There are vacation homes that make you wish your vacation never ends and there are vacation homes that make you wish your whole life was a vacation. At the recently concluded SaffronStays Awards (in which our founder/COO, Ashish Shah happened to be one of the judges) for India’s most memorable vacation homes, we came across the dreamiest of spaces we wanted to live in for the rest of our lives. We’ll leave the drool-worthy pictures and stories of what makes them these spaces special, do the talking.
India’s Most Memorable Heritage Vacation Home
Nossa Bela Casa
Location: Cuelim, Goa
Creator’s Story: After a long and illustrious line of owners, the house was uninhabited since 1958 till the current owner’s mother began taking an interest in the place who was enchanted with the house; petromax and kerosene lamps, primitive sanitation, flying foxes on the roof. The family retainers proudly stated the they had never discarded a thing. Neither had the generations that came before them. Children’s puzzles jostled shoulders with rare porcelain, newspapers settled into rotting piles, drawers bulged at the seams with heavy visiting cards, letters of proposals, school reports (good, bad and indifferent ), property deeds executed in meticulous copper plate; Jamini Roy and a calendar frozen at 1954 presided over the same wall. The years saw sprucing up and septic tanks remodeling and renovation. Her passion passed onto her son, a radiologist in Mumbai, who is responsible for this reconstruction, keeping the intrinsic character intact, with an architect as his collaborator.
Design Personality: The walls were solid stone, except that the nether regions were crafted out of mud. It had its own chapel which you can see. Ours was built in several levels, with two reception halls, a dining hall, six bedrooms with niches for exquisite chamber pots, matching water jugs and basins, enclosed by balconies overlooking gardens and a sweet water well which never ever dried up, majestic staircases add to wind your way from the master bedroom to a hall, on the same level, you had to climb two flights of stairs, up ‘n’ down. Lower down were two kitchens, domestic quarters, a cellar and a pantry. The toilets were tucked away at the end of the house. The ceilings had ornate plaster-of-paris moulding. The floors were mosaic or parquet in intricate designs. The furniture was ebony or rosewood, all protected with exquisite crochet or embroidered linen. The walls were alive with stern faced ancestors. The mansion was sustained by an estate of coconut groves, cashew plantations and paddy fields.
Wow Factor: This house was built 350 years ago and has now been restored back to its former glory.
Testimonial: Our 3-day sojourn in this idyllic haven was one of sheer bliss! Have you heard the sound of silence, then this family home, restored to its original glory is where you’ll find it. Ensconced amidst acres of paddy fields, the Cunha residence tucked away in quaint Cansaulim village of Goa, once open to round table discussions on the Liberation movement, speaks of a bygone era of elegance and grace. What a luxury to experience high ceilings with sturdy wooden beams exposed, large windows that bring the outdoors in, an in-house chapel or capella as the Goans call it combined with all the creature comforts city slickers are used to. …Cosy balcaos allow you to sink into a book or refire your spirits and recharge your batteries with a view of the verdant green fields beyond. We’d heard of the Portuguese era and the splendour of living with historians often referring to Goa as the Rome of the East. For us, this made a perfect getaway to get a sense of that era as well as enjoy family time far from the madding crowd. Perfect for family reunions, we’re coming back for sure. ~ Keith and Joan Shenoy
India’s Most Memorable Eco-Friendly Vacation Home
Location: Mulshi, Maharashtra
Creator’s Story: We have always been fascinated with the idea of having a farm; growing our own food even though we had little understanding, leave alone experience of agriculture when we started out. However, when in 2011, we saw this property, we fell in love with the place and its 2 surrounding lakes. Imagine our surprise and dismay then when we found that the pasture was overgrazed, the rock was impermeable and there was a scarcity of water! However, some digging around and we found a borewell with potable water and so began our journey to creating this farmhouse. We wanted to create an all-natural, ‘food forest’ using permaculture but it is a cost-intensive proposition. So to create some revenue we began to operate the place as a homestay. Today we have an orchard of native growing fruit trees, some vegetables and herbs as well.
Design Personality: The house has an unfinished brick structure built with all natural, eco-friendly materials like mud, gobhar and ash in place of cement. The interior design too reflects this earthy, rustic approach with the use of wood furniture, stone seats and brightly coloured accents.
