When Carole and Norman Steen first saw the old “Copra” house in 2005, it had been uninhabited for thirty years. The beautiful arched windows opened at the first touch, though, and the original Portuguese tiles, when exposed from under years of bat guano, still showed much of their original beauty.
As they walked through the dilapidated, yet still magnificent, building, they instinctively knew that they really had found an exceptional opportunity. So great was their fervor that they couldn’t wait to begin to restore this Indo-Portuguese colonial mansion house to its original grandeur, but with their own particular style incorporated. Within five weeks of first seeing the property, the purchase was made and contractors were soon on site.
Wanting to create a space that is inherently tranquil, the Steens asked around for a local Konkani word for chilled and/or peaceful. “Susegad” was the immediate and universal response. It is one of the many words in the Konkani language adapted from the Portuguese and means anything from peaceful to lazy, tranquil, indolent, restful, contemplative and ‘just lying under a palm tree doing nothing’. Casa Susegad was born!
It is testimony to the hard work of the local Fernandes boys, Jose and Custod, the local builder’s sons, who worked hard to maintain this vacant property from the early 1980s, that it still offered the opportunity for restoration. Loutolim village is full of similar period Casas but, alas, many have been reclaimed by the jungle and the forest that surrounds the village.
On clearing the suite of reception rooms at the front of the Casa, many broken wooden shutters were found piled in one room and the superb local carpenters, Sebastian 1 and Sebastian 2, were charged with mending and rehanging them. These two lads were on site continuously for nearly a year.
Perhaps one of the most visual transformations was that of the sagging grey herring bone ceiling in the guest lounge. Following rehanging (and its thirsty absorption of 50l of linseed oil!) it now offers up a lustrous teak colour which beautifully enhances this formal reception room.
Where possible the original public rooms, each a minimum of 25 square metres, were retained intact and it was only to the rear of the property, where bathrooms needed to be created, that structural alterations were made.
All of the original bedrooms were internal rooms, open to the rafters, with curtains to catch the through breezes rather than doors. They also originally opened both into the ballroom (where the terrace now is) and the reception rooms. Because the ballroom had previously collapsed, the rear pitch of the roof had been altered to now end at the outside wall of the bedrooms.
It was necessary to convert five of these bedrooms into three bedrooms with en suite facilities. Period external doors were purchased from various sources to complete the sleeping rooms and suspended ceilings constructed to contain the cooler air within these air-conditioned rooms. The windows used had been found stacked in a room that had become separated from the main house when the rear wall of the ballroom collapsed.
There were only two light bulbs in the whole house so a lot of concealed wiring was required. As most of the old lime plaster had blown, it was decided to chip out and re-plaster, both internally and externally. This was a long and costly procedure but essential to the integrity of the house as were the pest control measures to protect against the white ants (or termites).
The room (now the Host’s Suite) that had been separated from the main house by the collapse of the ballroom was reconnected and the ‘new’ room became the bar and the bathroom to the Host’s Suite. The Host’s Suite bedroom was found complete with its original oyster shell window and window seat and was completed by a beautiful temple door purchased in Tamil Nadu five months prior to the house purchase – forward planning indeed!
Once the plastering was complete, Carole took over the interior design and colour schemes while Norman turned his mind to the terrace and the gardens which continue to evolve, almost on a daily basis.
Click/tap on any image to enlarge!