The Leaf House designed by SJK Architects is a 45-minute boat ride across the harbour from the 22 million people in Mumbai in the coastal town of Alibaug, India. It is a 650sqm family home on a 1.3-acre site at the base of the hills and away from the sea. The land is lush with coconut, mango and neem trees. The sun rises on the eastern hills and when SJK Architects first saw the site it was strewn with leaves. The visual of the leaves became the muse for the final design of the building. The home consists of 5 rooms. Glazing surrounds 4 of the spaces and the 5th room is an open-air living room bordered by a lily pond and pool. The 4 enclosed rooms where designed so that each of the leaf pods open and rise to the north and east, sheltering the spaces from the southwest monsoons and tropical sun. The four leaf pods consist of a Master Bedroom, a child’s bedroom, a living room and a kitchen. The concrete roofs contain steel webs for a rebar effect allowing for a beamless space beneath. Steel columns that are filled with concrete support the roof and their angular pitch creates both a graphic effect as well as an organic appeal.
The outdoor living space is a study in minimalism. A cozy sectional wraps a deep coffee table and a matching accent chair finishes the setting. The concrete decking and roof leafs maintain their patina with the use of clear chemical coatings that will withstand the punishment of the tropical rains and sun. All the wood is polished with a linseed oil for the same reason. The facade of the home is a natural limestone in keeping with the natural setting.
Just around the corner of the outdoor living area is the entrance to the indoor living room.
The indoor living space can be opened up or closed up to the outdoor space via wooden doors that fold back and glazed walls that can be removed. A simple chaise against one window wall can be used both as a place to sit and as a place to have a nap. The lush greenery that surrounds the home offers an organic appeal that is mirrored in the architecture of the building.
The architects maintained as many of the natural plantings the site had to offer and only local vegetation was added to complete the landscaping of which lemon grass was a favourite and used extensively to counter mosquitoes. The plantings that surround the lily pond create a lush and luxurious setting on one side of the outdoor living space, while on the other a swimming pool beckons.
The pool is surrounded by decking and is an inviting focal point for the outdoor living space. The rectangular shape of the pool, and grid work of the decking is a nice contrasting foil to the organic shapes of the building structures.
Just past the pool and next to the living room is the kitchen pod. Unlike the living room, the kitchen is almost completely enclosed with just one window high above the doorway. This allows the homeowner to maximize storage on the walls.
Continuing past the living room and the kitchen the outdoor living space carries on towards the two bedroom pods. On the way it passes through a “family area” with additional outdoor lounging and a small table and chair set for games.
The Master Bedroom is a study in minimalism. A contemporary leather chaise, a cozy bed and a small desk all create a functional yet uncluttered lifestyle. The limestone wall is lined with similar toned shelving to hold desk papers and books as well as mementos. The concrete canopy and polished concrete floors bring in the coolness for an otherwise hot climate.
The children’s pod is large enough for 3 beds with bedside tables dividing them and still leave room for a desk on either side of the doorway. Here, as in the Master Bedroom, the furnishings are kept to the basics. Both bedroom pods open up to the central courtyard and each has its own bathroom within the pod at the far end.
The bathrooms face out away from the central courtyard and therefore maintain their privacy, allowing for large sections of glass to be used. In the child’s bathroom a single vessel sink perches on a concrete counter and a shower area above the tub is kept open. Large potted plants on a small deck just outside the windows bring the lush greenery close at hand.
All 4 pods face in towards the central courtyard, but the two bedroom pods are a short distance away for privacy. The living room and kitchen pods are both close to the pool and lily pond while a large Neem Tree separates the living and sleeping zones.
“The client enjoyed the idea of pods overlapping but distinct to house each part of the home. They wanted the journey between pods to be a sculpted open space encompassing native trees.” Architect’s quote.
Since wells run dry most of the year, rainwater harvesting was very important and so a rain water collection system is part of the overall design of the buildings. The water is collected and then transferred to underground trenches and canals where it is then transported to bore wells. All the overlapping heights of the roof systems work seamlessly to keep out the weather and collect the rainwater.
Photography by Rajesh Vora