Wow Factor: I love fragrances and on a lark, I began to plant every kind of fragrant flower, herb, plant or tree I could lay my hands on. Some took root and flourished and others didnt, but as a result there are certain patches of the property that smell absolutely divine in the mornings when the sun begins to shine brightly. This fragrance has become a huge USP of our property.
Testimonial:The location is out of a dream urban folks have. Quiet, serene, no habitat around & amongst lake and mountains. Hospitality was at its best, the hosts being great ‘cooks’ the food was well thought of and delicious. Would surely recommend for people who do not always crave for five star comforts but are looking out for a quiet meditative ambience. ~ Rajeev Sathe
India’s Most Memorable Pet-Friendly Vacation Home
Under the Mango Tree
Location: Karjat, Maharashtra
Creator’s Story: “What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare” The sprawling farmhouse provides the owners and his family exactly the pause they require from their fast paced lives in the city. The brief was simple – He needed the life he couldn’t afford in the city: close to nature, animals, farming, cool breeze etc. The construction of the house began from a raw site, full of beautiful mango trees all around. The house was built around these mango trees and this is what the house is famous for.
Design Personality: The house is designed keeping in mind the simple concept of connectivity with the nature. To do so we decided to do away with any kind of obstructive walls and replace them with large glass and metal doors, which can be opened completely to expose the occupant to the outside even with the large metal doors shut one is visually engaged with the outside. This sense of space provides the owners pet animals and bird to roam around freely. The minimalist decor and teak wood furniture further adds to the freedom of being in the countryside.
Testimonial: The space is a meticulously designed but absolutely simple in terms of design. The great part is the architecture itself forms the interior of the house and the space doesn’t need much styling. ~ Viragi Parekh
India’s Most Memorable Luxe Vacation Home
Location: Khandala, Maharashtra
Creator’s Story: An opportunity to design an infinity pool served as the inspiration behind this beautiful vacation home. On our initial visit to the site, we knew that this site would be a challenge. The plot was irregular in shape and contoured. There was a dense undergrowth on site and a terrain which was unmanageable and it was very difficult to understand how to plan the villa, in order to achieve the best views from every corner of the house. Orientation of the villa was thus the biggest challenge we faced. This being the most crucial decision, we were apprehensive till we were actually standing on the first slab of the house.
Since the site was irregular and heavily contoured, we were keen on placing the building in a manner where we could exploit maximum views of the valley. The natural site contours were to be used effectively and to create an infinity pool that would manifest itself as the core of the villa.
It was understood that it was important to take maximum advantage of the views. Apart from the master and the children’s bedrooms, two guest rooms were to be incorporated. A separate area for games and entertainment was important too.n order to achieve the right balance, a living room was placed in the centre on the ground floor. A kitchen adjoining service areas, a Jacuzzi with changing rooms, and guest rooms bordered the central living space. On the right corner of the floor sits a staircase, connecting the games area in the basement and the bedrooms on the floor above.
Design Personality: The design language of the villa is modern contemporary. Both the exterior and interior walls are draped in white colour, adding grandeur. The flooring is finished in white lhasa marble. The whiteness of the villa on the inside and the seamless slabs without beams create a beautiful visual contrast and blur the boundaries of the inside with the lush green garden and foliage of the outside landscape. The beauty of the villa is the infinity pool which creates a breathtaking vista from the living area. An alluring view of the mountains is framed with a large portal thirty feet in height which partially covers the outdoor seating.
Wow Factor: The USP of the vacation home is its serenity, which could only be achieved and exploited in this location, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The mesmerizing location itself makes this home an ideal nominee for the category. With its unparalleled view and modern design language, it is a family vacation home at its best. The villa looks most stunning during the night. We considered blue and white as the combination for the outdoor furniture. It creates a beautiful contrast. As you walk down into the garden from here and you turn back, you can see the house in its full glory.
According to me, nature has blessed this home with bewildering and scenic beauty and as architects, we have made it possible for the residents to behold, experience and cherish that beauty.
