CW Interiors |
Luxe Life | August 2012

A piece of Heaven

Monolita Chatterjee, Ramesh Thakaran and PC Mathew from Design Combine add a touch of ethnicity to the Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere Resort at Allepey in Kerala.

Say ‘Kerala’, and the mind conjures up a panorama of backwaters, coconut trees and houseboats. But, there’s more to this vibrant state than picture perfect landscapes, believes Monolita Chatterjee, Associate Architect, Design Combine. And she, along with PC Mathew and the firm’s partner, Ramesh Thakaran, has brought into focus the lesser known charms of the region to the Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere Resort in Kerala. “The concept of this resort is classic, ethnic Kerala,” says Chatterjee. “It reflects the state and showcases the culture of Allepey, which is known for its traditional weaving industry.”

Temple tales

The resort had already been built before Design Combine was brought in to work on the interiors. The space has been divided into a reception area, two restaurants and 65 rooms, some of which are in six floating cottages. The resort also has a coffee shop, a conferencing facility, a gym and spa. Glimpses of God’s own country begin right at the reception. “We have avoided the replication of traditional architectural elements. Instead, we have presented the spirit, identity and culture of Kerala,”
says Chatterjee.

One of the most intense experiences in Kerala is the temple festival or Thrissur Pooram. The reception takes up this theme. The entry, with brass lamps lighting the way up the stairs, is similar to the entrance of a South Indian temple. Inside, a large stone lamp lights up traditional murals. These form a tableau of the temple procession, depicting performing arts like drumming – locally called chenda melam – and Kathakali. Another unique touch is the installation of golden headgear topped by colourful umbrellas – the ceremonial ornamentation of temple elephants.

Floating cottages

One of the most unique features of this resort is its six floating cottages. These are pontoon structures located along the edge of the waterfront and anchored to the water bed. A connecting bridge from the mainland takes the visitor to these cottages. “Here, we wanted to emulate a ship-like atmosphere that would recall the 3,000-year old nautical trade of which Kerala was the centre. The interiors of the cottages have been designed in colonial style with wooden floorings and paneling. The challenge was to keep the weight low since it is a floating structure,” says Chatterjee. The cottages have wide windows, a high ceiling and breezy white curtains. The large deck area has a private jacuzzi that looks out at the calm waters of the private lake that merges with the main lake – an unmatched experience of ‘water-edge living’.

In the lap of nature

For some more communing with nature, guests can visit the spa on the second floor of the main block. “A spa evokes a sense of healing and an association with nature. Hence, we have not used air conditioning in the space, much to the chagrin of the spa operators,” informs Chatterjee. The spa has abundant sunlight, natural ventilation and air. Low bamboo partitions provide privacy and ensure air circulation and openness. A running water feature creates a cool and serene ambience, and the pebble flooring provides a tactile, back-to-earth sensation. Apart from this, the property is dotted with heritage structures and yoga and meditation decks.

Material palette

The entire resort has intriguing floor finishes that are both traditional and natural. Red and black oxide flooring, common in traditional homes of this region, gives the space an ethnic and homely feel. In-situ mosaic or terrazzo flooring, which was popular post the British Era, has been used throughout the restaurants and suites. Finally, the rooms have terracotta floors that are cooling and therapeutic. “The idea was to use low-energy consuming and low-cost materials in a luxury hotel setting,” concludes Chatterjee.

Taking inspiration from ethnic Kerala festivals, traditional building materials as well as colonial period styles, the designs by Design Combine stay true to the firm’s name. By avoiding stereotypes and interpreting old symbols into new idioms, the designers have set a benchmark in rooted, yet contemporary design.

Meet the designer: Monolita Chatterjee

Firm: Design Combine Architects and Designers, founded in 1975.
Firm specialisation: We do all kinds of work, from residential, commercial, housing and hospitality to conservation, urban design and healthcare.
Design philosophy: Contextual, sustainable, functional, inclusive.
Philosophy towards life: To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.
Favourite architect/Designer: Charles Correa, Laurie Baker, Geoffrey Bawa Rem KoolHaas, and Tadao Ando.


Design Combine Architects & Designers, Arkadia, Kusumagiri PO, Kakkanad, Kochi-682 030. Tel: 0484-2421 731. Fax: 0484-2421 734. E-mail:
Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere VP-II/326 B, Vayalar, Cherthala, Alleppey, Kerala-688 536. Mobile: (0)80890 66001. E-mail:
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