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Charting a new course

After baking scrumptious delicacies as a pastry chef aboard a cruise liner, Nelson Noronha returned to Goa and is now using his creative talent to create exquisite landscaped designs for homes, writes MICHAEL FISHER

Nelson Noronha’s career story is no less different from most young Goans pursuing a living onboard international passenger cruise ships and vessels. During his last professional job as a pastry chef, he was responsible for laying pastry desserts on the plates of approximate 3,000 diners spread over two sittings of back-to-back timings of 6.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. in little under two hours. As time went by Nelson decided to quit. He returned to his roots with the eagerness to make a living by working in Goa. An avid interior designer and landscaper with a kitchen background for good measure, Nelson’s first landscape interior project was constructing two European-style entrances for Nixon Noronha and Nevilson Noronha’s newly-constructed houses with a counter for serving refreshments. The project’s cost were ` 29 lakh and ` 22 lakh respectively.

Another client from Navelim wanted his new house to be on the lines of a holiday villa. He wanted it to designed in a way that when entering the villa it gives an aura of an Italian courtyard blending with a South American open-air kitchen lit up with customised lightings, a pool surrounded by landscape greenery centred on traditional clay ovens with a barbeque steel-skew pit in the courtyard.

The owner Bobby Cassius Martins always had the desire of transforming the family 880 sq m plot into a South American-style fantasy home setting. The factors that influenced the design and layout of Villa Martins in Navelim were centred on social elements, location of the area, minimalist concept and to reflect the owner’s personality.

Martins with a hospitality background had visualised a house he pictured from his many travels around the world, and dreamed of building his own stylish house. He now owns a restaurant and this has increased his penchant for having guests over and entertaining them in his dream house. So, evenings in his villa will always be special with close friends and family over freshly-baked pizzas and chilled beverages over a live BBQ.

After many declines from professionals, Nelson was given the challenge for the passionate owner to create such a crazy interior landscape design that is yet to be seen in Goa. At first glance, it’s a very unique innovation, says Nelson, a self-taught architect. He agreed to create the space and lightings under the ambience of the open blue skies as an attractive alternative to neo-traditional designs.

Nelson reckons that Goans like the West give more weightage to the front of the house, ensuring parking space and walk space on pavers. That’s where the concept of an Italian courtyard is set, enclosed by three sides with the fourth wall built low in the form of a boundary wall.

For the pavers in front of the house, Nelson custom-made the moulds in the design the owners wanted. He fabricated steel moulds and mixed black cement, sand and gravel and moulded it till baked dry. Nelson worked his way in sourcing the right materials such as the right type of clay, technical description from the internet and advice from experts. What turned out after two-and-half weeks of work was a perfect crafted hand-made dome shape oven capable of baking multiple pizzas and bread products at less than half the cost.

Designing a wood-fired oven made of clay in a Goan home premise would be alien if compared with American and European stylish kitchens. There was a contractor from Mumbai willing to take up the project at a whopping cost of ` 1.10 lakh.

The fastidious owner wanted a rustic looking outdoor and indoor kitchen which he recalls watching his grandmother cooking his favourite green curry on a ‘chula’ by burning fire wood that would cook a delicious, lip-smacking curry.

He adopted the UN method, which is ‘estufa lorena’, meaning stove of mud and sand that traces its origins in Guatemala. This model has been introduced across South America, Africa and Asia as a sustainable model which reduces the use of biogas fuels and decreases smoke emissions, thus reducing costs and preventing health hazards.

“On reflection, I decided to build a chula applying the rocket stove principals,” explains Nelson. “Adjacent to it, I made two box type chulas. The clay gives the look of the crimson red setting. I crushed glass, mixing it with cement for making the dome of the oven as a form of insulation to restore heat within the oven. This borrowed influence is from large-scale bakeries that use this method. While the oven has a chimney to release the smoke, the chula traps the heat and the smoke from emitting. The heat from the wood fire passes through multiple points, thus generating maximum heat as it would be circulating through the points and emitting minimum smoke by burning less wood. The result satisfies the owner.”

For maintaining the rustic ambience, he used the old Portuguese method of mixing white cement with red oxide for the flooring. In this method, the surface floors not only give a cooler feel, it is also cost effective by nearly 40 per cent, and with regular cement the cost gets even lesser.

When it was the turn to light up the courtyard, he was in search of a street pole lantern but his search was all in vain as no hardware showroom from North to South Goa had what he wanted. And when he did find street lighting poles, it was overpriced at ` 13,000. It took him only ` 3,000 to make one street lantern pole.  He made six street lanterns that now light up the courtyard.

The landscaping greenery surrounding the swimming pool is set on a unique Mediterranean-like atmosphere with Goan Portuguese and Latin influences. The Martin villa has that rustic and chic look. For each part of the project, Nelson had contracted three specialised workers with himself as the fourth.

For the Martin Villa owner, it cost him a little over ` 13 lakh, for the swimming pool

` 7.5 lakh and for the oven and lightings over

` 80,000, and ` 3 lakh for Nelson’s service.

After his new found success, Nelson is now looking to incorporate more contemporary concepts such as underground aquariums, vertical gardens and a whole lot of crazy themes that he has picked.

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