Naalukettu: A Timeless Ode to Tradition

November 23, 2023

Muhammed Navas from Lezara Designs reverently reimagines this traditional home called Naalukettu in Malappuram drawing cues from a seemingly disappearing architectural style of Kerala blending with modernity.Classic traditional styles cannot be phased out in favour of the modern, instead, one should draw inspiration from the past and mould it to fit and suit contemporary needs. After hectic research and experiments for almost a year, Muhammed Navas and team from Lezara Designs designed this 5000 ft majestic Naalukettu project built in Manjeri. 

Imparting great learnings from classic and modern designs,this magnificent traditional Naalukettu house architecture was woven intricately with a nostalgic thread for Mr Kesavan, including excellent use of materials, a clear understanding of the local climate and how directions affect energy flow inside the home, factorization of space and its optimum utilisation.

Deep-rooted with culture, traditions and a sense of belongingness, our client’s notion was to recreate the traditional Naalukettu for a family of six from scratch on a one-acre plot of land. This project was a labour of love, with meticulous planning even in the tiniest detailing from the carvings to the paintings on the walls.

Elevation and layoutThe main attraction of this quadrangular design residence is its open-to-sky central courtyard or nadumuttam which lets in a lot of ventilation and light that showcases the harmonious blend of aesthetics, functionality, and climatic suitability.

This two-storied five-bedroom home built with Reinforcement Cement Concrete, laterite brick, wood and stones balances the need for privacy along with a sense of community. The chuttu verandah or the hallway around the central courtyard segregates the formal living space, bedrooms, dining area, prayer room, kitchen and stair area.

A Puja space located in the east side of the courtyard underlines the spiritual harmony within the home. This functional design preserves and promotes traditional and cultural practices. The north east cornered kitchen is open to the dining area built with teak wood finished veneered marine plywood in a traditional design extended with a vadakkini or a workspace.

Unlike traditional houses that adhere to certain design principles, the overall height of joineries and rooms is elevated and the ventilation windows below the roof slab increase air circulation and maintain cool temperatures. It also incorporates contemporary amenities such as home automation, solar electric system, modern equipped bathrooms, rain-water harvesting and proper drainage systems.

Home interiors

The courtyard with stone tulsi planter and the prayer room holds a special place in the hearts of the inhabitants as eye-catching idols of Indian deities symbolise spiritualism, tradition and beliefs.

Lighting, furniture and fabrics are set in traditional themes. Black palm, jackfruit, mahogany and teak wood are mainly used for making furniture and interior panelling works. Terracotta clay floor tiles with epoxy joint fillers and black vitrified tile border are used for flooring, and GI frames with wooden panelling are used on stairs.

The rustic charm is endured by painting half of the wall of the common area with an earthen yellow colour and border design. While, chaarupadi or the inclined step in the wall-to courtyard visible from the main door and the traditional wooden swing adds elements to a vintage setting, various antique pieces and mural paintings raises fascination in the spectators.

The intricate wooden and stone carvings on the main door, pillars, beams, roof ceilings , sitting bench and front steps make it even more impressive which celebrates the nuances of traditional architecture. The reflection of the artistic legacy of skilled craftsmen is blending within the interior design.

The design's adaptability to the tropical climatic conditions and lifestyle needs of Kerala ensures a sustainable living environment. The focus on cross-ventilation, ample windows and natural lighting ensures the stability of indoor temperature in living spaces during the hot seasons. 

The verandas and corridors help promote air circulation and the roofs of west side bedrooms are designed with an additional layer of sunshade below the actual roof shade acting as double-layer shading elements that control evening sunlight and heat from entering the interior spaces, thereby keeping the bedroom interiors cool and comfortable at night.


Interestingly, rather than typical homes, this grand home is merged with three types of roofs. The roofs of bedrooms are built with Reinforcement Cement Concrete flattened slab layered by terracotta tile providing insulation and protection from the tropical climate's intense heat and heavy rainfall whereas the space between the two layers with GI pipe frames above acts as the attic. Wooden frames with terracotta tiles are used in verandas. They are constructed with proper slope roofs for efficient drainage to withstand heavy monsoons and minimise the risk of water accumulation. 

The roof's design often contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure with intricately designed gabled windows on the top with extended rafters, laterite exposed walls, and wooden decorative elements, showcasing skilled craftsmanship and artistic sensibilities.

Padippura and Landscaping

The traditional roofed gateway also known as the Padippura, at the main entrance connected with the compound wall built with exposed terracotta leads to the ravishing main section of the house.

Unfinished Bangalore stone is used for the surface of paving stone up to the porch in which both sides of the driveaway are filled with pearl grass suitable in Kerala’s climate. It veers towards lively landscaping that is adorned with ayurvedic plants and tropical trees like pongame oil tree, areca nut tree, and golden shower tree that are native to the area.

The detached porch also maintains an outhouse above with chaarupadi sitting. The backyard of the plot consists of an exquisite rainwater harvesting pond and a coconut tree plantation that portrays a nostalgic scene.


Every corner of this residence is intricately designed and has taken about four years to complete, consisting of meticulous planning and continuous attention to detail.

The design principles of Mr Muhammed Navas and team are geared towards creating comfortable and functional living spaces which merge conventional and contemporary architectural styles. This majestic home is not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and durable, which makes it an ideal option for those who prioritise sustainability and cultural legacy.

The integration of antique elements and intricate carvings on wood and stones by the interest of the client showcases his love for heritage aesthetics and plays a significant role in personalising the built form.

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