No matter how stylish and elegant modern homes get, I’ll always be fascinated by the traditional Indian architecture. At the risk of repeating myself, I continue with this post :)

Most houses in the olden times were built on rectangular plots and, in certain places, adjacent homes shared a wall. Vast open spaces inside punctuated by thinnais and mithams, skylight, courtyards, red tiled flooring, huge cylindrical pillars along the mitthams or courtyards, a small hole on either side of the main door to light lamps, and high ceiling supported by wooden beams were some of the common characteristics of these eco-friendly homes. With such years of wisdom going into building of houses, can they ever be wrong? Little wonder there was no dearth of light and air while we feel suffocated, stifled and leave the lights on evening at 9:00 a.m. in a 2,000 sq.ft apartment. What a shame!

Another typical design feature of the old houses in Tamil Nadu was the linear corridor – one could stand at the main door and see the other end of the house. Everything else flowed seamlessly in between with no obstruction as the rooms and courtyards fell on either side of the corridor. Usually, a tulsi plant was what met one’s gaze from the open wooden-carved main door.I regret I don’t have any pictures of our ancestral homes. Maybe this time around, when I visit my grandparents’ I will do a photo shoot before the 100-year-old houses get renovated.

Homes in Chettinad, Kerala and north-western parts of Karnataka such as as Coorg and Mangalore share a common  element of design Рcourtyard. It is known by different names though in different parts such as thotti mane, nadu mittham and mittham.

While scouting for homes that adopted elements of our architecture, I discovered GoodEarth Homes’ Orchard project on Mysore Road.

Courtyard used as an indoor garden
Courtyard used as an indoor garden

I fell in love with the project (but for the price) as soon as I saw this picture. Isn’t it beautiful – a small green space inside the house that receives sunlight? Imagine waking up to the first streak of sunlight in the morning.

A modern thinnai or porch
A modern verandah or porch
Long open Corridor
Long open corridor - where are the pillars?

Vineeta Nair of artnlight featured a traditional home in Palakkad a while ago.

I agree such vast spaces are beyond one’s affordability in metros. But there’s nothing stopping us from incorporating some eco-friendly concepts in apartments/penthouses such as skylights for better illumination. Although it’s tough to implement in normal apartments, penthouses can do this by placing glass on the roof for natural lighting. This can be extended to certain sections of the bathroom as well. I’m sure you agree that no fancy light can compete with natural light.

Chitra Vishwanath is a Bangalore-based eco-friendly architect. Some of her projects use these concepts of natural top lighting, stone arches and no fans. The project she has designed for the Rays uses the courtyard concept.

Have a story to tell about your ancestral home? Write to me with pictures and I’ll be happy to feature it here.


Kolavara heritage

Vembanad Lake Villa


  1. This is such a super post! I am a big fan of old homes, and I love the fact that you are going to feature more! Heading over to Chitra’s space/

  2. Chitra Ma’am. I was so fascinated by your posts. I was born and brought up in B’lore. Now in the US Want to build a simple small dream “thotti” mane in a farm land here in the U.S. Kindly give me suggestions. Thank you very much and Kind Regards

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