House Proud - Where culture breeds creativity

Architects Manupriam and Harpreet Seth’s vibrant homeImage Credit: Aiza Castillo-Domingo, GN Publishing

Dubai has homes that are the epitome of luxury and elegance, with beautiful marble floors, contemporary furniture created by design legends, stunning crystal chandeliers and Zen inspired interiors. But there are also homes that are full of life, creativity and culture. Architects Manupriam and Harpreet Seth's haven in Mankhool is one of them.

The couple met in Delhi, India when they were studying for their master's degree in architecture. Following their marriage, they moved to Muscat in 1992 and then Dubai in 1995, where they started their own architectural firm. The duo was part of the team that designed the Burj Al Arab ballroom, along with a hotel, department store and other residential and commercial spaces. Today, Harpreet, who has a PhD in architecture, teaches at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, while Manupriam works as a consultant and design manager on projects in the UAE and overseas. The couple has also been instrumental in mentoring students and art enthusiasts through projects such as Sandscapes, an annual art and music festival, and Urban Sketchers, a community sketching group in Dubai.

Inspired by the arts

In fact, music and art have shaped the Seths' lives, family and home. Their three-bedroom villa, spread across nearly 3,000 sq ft, is part of a twin-villa structure. ''The site of this villa defined the natural flow of the structure of our house,'' says Harpreet. ''It is neither linear nor centralised.''

The couple's love for colour and the written word is evident all over the house, but possibly best reflected in the brilliant creations of their two children. Their son Chandeep, currently pursuing art studies at Cornell in the US, is an accomplished jazz pianist and a radio jockey, while daughter Ashdeep will soon be heading to Stanford University to study product design. A gifted athlete, she also paints, sculpts, sings and plays the guitar. The siblings have won numerous art awards in the UAE and overseas, including the annual international design competition held at the renowned Naba and Domus Academy in Milan.

Self-made artists

Chandeep's mixed media paintings dominate the living room, with themes that reflect his love for music (the piano keyboard features in many of the artworks) and deep connection to his family. Meanwhile, the walls of the living room are filled with books on art, culture and mythology, while masks from different parts of the world, including one of a chau dancer (a semi-classical dance form native to Bihar, India) adorn a section of the area.

The influence of music is felt across the two-storey villa. Instruments such as the piano and tabla, as well as figurines depicted as playing instruments, share space with slippers from Kyrgyzstan, a large wooden bust of a yakshini (an Indian mythological figure) from Thailand and other curios. All the objects fit in seamlessly together in a space that is a meeting ground for like-minded artists and academics, or a platform for impromptu jam sessions with the family's musician friends.

''Our home is an extension of our lifestyle,'' says Manupriam. ''We have always put a premium on learning and wanted our children to appreciate books, art and music. There's an art project at home that has all the mobile phones the family has used through the years. I even have a gigantic thaal (serving dish) that was used in my grandparents' home. Everything we've collected and showcased here is to initiate conversation and inspire creativity. They honour our past, making it relevant in our present.

''Also, nothing is considered waste. We've even used tree trunks from our backyard in our projects. The bench near the entrance was made by Ashdeep; we have another in our living room that was sculpted by Chandeep.

''We wanted the children to question things and seek answers. We've exposed them to different artistic influences and encouraged them to find their own expression, and it has worked so far. This house reflects that pursuit.''

The element of colour is also a strong feature in the villa and the bright upholstery and multi-coloured cushions are a testament to that. ''I love colour and visual imagery,'' says Harpreet. ''I love moving things around and making them work. It's part of my personality and I think my children have inherited that from me.''

Find out different ways of adding colour to a room

Source: Neesha Salian, Special to Property Weekly


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