India’s Most Memorable Beach View Vacation Home
Location: Murud, Maharashtra
Creator’s Story: With its own private, secluded beach, our cozy waterfront villa near Murud is like a little paradise that I have dreamt of since I was a little girl. My family would take trips to the beach ever so often and since then I have always felt at home near the ocean. Ever since that fateful day in 2007, when I allowed a broker to sweet talk me into seeing a property on the coastline, I have been in love with this place. However, the road to building my dream home has been filled with numerous challenges; right from feuding members of the owner’s family, to and the numerous trips between Mumbai and Murud for supervising the construction.
Design Personality: Clearing a space for the house with as little damage to the environment as possible, I designed the entire structure without the help of an architect. But after months of hard work, I am the proud owner of this beautiful vacation home.
Wow Factor: It is a tranquil space for city dwellers to rest their weary souls and breathe in the calm of this place. The only sound to be heard for miles is the crash and roar of the Arabian Sea, barely 50 meters from the villa. Constructed in a minimalist log-cabin style, my home has two charming beach units facing the ocean with an outdoor porch swing placed in the garden, encouraging guests to sit and stare at the ocean.
Testimonial: Getting off the expressway and driving through scenic cloud shrouded mountains was just a small step compared to the awesomeness that was in reaching the cottage. I had long conversations with The Host (the owner) about how to reach and what to expect. As friendly as she is, she is no great salesperson. Three and a half hours from Mumbai, I was expecting a cottage a walk away from the beach and just another serviced room kind of a setup. We were met at the gate by the exceedingly helpful and cheerful housekeeper, and truth be told I was kind of apprehensive. All that disappears, when you meet his wife and the amazing food she cooks. The food, the dessert, the setting, their promptness, try as I might I couldn’t fault them for a thing. (And I’m in general a cynical man). The view of the sea is something else, it never seemed so real, the tides – you see the frolicky, noisy sea in high tide right at the cottage boundary, that steps away to reveal an amazing beach during low tide. A walk in the morning and evening is a must to truly understand what peace can mean (so desired when you come from the hustle bustle of Mumbai). By the way, they have some very shy flock of ducks to keep company and add a surreal touch to an incredible setting. ~ Dinanath
India’s Most Memorable Vacation Home with a Unique Structure
House of Three Streams
Location: Pawna Lake, Maharashtra
Design Personality: Most buildings have a story behind them but in this case the building is the story. It reflects a property that allows the ‘made’ to be subservient to the ‘found’ where the topography of the site, the historicity of the surrounding forests, the light and shadow of the forests guide and dictate the construction. Built as a vacation home for an architect, the property is situated on a slope that leads down to Pawna lake, with the famous Tungi and Lohgad forts to the north and east. The large load-bearing wall that runs along a ridge across two ravines is a predominant feature of the house and the material used resembles the walls of the forts. As the site flows to the lake, so too does the house, picking clearings within the trees to capture the views of the lake. Formal planning strategies proved insufficient to absorb the radical flow of land and water and the innovative design reflects this challenge. The wall ruptures at points where the verandahs bridge over the ravine and continue on into the forest to the second ravine beyond the ridge. Sleeping spaces are embedded in the forest while public spaces assume the mannerism of suspended flight to the north and east. The roof follows the topography of the perch points, tracing the path laid down by the hill; its language of fletched rafters and weathering zinc a natural foil to the robustness of the locally quarried basalt. Its contours reference the horizon and the hill. The deconstructed language of the tree-like structures that support the roof liberate the edges where shaded spaces and the forest merge.
India’s Most Memorable Vacation Home on a Hill
Location: Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Creator’s Story: After the Kashmir insurgency, my mother missed her family home in Srinagar and my father shared her love for the mountains. For them, Manali became a home away from home, and they decided to build their home in the mountains. With a pine forest as background and the spectacular Himalayas as foreground, this property is a labor of love and done completely by the family.
Design Personality: My father who is not an architect or a contractor by profession, has painstakingly built it over the years. From flattening a mountain, to collecting reclaimed and repurposed wood from all over India, it truly is unique. The conservatory styled living room is the piece de resistance. All furniture, artwork, furnishings has been done by me. Design connoisseurs will also appreciate the use of Burma teak, English oak, and pine. Traditional Himachal touches are there in the form of the Bukhari (Indian Fireplace) and the mid-modern inspiration is also hard to miss. The glasshouse offers uninterrupted views of the reserve pine forest behind us, the vistas of the valley and the high Himalayas. The interior space has been inspired by Scandinavian design. The decision to move away from archetypal ethnic look and kitschy design trends is deliberate. Soaking in the skies through the glass conservatory is another USP.
