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Love Story

Area : 6000 Sq Ft
Location : Cochin, Kerala
Year : 2021
Team : Ar. Rahul Mathew
Ar. Priya Rose

An ode to opposites in architecture —

The creative minds at Workers of Art have brought a captivating narrative to life with their recent project, "The Oxide Brass Love Story". This ingenious architectural endeavour is set in Cochin, Kerala, weaving a tale of contrasts within the refurbished structure of an ancient "naalu kettu" house. Our project adopts the unique persona of its owner - a man at the zenith of his life, seeking a space that reflects both his grandeur and his appreciation for the authentic.
With "The Oxide Brass Love Story", we've skilfully paired the rugged charm of Oxide with the sophisticated sheen of Brass. These hero materials embody the client's life narrative - his hard-earned success manifested in the refined luxury of brass, and his enduring roots expressed through the raw, untamed oxide. This thoughtful interpretation of materials as characters allows them to coexist harmoniously, creating a stunning testament to the beauty of contrast.
Reinventing the interiors, we added modern, edgy elements that enhance functionality without sacrificing the aesthetics, guided by our client's penchant for hosting and communal gatherings. The design introduces an open floor plan - a mélange of living spaces and a dedicated bar cum dining area that morphs as per the occasion. The four bedrooms have been designed with an eye for luxury and coziness. The semi-helical staircase gently transitions visitors from the ground floor's intriguing material palette to the airy, naturally lit spaces of the first floor.
Throughout the house, natural light is a strategic ally, delicately interacting with the varied material textures to create a symphony of light and shade. The layered green walls ensure privacy while allowing for filtered light, respecting the essence of the original "naalu kettu" design. The interplay of oxide and brass with charred timber and stone adds depth to the narrative, a visual and tactile experience that narrates a story of opulence born from authenticity.
In the heart of Kerala, "The Oxide Brass Love Story" stands as a beacon of the power of opposites - a luxurious abode that combines the raw and the refined, celebrating life's journey and victories. This project is not just a construction of walls and roofs; it's a beautifully rendered story of contrasts in materials, much like the yin-yang of life itself.
The Dance of Dichotomy: Exploring Layering of Materiality in Architecture —
Materiality, in our project, wasn't just a component, but a prime actor in the design drama of "The Oxide Brass Love Story". Guided by the rich, artisanal charm of handcrafted elements and a sprinkle of extravagant elegance, we curated a palette that balanced the rustic appeal of cement oxide with the refined elegance of brass. The narrative of this project was expressed in the language of these materials, harmoniously woven into the architectural tapestry.
Our choice of 8x4" matte finish nexion tiles for the flooring echoes the texture of the cement oxide walls. Taking a page out of vernacular architecture, where the skirting is usually done as a high skirting detail. Rising to form a high skirting, they further accentuate the depth and texture brought by the cement oxide walls of the ground floor. Against this backdrop of textured grey, the green walls stand out like vibrant paintings, buffering the home from the bustling neighbourhood while enhancing its introverted nature.
The tale of brass unfolds subtly yet significantly throughout the space. Its most grandiose manifestation is in the heart of the home – the low seating area at the "naalu kettu". A brass light screen warmly welcomes visitors to the home, with thin, brushed-finish poles integrated with soft, warm lighting. This central element acts as an art installation, forming intriguing shadows while cocooning the space, and providing visual privacy for the upper levels.
Echoing a youthful, modern bachelor pad, the aesthetic of this home serves as a poetic nod to an older couple re-discovering life as a duo after their children have flown the nest. Anchored in a color palette of grey and burnished or faded gold, the hues in different rooms add depth to this narrative. The master bedroom sports a complementary rust orange, while the guest room bathes in a blend of pearl green and blue. The upper floors are washed in white and grey with gold accents, incorporated through wall mouldings, brass mirror detailing, and bedroom elements. In our exploration of materiality, we've also experimented with color blocking in the upper bedrooms – an elegant combination of pink and grey with brass headboard accents. The bathrooms wear a minimalist design with matte black fittings, featuring marble effect tiles and fixtures from FIMA
Carlo Frattini, whose design ideology aligns beautifully with our celebration of modern elegance and artisanal material quality.
