Piyal and Shyamini Goonethilake dreamt of living in a home that was designed to showcase their love for nature and appreciation for the environment around them. That is when they contacted Architect Susil Lamahewa to design for them an ‘open house’ which was akin to living in a garden in keeping with both their personalities. 

By Duruthu Edirimuni | Photography Susil Lamahewa

What strikes one at first when entering their house at Galpotta Road, Nawala is exactly this – the openness and the spaciousness of the abode. A masterpiece by all accounts, the 15-perch land was ‘all jungle’ when he came to survey it, Archt Lamahewa said. “It was a jungle with many trees and a well which was used by the then owners at one end. I decided to preserve all the trees,” he said, reminiscing how he started this project. “I designed the house around these trees,” he noted, adding that the clients were also people who are one with nature. A Jacaranda tree in the living area was also preserved along with other trees in the garden.

He said that the 15 perch land was sloped at one end and this had given him inspiration to cut only part of this slope in order to bring about two levels. “This helped to create the demarcations between the garage and the sitting lounge,” he explained, noting that when there’s a function, both these areas can act as one. There is no staircase, as such, in this house. But a few steps hidden behind a feature wall leading to the upper floor, thus creating an illusion of ‘one space’. “When you take the vehicles out, this entire area will serve as a large lounge,” Archt Lamahewa said.

In the seven-perch house, the pool area which adjoins the garage also caters to the open atmosphere. “They didn’t want ‘enclosures’, they wanted an open space where the whole house flows into the spaces and on the garden area,” he said, adding that the continuous multicoloured ribbon trellises on the cement cut floor which greets you at the entrance leads you through the warmth of the house and out into the open backyard towards the landscape beyond. Rustic and homey, using natural material is what brings this house to life. This four bedroom house (which includes a guest room) has separate living modules including a lounge, a TV lobby, a dining area, bedrooms, maid’s room, bathrooms, terraces, a study and a kitchen which also is a combined pantry and a breakfast nook.

Archt Lamahewa said that he used raw exteriors and manipulated techniques such as unplastered and painted ceilings, and let the materials be visible, such as the fair faced brickwork. “Goonethilakes wanted a house that was aesthetically pleasing. This is why I decided to leave the materials raw and preserve the rough, natural surfaces. Prior to pouring the mixture for the ceiling slab, we laid out polythene on the oiled shuttering and then did the pouring. When the shuttering was removed, the polythene too was peeled off and what remained was a rough finish and a semi-glazed surface,” he elaborated.

He said that one other main requirement of the client is that house guests should be comfortable in their surroundings. “The couple is quite sociable and most often has guests over. In that respect they wanted more spaces,” he noted.

“There are no afterthoughts in this house. Everything was designed for a specific purpose.” Aside from being beautiful, the house incorporates passive solar strategies. A large wing-like roof structure over the main living, dining and kitchen area creates a warm and light environment. This helps it blend into the natural garden surroundings, Arch Lamahewa said, adding that the visitor when he steps out of his room has views of the lush garden and many birds. “It is a balm for the soul,” he said.

The house emanates a certain tranquility which the architect has strived to capture successfully with the spaces. The way the doors are laid out and ample decking, create an almost seamless relationship between the interior and exterior. This is further emphasised by an iron gate that extends from the roof to the floor, demarcating the garden and the dining area. “This iron gate can be pushed up with a finger. It was important for the couple to have user friendliness in the house,” Arch Susil said. The living area and kitchen ensures maximum bonding time between the residents.

He said that the spaces flowing into the garden and the expanses that are created have achieved his clients’ aspirations to live in a garden.


Project Architect: Susil Lamahewa

Square Area of the Site: 2400 sqft

Square Area of the project: 15 perch

Date of Completion: 2006

Project Period: 2 year

Client: Piyal and Shyamini Goonethilake