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Utilizing space, and how!


Space matters. And no one understands this better than someone who has lived a considerable amount of time in a space-crunched city like Mumbai. Jostling for space is not a new concept for Mumbaikers. From trying to secure a standing position in a packed local to utilizing the tiniest corner of a one BHK flat, every inch matters. Only a person who has lived in this interesting city understands the importance of a sq.ft in the real sense. If  you've ever been to a typical apartment flat in Mumbai suburbs, you'd exactly know what I'm talking about.

No corner, niche, or extra (if any) space ever goes wasted in the quintessential home of a Mumbaiker. One can marvel at how people fit in an entire household replete with all the modern, essential and luxurious fittings in a 600 sq.ft flat that will have a complete functioning kitchen, a living room cum dining cum entertainment area, a bedroom cum study. Mostly every space doubles up as something else and every corner gets utilized into a relevant storage area for all practical purposes. A sofa-cum-bed, a cabinet shelf that doubles up as a study table when opened, a bigger than usual balcony that gets converted into a room by enclosing the window area, a dresser built into the wardrobe, all of these are trademark ways of optimizing utility of the available area. Space economics attains a whole new dimension.

A person used to living in these conditions also develops such a conditioned thinking where space wasted becomes storage wasted which is akin to money wasted. When a person from such a background goes to live in a different city that is probably not that space crunched, he begins to feel bad for the criminal wastage of sizeable living space that is squandered away due to poor design of floor plans. It can be highly frustrating and difficult to make peace with the situation where one has the luxury of spacious houses (in terms of sq.ft) on paper but valuable portions of such area goes un-utilised due to disproportionate allocation (for.e.g. a flat having a huge dining space but a cramped up master bedroom) thanks to incompetent floor planning by the builder. Sleep is certainly lost over how to increase productive area and decrease non-productive ones.


Working around the original floor plan involves a lot of work (read glib talk, marketing skills, in short a lot of headache). Knocking down and adding a few walls may not be as simple as it seems. The original design architect is mostly someone who does not have enough aesthetic sense or is perhaps wedged between the constraints laid down by the builder. For, nothing else can explain the sheer stupidity and lack of aesthetic appeal shown in some floor plans. The execution of these plans is overseen by site structural engineers who work in 2-3 hierarchy levels. A simple change can be okayed by the first level guy. If he does not have the required authority to sanction the change, the 2nd/3rd level guys need to be involved. In all this daunting milieu, the poor customer suffers greatly, for not only is he paying through his nose for a house he dreams of making into a home, but he is also required to make several layers of compromises with the look and structure of the house.

Is it too much to ask of the builders to work with some amount of conscience, ethics and sincerity when designing and constructing apartments? Will it be too taxing if they design each apartment with the end customer in mind? Will they lose too much of their wealth if they can provide a decent carpet area along with good amenities for a cost that does not seem as though the target customers are only NRIs? Why is that a common average man, even after gathering all his resources has to settle down for a house, not because it fits into his idea of a dream home but because that is only what he can afford?

Comments

  1. I actually laughed when I read the post...I am getting cynical about space I tell ya...I come from a small town where Appa could afford to build a two storey house and give back the loan in his lifetime :) I am used to huge rooms, spacious gardens, a swing in the house..when RD came to see me in Baroda, he was scared I would refuse to marry him hehehe :) then he said come I will show you the house I am trying to buy, then decide..and he took me to a 550 sq feet flat..and trust me, I was shocked to hear the price of the house..of course, I didnt marry him for his house or lack of it..but in Bombay, when we shifted again, to a slightly bigger house now after R's birth, I feel I live in a spacious house eh? Space...the perpetual problem of a mumbaikar :)

    Sorry, went into a tangent :)

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    1. am also getting cynical about owning a house that feels worth the money you put in.
      Huge gardens and a swing???wow sounds like my dream house..and lol on RD's reaction. In Mumbai if you can move about freely in a room without bumping into a furniture or wall, it is spacious! Been there, done that!

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  2. Very true, uma. I've always marvelled how mumbai flats are so well designed. Recently went to a friend's place in mumbai. Of course he had changed the entire floor plan to optimise space over and above what the builder had planned! The end result was fantastic, for a 900 sqft apartment. Incidentally my ex-boss has now started a comppany which builds midsize apartments for the lower middle class segment - around Rs 10 -15 L is the price I am told. Those flats are quite well-designed because they have tried to provide more floor area within the given budget and space constraints. However it appears the more well-heeled customers have no such luxuries! :(

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    1. Mumbai brains does work that way. Make use of all you have. Unfortunately, this acumen is lacking in bigger cities. When you are offering a decent sq.ft area, why not use your brains to design it correctly?

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  3. Have been to Mumbai only once and the stay was for less than a day , so no idea about the flats there . But space crunch is there In all metros

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    1. Yes, metros are expanding in a hurry with no regard for living conditions.

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  4. I've always heard fascinating accounts of the Mumbai city .. Life there sounds like living amidst a raging tornado of humans .. I personally prefer more peaceful places though .. Crowds and small rooms give me the feeling of getting choked(unless there is a huge window to compensate :))

    You write on such a variety of topics and each one proves to be an interesting read .. You are truly a versatile blogger Uma!!

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    1. People used to living in Mumbai cannot settle elsewhere and people not used to Mumbai cannot imagine being there :-)
      hey that's a wonderful thing to say, Aarthy..humbled that you think so. A huge thanks :-)))

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  5. I have been thinking of getting our old house renovated, it is made like in olden days, rooms BIG rooms , and no planning .. I bet we can have the same house in half the space .. but saying that even then we fall short of space ..

