Name : Agraharam

Completion Year : 2022

Location : Ghaziabad

Agraharam : A Narrative in Nostalgia

Returning Home: Designing through Childhood Roots

The Spatial Story of Nostalgia  


Evoking childhood nostalgia: Agraharam

Design that takes one back in time and place


A well-designed home tells myriad stories of its inhabitants and their life through different interior elements. With aesthetics inspired by the 1950’s Tamilian village context, the Agraharam is one such home: a charming abode of a Tamil family staying in north Delhi that is a 3-bedroom apartment, derived from the childhood stories of its owners.


The client aspired to have a home that resonated with their early days, reminiscent of Tamil customs and traditions. The design intent is thus to illustrate the clients’ identity through the spatial experience of their home. It draws inspiration from an agraharam street, a typical Tamil temple street, and weaves in and out of the family’s past memories and experiences in South India. The homes along the agraharam have a distinctive ethos with rustic wall finishes, wooden furniture and bright colours. In Agraharam, these elements create a characteristic vibe, and one is transported to another geography in another time upon entering the home.


The small room sizes and lack of natural light posed key challenges throughout the design process. Hence, the use of heavy wooden furniture with a dark polish is done strategically and balanced with lighter colours and textures. In addition, window frames are changed to UPVC to increase the size of glass panels and bring in natural light.


At the apartment’s entrance, an extended seating space adorned with a delicately carved wooden column transforms the lobby from a dead niche into an inviting entryway. As one enters the living room, the reference to the details, colours, textures and lifestyle habits of traditional Tamil homes is strongly felt. On the right, an expansive mural illustrates the scene of a typical agraharam street with a woman bending down, creating the local floor art of kolam. Across the mural, tones of beige and chrome yellow adorn the walls, with dark teakwood furniture and a centre table. A neutral beige sofa set balances the vibrancy of the yellow wall and the mural, along with an oonjal (a traditional swing) placed centrally. The rustic wall finishes, wooden and cane furniture, and the South Indian handloom fabric used for the sofa cushions create a layered palette of textures and colours. An interesting feature of the interiors is that no furniture or surface element has a sheen to it, except for the accents of brass running through the home in the form of table artefacts and the oonjal chain links. Typical regional details like wooden wall ledges with photo frames add a sense of richness to the spatial expression of the home.


The interiors not only allude to the regional colours and forms but also reference traditional South Indian practices and lifestyle. For example, the dining area features a low-height dining table signifying the custom of sitting on the floor and having meals. With its height reduced by 9 inches, the table and its chairs evoke the act of sitting cross-legged at a lower level, allowing the body to be more in tune with its surroundings. Additionally, a lot of the family’s unique old furniture has been retained, forming an integral part of the design aesthetic. For instance, a wood and cane chair in the dining area has arms that extend out to enable one to put their feet up to read in a relaxed position- a habit that is typical to the context where it comes from. Further, elements like banana plants in interior spaces and custom-made wooden false-ceiling with gold motifs over the living room enrich the sense of being in this place. The design’s key strength is that it understands the nuances of regional culture and translates it into a unique spatial experience.


The design carries the aesthetic feel of Tamilian homes and weaves it in seamlessly with the contemporary necessities and habits of the family. The bedrooms are designed as an extension of the traditional home, but with modern interiors. For the master bedroom, clean lines, muted colours and the textural qualities of cane and fabric take centre stage. The child’s bedroom is designed to reflect her lifestyle as an urban teenager and a Bharatnatyam dancer. Done primarily in tones of olive green, it has a queen-size bunk bed with seating on the lower bunk. The wardrobe has mirror shutters, allowing the room to act as a dance studio when needed.


Merging the essence of old Tamilian homes with the modern life and architecture of urban Delhi is a noteworthy achievement. It tells an interesting spatial story referencing culture, tradition and customs all through materiality and design. In times when all modern homes follow repetitive, cliched patterns and aesthetics, the residence is a refreshing benchmark for architects to take inspiration from abstract notions like nostalgia and past experiences.