In "The Oxide Brass Love Story", layering of materiality takes centre stage. We've pushed the envelope in our exploration, combining cement oxides, matte and glossy tiles, metallic elements through brass, and a spectrum of complementary colours expressed through paint and fabrics. This meticulous, layered approach results in a harmonious blend that celebrates the dichotomy of materials, painting a vibrant picture of materiality as a vital character in the architectural narrative.
The Harmonious Symmetry of Spaces: Weaving a Love Story
The use of materials in architectural spaces can significantly influence the character and ambiance of the area, and in "The Oxide Brass Love Story", it is the heart of the design narrative. The project reimagines the traditional "naalu kettu" core as a modern epicentre , transforming it into a low seating area that serves as the family's communal cocoon. The interplay between the raw oxide and the elegant brass takes centre stage here, culminating in a composition that evokes both comfort and grandeur.
Upon entering the home, visitors are immediately greeted by this central area, with a light screen that doubles as an art installation and provides visual privacy. The brass and oxide combination dominates here, establishing the project's thematic essence, that is the "Love Story". This core area acts as a spatial buffer, flanked on one side by a formal living area and an informal living space on the other, fostering a seamless transition between contrasting functions.
The formal living area, adjacent to the central core, extends into a dining space, ideal for hosting dinners and social gatherings. Further extending into a bar counter and a green wall, this expansive space embodies the project's narrative of sociability and hospitality. The left zones house the guest room and the kitchen, facilitating smooth service during formal gatherings.
The informal living area, on the other side of the core, provides a more relaxed setting. A lounge seater, an L-shaped sofa, and a TV provision make this area perfect for family leisure time, while large sliding doors connect this area to an outdoor deck. Surrounded by two-meter high green walls, this area also pays tribute to the project's commitment to privacy.
This theme of introversion is further reinforced by the green walls flanking the house, forming a natural buffer from neighbouring properties. They create a soothing backdrop to the home while emphasising the beautiful interplay of brass and oxide within.
The open powder room extends from the dining area, featuring two open wash counters that allow conversations to flow during quick touch-ups.
A notable transformation in the project was the old dog-legged staircase, reimagined as a semi-helical stair finished in cement oxide. The new design not only provided extra space and headroom for the downstairs toilet but also created a welcoming reception area for transitioning from the master bedroom to the more public areas of the home. Illuminated by the glow of a decorative hanging light, the double-height wall of the staircase finished in cement oxide paints a magnificent picture of the project's layered materiality. In the grand narrative of "The Love Story", each space contributes to the harmonious dialogue between brass and oxide, creating a symphony of materials that comes together in a composition as grand as it is cozy.
Reviving Tradition through Modern Materiality: A Design Process in Harmony with Heritage —
In our project, “The Oxide Brass Love Story,” we aimed to re conceptualise the traditional “naalu kettu” home while staying true to its core principles. One of the inherent challenges in retaining the essence of a central core – a quintessential feature of the “naalu kettu” design – was to create a space that felt warm and intimate for two occupants, but also expansive enough to accommodate gatherings.
To strike this balance, we introduced a light screen to the central core. This element subtly cocoons the space, serving as the home's beacon and demarcating different zones without resorting to divisive walls. The light screen doesn’t just structure the space but infuses it with an ambient glow, creating an inviting ambiance. The incorporation of our hero materials, brass and cement oxide, is most prominent here. Brushed brass poles construct the screen, while the pillars, seating, and flooring celebrate the earthy allure of cement oxide.
To ensure an open floor plan, walls around this area were knocked down to establish a seamless visual connection. The existing staircase was restructured into a helical form not just for its aesthetic appeal but also to facilitate spatial quality and increase headroom for the bathroom area below. We faced another challenge in the form of the site's location within a gated community, where houses are closely packed. To maintain privacy, we adapted to the constraints of the plot, creating an introverted design that embraced green walls as natural buffers. This allowed us to respect the spatial boundaries while adding an aesthetic layer to the home.
The final outcome of this intricate design process was a modern and urban interpretation of a “naalu kettu” home where materiality is at the forefront. We successfully intertwined the traditional ethos of the Kerala vernacular architecture with contemporary aesthetics, evoking a beautiful love story of brass and oxide, an ode to the timeless allure of authentic design.

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