    I have been to mumbai but not visitied anyone in the house (no one invited me :( ) he he he but I have some very good invites for next time so will have look at all the houses and all ..

    space comes at a price these days ...

    Bikram's

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    1. wow, old time houses have so much to offer in terms of well-planned layouts with good ventilation. Best of luck on the renovation!

      You can definitely do a research on Mumbai houses the next time you go there. Let me know too, so that I can be there to invite you to my parents' house :-)

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  6. Never been to Mumbai, but the way you started this post gave me enough scare..:) I heard it from a friend who was my roommate in Folsom. She now relocated back and explained me the place she lives, with her MIL, SIL, husb in a 550 sft flat for 15,000... :( with tv, dining all amenities included..Yes, the builders feel they are losing a lot if they sacrifice an inch of space or place..

    ReplyDelete
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    1. hahaha..don't be scared..the scenario your friend described is quite common there :-)
      Builders are just out to cheat you and swindle money, I tell you! :-/

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  7. I agree to R's Mom... I have been brought up in a huge sprawling house with my own bedroom - which according to all my Mumbai friends is a huge boon :)

    I have been to their houses and can see where you come from. Space is really a constraint these days :)

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    1. yeah, sprawling houses are only a dream in B'bay. That's why I feel more bad when I see decent sized houses losing out on productive space due to faulty design plans.

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  8. yes, space is a constraint but my bigger grouse is ineffective planning of floor designs due to which in spite of having a big house in terms of sq.ft, the functioning area is greatly reduced: the actual highlight of this post which probably didn't come across the way I wanted. My bad!
    have made a few changes in the post,now.
    Will reply to individual comments, soon.

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  9. I hear you Uma! Space is such a constraint in Mumbai that they don't even give any balcony space and contrast this with luxuries like utility areas and puja rooms in Bangalore! There exist better designs and utilisation of space, but it comes for a price!! Add reputation of builders and other amenities and it gets even more costly. Such a loot, I feel.

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    1. Seriously, the ones that fit your budget always is often flawed, some that can be rectified and some you just have to live with. We always do the best we can do in such situations- adjust! :-)

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  10. The point is well taken and nicely explained.What holds good for Mumbai may not be applicable for Mysore.Land scarcity and its cost determines the space and design.But optimum utilization with aesthetic sense is a must and the architects should pay special attention to this.Profit motive alone should not be the driving force.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. yes, any space-small or big- can be utilized beautifully if and when rightly designed. Alas! profit is the only main driving force these days.

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  11. Right Uma. I have heard a lot about Mumbai where people live in tiny places and the prices are exorbitant. That ways even cities like Pune are better off. People can have ample space in a price which is difficult to pay but not completely out of reach.

    The choices yes, depend on the pocket and not what a dream house is. Well brought out.

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    1. Isn't it unfair? we pay the taxes, we do all the hard work and in return we still have to deal with price rise, imbalanced economic growth and bureaucracy :-(

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  12. Oh My! I can totally relate to this post! Travelling in a local train with just one hand on the rod and the tip of one's foot somewhere at the edge of the train has been a one of a kind experience for me! And so true about the way houses are spaced - every nook and cranny is utilized - this is something I have still not got used to despite being in Bombay for 3 years...I still miss the spacious homes of Kolkata and Bangalore...

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    1. haha..entering Bombay after living in more spacious cities must feel quite claustrophobic. I can understand :-)

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  13. I have never lived in Mumai (at the age of 4 years does not count as I can't remember much!). But I can get where you are coming from Uma, I am currently in the mode of "de-cluttering". Keep looking at everything critically and thinking "Have I actually used this, do I need it?", and disposing if not :). Hope you find the place you are looking for soon!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. oh, even I've been bitten by the de-cluttering bug. Still, I manage to find unwanted stuff to be given off every 6 months or so :-0
      thanks, Aparna...it's more on the lines of hope I am able to turn the place as close to what I've dreamt of..I lack creative bones too, which makes the task a little tough..I stalk the home decor blogs like crazy and in complete awe, only sighing and hoping to be able to infuse something similar.

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  14. Having stayed in Mumbai, can so easily relate to what you say, Uma:)Floor space is directly proportional to depth of pocket!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. seriously, the depth of the pocket is what matters nowadays, rahulji! :-)

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  15. Agree wholeheartedly to most of it and it reminds me of a funny thing in our apartment also. The H came out of the bathroom one day[when we just moved in] grumbling whether the guys who fitted the bathroom thought we were chimpanzees or wht. I was like ;-o. He's like just look at where the bathtub is and where the towel rail was. It was true...the dumb towel rail was 5-6 feet away fr the bath which meant that if we placed the towel there we'll be dripping[just imagine how much dripping the kids will do;-/] all over the bathroom before we used it;-S. We finally got a towel rack and placed it close to the tub which we didn't need do if only those guys had planned it better.

    I knw my incident is such a stoopid one...I can tell u more serious stuff but I found it really funny then, so....;-D

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    1. 5-6 feet away?? that's quite a ridiculous placement. And 5-6 feet away inspite of a bath tub in the bathroom means you have a really beeeg bathroom :-0
      I tell you, the guys who plan the apartment really have no sense or they prefer not to use it :-/
      am all ears for the more serious stuff ;-)

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    2. Oh it's not a big deal....most master bathrooms have a bathtub over here;-P. And ummm...5-6 feet sounds huge;-o...ok I just measured it...it's say 4-5 feet away;-D but u knw in my previous apartment the bathroom was bigger...seriously;-D. The older apartments are all big with huge airy rooms and bathrooms but the newer ones are all cramped and ofcourse crazy rents;-/

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