table, sofa, reading nook, or even the balcony. But the intention to gather is the starting point of the plan and leads to better space management. I chose not to have a TV in my apartment so that my kids and I could huddle, uncomfortably, around my computer to watch whatever distorted anime ghost they chose. It forces us to share each other’s interests and allows for a sense of camaraderie, even if it comes at the expense of my good taste.

When designing, Raman’s advice is to rationalize your space based on how you’ve lived thus far, which means that if you don’t host large house parties in your current living spaces, you probably won’t start in your future home. Sometimes we use up available space to create areas for activities we never participate in, or rooms for guests who may never come. “I always tell people to stop collecting bedrooms,” says Raman. “People like to add more bedrooms to a house and bedrooms can become very self-sufficient. When you have a big bed with a sitting area, a balcony, and maybe even a small coffee machine,” Raman says. So you can really quarantine there for two weeks on your own. But that’s not the way to be part of a family.” Focus instead on creating social spaces, common areas where people in the home can come together and spend time, even if parked next to each other. A greater killer of intimacy than poorly divided spaces It is the “screen”, or in the current era many screens, all competing together for attention. There is one rule above all: do not put a TV in the bedroom, staring blankly into your eyes. The bed, the TV is another element that makes the bedroom A self-reliant space that people often hate to leave.

Fostering intimacy at home requires focus. The spatial design of a home can be a benefit or a deterrent. You have to decide which direction to go.

Manju Sara Rajan is an editor, arts director and author who divides her time between Kottayam and Bengaluru.

    (Tags for translation) Interior Design 

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