Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Barefoot Luxury? a new term or have I been oblivious...

I recently came across the term 'Barefoot Luxury' in the Conde Nast Traveller magazine. The magazine used it to describe one of the three hotels in their listing of most romantic hotels in Goa.

I was intrigued by the term 'Barefoot Luxury'. At first glance, it could be so appropriately used to describe the design themes and concepts employed by us in the NIVIM house in Goa. But before giving in to liberally using the term to describe our house, I ran some basic internet search. The search resulted in a handful of gorgeous resorts in exotic locations of Seychelles, Australia, Kenya, Morocco, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Indonesia and Grenada.

A website for 'the word lover's guide to new words' describes Barefoot Luxury as 'comfort and elegance in a relaxed setting'. Time magazine had an article on Barefoot Luxury in Indonesia. They described the concept as 'an upmarket restatement of the backpackers beach holiday, stressing simplicity and raw nature'. The article went onto describe a beautiful Indonesian hotel on Nikoi Island, where the beach houses are designed using natural driftwood, feature open bathrooms, and with no provision for air-conditioning and televisions. The idea is to return to basics and enjoy the luxury of being reconnected with nature. So far so good...

Other properties used the term to describe luxury that is sustainable and that understands and employs local resources (materials for construction, local worforce for training and employment). Luxury that is elegant yet understated.

Well as it happens, most of the above considerations are in sync with our philosophy behind the house NIVIM Goa. Our core design concept is reconnecting with nature and building in a manner that respects and celebrates our truly glorious and unspoiled surroundings in Goa. Our design is intended to extend comfort and luxury while being true to the land. We want to enhance the relationship of the building with nature and reduce the impact of the building on the surrounding landscape. So I guess the term Barefoot Luxury does aptly apply to us after all !

Closer to home, we just spent a great weekend at the Wildernest resort in Chorla Ghats in Goa. I would say it is another great example of Barefoot Luxury.

Picture window view from the valley-view cottage at Wildernest, Goa
The pictures below describe more than I can in words...but here are the subtle items that the pictures miss. Wildernest is built and managed in a way that it utlizes local building materials sourced such that it has the least impact on new resources. Built primarily in wood, the visionary behind Wildernest decided not to cut any new forest for their wood. As a compromise, they have used mostly Acacia wood (from the Australian Acacia variety that is actually an invasive specie in India and does not support biodiversity in the area where they grow). In addition, they sourced all their Acacia from social forests. The second type of wood used is reclaimed wood from old Indian Railway sleepers that the government has been replacing with concrete sleepers. Most paving, no actually all paving outdoors in pervious and hence does not stop the natural flow of water back into the earth. Minimum number of trees were cut during construction and the result is an eco-resort that is neselled within the forest. At most times, it is difficult to see any built structure. Spread over 450 acres, the constructed portion is concentrated in a limited area to reduce the impact of (even their most careful and minimal) construction in the virgin forests.

The deck in the cottage overlooking the forest
Wildernest is the vision of a man, Capt. Nitin Dhond who decided to rally and protect these 450 acres of forest land from being encroched by the surrounding iron ore mines, and resulting loss of agriculture, local livelihood and biodiversity. The hotel is now managed in the most sustainable, friendly and efficient manner. The staff hails from the local villages. They are superbly trained to make the guest feel at home, and often surprise them by pointing out birds, animals and medicial plant species. They offer filtered water in the rooms to reduce the need and use of plastic bottled water. The lovely bathrooms are stocked with herbal powders to be used as soap and shampoo to reduce use and discharge of chemicals. The food served uses mostly local produce and recipes.

During our short stay we saw a Malabar Pied Hornbill, a Brahminy Skink and a Green Vine Snake. We relaxed in the peace and quiet green environs and trekked to a beautiful waterfall. It was Barefoot Luxury at its best and we were left wanting more...
Earthy bathroom with its own picture window overlooking the forest and valley
Dining area at sunset

Deck areas at sunset


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