Homes With a View

The launch of Cuban-American architect Hermes Mallea’s book was a treat for architecture and design enthusiasts.

Written by VIDYA PRABHU | Published: January 23, 2012 3:28:38 am

On any other day,the banter at the Mumbai luxury store,Bungalow 8 would be dominated by the shoppers’ indecision over which fashion or home decor item to buy. But on Thursday evening,shopping took a backseat as a select crowd gathered on its first floor to celebrate the publication of New York-based architect Hermes Mallea’s book Great Houses of Havana: A Century of Cuban Style.

While drinks flowed and starters did the rounds under the supervision of hostess Maithili Ahluwalia,Mallea regaled a select audience with his experiences while writing about Havana’s greatest homes. “As I sourced rare pictures of celeb homes — Ernest Hemingway’s home was one of these — and chatted with historians and previous owners of these great homes,a grand picture of Cuban architecture began to emerge,” pointed the 56-year-old Cuban-American,adding that the research meant more to him,as it offered him a good excuse to visit Havana,his homeland.

But the highlight of the evening was when the architect,in conversation with Mumbai historian Sharada Dwivedi,drew a parallel between the architectural styles in Mumbai and Havana. “In a lot of ways,Havana’s architectural gems are like those in Mumbai. The Art Deco movement was strong in both the places. Besides,the cities have similar tropical weather. This is also why a lot of Havana homes in the 1950s focussed on ventilation. Even the chairs were made of wire mesh to let the air flow,” observed Mallea,who runs a residential design business in New York along with his interior stylist partner Carey Maloney.

Mallea’s talk aside,the guests in attendance — designers James Ferreira and Azeem Khan,interior designer Nisha Jamvwal,jewellery and furniture designer Shahid Datawala and Christie’s International Director of Asian Art,Amin Jaffer,to name a few — were impressed by his enviable client list. “We have worked on several celebrity homes including that of Robert De Niro and Barbara Warner (daughter of Jack Warner,from the Warner Brothers family),” noted Maloney,before expressing their love for all things Indian. “Every time we come down to India,we shop like there’s no tomorrow. Our own home that overlooks the Hudson river abounds in Indian sculptures,” added Mallea.

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