Wow Factor: Personally, I cherish the silent beauty of the night, hence find it mesmerizing when the ceiling takes its own unique form, when the sky grows darker into deeper shades of night and the stars are at full display. Without any bias, I can say it does offer an unforgettable experience, a sentiment shared by our guests who travel from all over the word.
Testimonial: If you are looking for a cosy home away from home perched on top of a hill where you would just want to sip endless cups of tea/wine admiring the breathtaking views of the snow capped mountains and lush green valley, this property just takes the crown! The minute you step in, you’d realize it’s a piece of art; the interiors inspired by Scandinavian architecture come with all modern amenities. The pictures do perfect justice to the actual property. The cherry on the cake is the in-house cook, who can dish out a variety of lip-smacking breakfast, snack and dinner items – ranging from Indian, western, Italian, Kashmiri – veg and non-veg both. They have a cute little garden with lots of pretty flowers and apple trees and picture perfect views. We went with our two children, an infant and a 5 yr old and the host went out of her way to arrange for a baby cot for us from Delhi to Manali before we arrived! She is very amiable and accessible and though she is based out of Delhi, it hardly feels so since she is very much on top of what’s happening at the house and ensures that your stay is very comfortable. All in all, it is a hidden gem for families/couples to unwind with all the comforts of a modern home yet quaint and fairy-tale like! Would surely like to come back again! ~ Avantika
India’s Most Memorable Waterfront Vacation Home
Design Personality: This rustic-luxe homestay is set in the middle of a coconut grove on a private island formed by the river flowing on both sides. The building is two storeys tall with a sloping, red tiled roof, ochre coloured walls, wide, open air balconies and rustic interiors.
Wow Factor: The location of this property is its main USP. The silence around; a wild call of a peahen, ripples of the river, coconut trees dancing to the tunes of the wind, buying fresh catch from the passing fishermen and its proximity to the St. Mary Islands; a geographic marvel of lava formed into columns.
Testimonial: This place is a hidden gem. A lovely farmhouse set in the middle of a lush coconut farm surrounded by the waters of the river makes you want to extend your stay. The scenic deck by the river from where you can watch jellyfish floating and silver Matthili fish flashing in the sun, is the cherry on top. The food made by the resident caretakers was very good too and only the freshest ingredients were used. We were offered a variety of seafood cooked in simple, Mangalorean style cuisine and all of it was great. This place is quite far from the main road and the nearest shop is 30 mins walk away. There’s also not much to do if you need entertainment. We were looking for peace and solitude and this was perfect. However, if you’re looking for the beach experience, this is not the right place. ~ Sharad
India’s Most Memorable Forest Vacation Home
Location: Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Design Personality: Crafted using a traditional Thanjavur-style stone, it boasts of a seamless blend between heritage architecture and modern amenities. Guests love snuggling up in front of the common fireplace and sampling the delicious Tamil cuisine. With six cozy bedrooms, verdant ivy-covered exteriors and a lovely verandah decked with tea tables, this charming heritage bungalow harkens back to to a simpler era.
Wow Factor: Tucked away from the chaos of the main market, this property is an idyllic retreat for those looking to relax and unwind. Surrounded by lush greenery, this 9-acre estate features a gorgeous 6-bedroom heritage homestay built in the 1930s, landscaped gardens and a scenic pond complete with a rustic sit-out. The estate boasts of beautiful, well-maintained gardens with stunning views of Kodai Valley. There is also a delightful macchan on the property where guests can relax with a steaming cup of tea and a good book.
Testimonial: This is a fairly big estate of nine acres with a British cottage in the middle. It is far from the noise and bustle of the touristy spots but yet easily approachable to them. The estate itself has a lot to explore with a beautiful tree top lounge and view-points. The garden is immaculately maintained and is a treat with the salubrious climate. The food is good and Mr Natarajan the caretaker is polite and helpful. A fantastic place to unwind in a setting that takes you back to the British Raj. ~ Damvilram