THE brief to architect Revathi Kamath from Nalin Tomar, a dealer in old textiles in Delhi's Hauz Khas Village, was simple: he wanted a practical house which had at least two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, study, kitchen and two servants' quarters with a bathroom. Nothing complicated about that, except that his plot of land overlooking the Hauz Khas monument measured all of 40 sq yards.
With its Badarpur stone facade, the house Kamath designed is in continuum with the architecture of the monument down to the smallest cornice, column and lines of the dome. She has used the ancient Egyptian tree-of-life motif in the grills, floor pattern, lintels and the arches, to give the house a flow.
The approach to the house is through a 5-feet-wide lane. The ornately-carved entrance door opens into a narrow hallway and a sandstone and wood staircase just two-and-a-half-feet wide. A black thick twisted silk cord serves for a banister that runs through all levels of the house. This staircase width lays down the basic guideline for the furniture. The entrance level has Nalin's study, a few steps leading up to his bedroom. The only pieces of furniture in the study are an overstuffed armchair, a study table and an oriental stool. A few steps down from the study is the neat kitchen and down another few steps is the dining room with a very modern table in metal and glass, the arches giving a feeling of space.
Up the first flight of stairs is a fountain on the landing, up the next is the living room which has a breathtaking view of the monument, the park and the green belt beyond it. A feeling of space is created with several niches backed with mirrors. Similar niches are found all through the house and display some of Nalin's favourite artifacts. The floor-ing is terrazzo, inlaid with black cuddappah in Islamic geometric patterns. The living room has stone seating along with low ethnic furniture and the starkness is broken by the use of rich fabrics in winter and white chikankari in summer. The next level has a bathroom on the landing and up another flight is the guest bedroom. The room has a balcony with sandstone seating running along two sides. Up again, and there is another bathroom with a very high ceiling. A final climb and there's the terrace. While the many levels demand much physical fitness, the house that Nalin Tomar built offers an experience in elegant living in just 40 sq yards.