‘For Our Dogs Champa & Chameli’: This Home in Nature’s Lap Is Made of Shipping Containers

Gurugram architects Rakhee Bedi and Shobhit Kumar refurbished old shipping containers to build Champa and Chameli, two eco-friendly homes amid the foothills of Aravali Hills.

Architects Rakhee Bedi and Shobhit Kumar were presented with a unique but wonderful opportunity in 2021. A client requested them to build a farmhouse — a common request in the Delhi NCR region. However, the couple’s idea for the farmhouse was anything but common.

The clients, who are a couple based in the city, had already moved into their 3-acre farmland on the foothills of Aravali Hills, and wanted an eco-friendly, sustainable home made out of refurbished shipping containers.

“When the pandemic hit, and the government decided to put the country under lockdown, I could not imagine living in an apartment. We decided to move to our farmland, where there was just one room,” share the owners of ‘Champa and Chameli’ to The Better India.

The architects constructed two homes joining two 40×8 feet containers to make Chameli, and five containers, each 20×8 feet, to make Champa. The homes are named after the couple’s beloved dogs, who passed away before the project commenced.

Living with the wild

“The project was one of a kind for us. We have been working on industrial projects, but this was very unique. We decided to make the house as homely as possible, while ensuring that the construction is in harmony with nature,” says Shobhit.

The clients, who are in the business of export and import, provided the required containers for the project.

“Back when we first moved, we didn’t know if we wanted to stay here full time. But the greenery, quiet, and nature convinced us that we do. We wanted a home that is right in the middle of nature. We did not want to disturb the biodiversity of the place by constructing something so massive, which is why we chose this way of living,” says the current owner.

The homes are named after the owners' family dogs Champa and Chameli.
The homes are named after the owners’ family dogs Champa and Chameli. Picture credit: Rakhee Shobhit Design Associates

The couple’s place of work is just a 45-minute drive from their home. They made Chameli for themselves and Champa for their mother.

“The clients had made it clear that they did not want a quintessential Delhi structure for the farmhouse. They liked the fact that they could walk around and enjoy nature,” says Shobhit.

“We gave the clients exactly what they wanted — a home nestled amid nature. We made sure the property does not lead to the cutting down of any trees in the process. When you enter the farm, you won’t see the house straight away. It is almost like a hidden paradise among giant trees.”

Less closet space but a lot of nature

The house is made using recycled wood and without cutting any trees.
The house is made using recycled wood and without cutting any trees. Picture credit: Rakhee Shobhit Design Associates

Making a home out of shipping containers comes with its own set of challenges.

“Firstly, the location of the place was a bit tricky. Since it is right on the foothills of the Aravalis, there are certain restrictions imposed by the government that need to be kept in mind. For any heavy construction in the area, we needed to take permission,” Shobhit explains.

“The couple wanted to have a single living unit instead of a big home. The first thing that we made for them was the gym. A small 20×8 container was converted into a gym with an open area for yoga,” he adds.

Talking about the architecture of the house, Shobhit says, “The house was to be made in a way that both the setups get their privacy, while being close to each other on the same patch of land.”

“The land is in a way that it contours down to the northeastern side, and the west is higher. The south was the entrance, so when you enter the farmland, you don’t see either of the homes. We wanted to utilise the natural structure of the land in a way that the homes get maximum sun and the best view,” he adds.

The design of Chameli is sleek with no walls between the kitchen, bedroom and drawing area.
The design of Chameli is sleek with no walls between the kitchen, bedroom and drawing area. Picture credit: Rakhee Shobhit Design Associates

Shobhit also notes that the land had such dense tree cover that it became hard to locate a place to situate the containers. “We finally rested on the northwest side, which is the best for the homes. Based on the client’s requirements, as far as the space and utility were concerned, we figured that joining two 40×8 containers linearly would be best.”

“The clients wanted a very sleek, modern looking home with just a long arrangement. So they have a bed in one corner, then the dining room, an open kitchen, and behind the bed area is a toilet. The only walls in the entire container are for the toilet,” he continues, adding that the client’s mother’s container had a more traditional design.

“We used five 20×8 containers for that setup. It is more structured in terms of design. There is a separate space for a bedroom and toilets, the living room and the kitchen. Both the structures have a front and a back deck,” he adds.

The architect also wanted to make use of sustainable materials for the construction of the property.

“Besides using shipping containers, we have also used recycled wood to make the decks and floors of the homes. Harsh summers were not allowing the family to use the decks as often, so we found a solution for that. We erected bamboo poles and made a thatched bamboo roof as a shelter. To avoid the unnecessary use of nails, we used coconut ropes to hold the structure together,” he says.

Shobhit says that the couple’s ideologies regarding nature were aligned with his, and the result was a nature-friendly home. But he believes that we have a long way to go in terms of sustainable living.

The construction cost of both homes was around Rs 75 lakh and it took 8 months to complete.
The construction cost of both homes was around Rs 75 lakh and it took 8 months to complete. Picture credit: Rakhee Shobhit Design Associates

“While an architect would want to make a home that aligns with nature, it is an important decision to be taken on the client’s part. It is their home and they need to make a call. In most cases, people are becoming more and more willing to be environmentally conscious, but we have a long way to go,” he says.

The construction of the house took eight months to complete. Champa took Rs 35 lakh and Chameli took Rs 40 lakh to be fully livable.

Describing how it is to live in a shipping container home in the middle of nature, the resident says, “I have lost a lot of closet space, but I have gained a lot of nature. Isn’t it a wonderful tradeoff? It is almost like living in a huge garden. We have a huge window that opens to nature all around us. We quite literally sleep under the sky among the trees, it is amazing. The only issue that one might face living like us would be to let go of things. But all of it is worth it.”

Edited by Divya Sethu

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