Sunny With A Chance Of Seaside – A Modern Home Makeover in Chennai

  • 20 Apr '21
  • 9:29 am by Manisha AR

A few blocks away from the beach sits a sunny duplex apartment on Seaward Road in Chennai. Given its proximity to the water and distance from the busy city, the flat enjoys a lot of natural sunlight and greenery. Styled by Chennai-based interior designer and architect Gowri Adappa, the apartment feels like a haven in the sweltering summers of Chennai. From unexpected pops of color to earth tones mixed in with coastal textures, Adappa’s home makeover is a modern twist on a traditional canvas. “There was conscious use of local material and labor to preserve the old world charm of the space in its new form,” she tells Design Pataki.

In the duplex flat located within an apartment complex, a few minutes from the sea, reside a young couple. On the top floor is a den connected to an open terrace– that faces the water– with minimal furniture. We tend to associate dens as heavily carpeted and filled with cabinets. However, in this den Adappa foregrounds natural elements with a cement floor and adds greenery using indoor plants. The transition from the ‘den’ to the terrace is almost seamless save for a glass sliding door. It could almost be called a rooftop verandah.

The ‘den’ or rooftop verandah on the top floor that opens out to a terrace. Image Credits – Yash R Jain
The brick wall against the cement floor brings in a coastal and natural feeling to the space. Image Credits – Yash R Jain

According to Adappa the building was constructed in the 70s or 80s, and that explains the high ceilings. With a few structural changes, her team transformed the old structure into a modern space by breaking down several walls to open up enclosed spaces. For instance, she connected the previously enclosed kitchen to the living room area. This kind of transformation is present in the bar hidden under the curved staircase. It’s unusual for Indian homes to utilize the space under stairs– case in point; previously, it was space for a washbasin. They turned a dead space into a functional unit that adds surprise to the home but is in keeping with the den upstairs.

The cement finished coffee table in the living room really reigns in the multiple design elements of this home. Image Credits – Yash R Jain


The young couple who live in this home trace their roots back to Kerala. So they wanted to incorporate wooden furniture that they had inherited from their family. “Our projects have often been inspired by the connection we make with the client. We like to retain their personality in the design elements,” she tells us. As a Manglorean herself, Adappa was able to marry tradition and modernity with ease. Using the coastal connection as an overarching theme, she brought in elements like dark woods, cane furniture, plants, and calming colors like green and blue to complement the heavy furniture pieces inherited by the couple. She tells DP that laborers and artisans who worked on the cement floor were from Pondicherry. “They have a very special way of doing it, which I admire,” she says.

Neutral palettes and cane furniture was used in the bedrooms located on the ground floor. Image Credits – Yash R Jain


Additionally, cane furniture is another element used in this coastal-themed home. Even though there is an overarching theme, each room has a unique narrative and champions one specific element or texture. The bedrooms on the ground floor mix traditional designs with modern, minimalist aesthetics using a neutral beige color scheme and cane.

The bar under the stairs brings an element of surprise to the space. Image Credits – Yash R Jain

If one goes down the curved staircase, past the hidden bar, you will find yourself near the kitchen that is galley style and enhanced by the natural light. Adappa opened up space by replacing the small window with a ventilation fan from the previous design with a larger toughened glass window to bring in more light. The kitchen interiors: ash grey cabinets, brass lighting paired with a carpet is a contrast to the open, wood-and-brick green ambiance of the verandah upstairs. Instead, it is a closer match to the bar and a segue to the living room. The central focus of the living room is a stunning, cement-finished coffee table. It marries the cement from the upstairs to the modern deco ambiance of the ground floor. “It’s a personal favorite and we love this piece from Gulmohar Lane,” Adappa admits. With the house on Seaward Road, Adappa develops a language with each piece she puts in the space. Whether it is a wooden cabinet, a cane bed frame, a neutral lampshade, a brick wall, or a potted plant, the entire house speaks in a vernacular that belongs by the sea.

The galley style kitchen that had a window replacement to allow more light in. Image Credits – Yash R Jain