(This blog has taken so long to write, it’s really embarrassing. I visited Arco Iris, in Goa, in 2012. And it’s a shame I took so long to put it up on the blog. However, you must waste no time in reading and appreciating this house and the work that Bennita and Ganesh have put into it)
It really isn’t often that one sees people buying an old home and restoring it (shall I bring up my pet peeve Sachin Tendulkar here?). Which is why Bennita and her husband Ganesh, who run a luxe homestay from Arco Iris, Goa, are such a special couple.
Former residents of Bangalore, living the corporate life, the two bought a nearly 200-year-old Portugese bungalow in south Goa’s Curtorim area in 2007. They had planned to make it a second home, but life had other plans. The two decided to shift permanently to Goa when they found that Bangalore’s polluted air wasn’t suiting their elder daughter. That’s when work on the restoration began full-time.
“I’d divide my time between Bangalore and Goa, flying here often to oversee the restoration work,” says Bennita, sitting on the balcao — a typical Portugese balcony with seats where guests can be entertained. It wasn’t easy, she adds. As anybody with a heritage home that needs work, Bennita too hard a hard time finding the right contractor and ensuring that work was done the right way. Bennita also started reading on heritage architecture to understand the nuances Portugese architecture.
Slight changes have been made to the original structure. For instance, the original wooden beams that supported the balcao were shifted to the mini-courtyard and pillars were crafted out of laterite — a common local material — as replacement.
The kitchen and bathrooms (originally mud structures) were outside the house, separated from the living quarters by a wall, which also covered the entire courtyard. This wall was broken down and the kitchen was cemented and extended. Another room was added. An extra wing came up where bathrooms were constructed. Bennita says the house had neither plumbing nor electrical fittings. These were added later on.
Effort was made to ensure that the house retained as much of its identity as possible. Thus, the front door has its original latch, and the laterite wall of the Blue room, which belongs to the couple’s two daughters — Trusha and Trikaya — has not been completely painted over. One of the doors from the courtyard wall has been converted into a dining table where guests are served typical Goan food, cooked by the staff, who are all locals.
Now that we are done with food and stay, what else is there? Sightseeing? let’s save that for another blog.
SOS: It’s not easy to restore or even maintain a heritage home. Bennita and others who have been spoken to on this blog talk about how difficult it is to find the right artisans and architects. If you know someone who is adept at the job — setting Manglorean tiles, understanding the right colours and designs or even restoring old furniture — drop their name and number here.