A Fortress for Family and Friends

By Katie Faulkner | Photography by Philip Slowiak

 

 

Indian couple in chattanooga standing on the porch of their home Shah family

The Shah Family
Harshad and Ulka Shah

 

For Harshad and Ulka Shah, this is the home of their dreams. When they lived in the home next door, they dreamed of being able to design a home to fit their social lifestyle and large family. “When this lot went up for sale, we knew it was our chance. We drew the whole house together and were involved in every detail,” Harshad says. This thoughtfully designed custom home is rich in culture and filled with meaningful elements and photographs of their beautiful family. Harshad and Ulka, married for nearly 40 years now, have built a beautiful life together in this house.

From the Mediterranean exteriors to the heavy, iron-adorned arched French doors, this home feels established and purposeful. Inside the front doors, marble floors lead toward a stunning display of the Shah family’s culture. A rosewood statue of Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and health, imported from Southern India, blesses the foyer on a special pedestal. The tile of her pedestal is inlayed with the design of a candle, one of the traditional offerings for her blessings. The large mirror behind Laxmi reflects the intricate stairwell of the two-story foyer, the custom-made Schonbek chandelier, and wooden temple on the second-floor landing.

To the left of the foyer, stairs lead up to the formal living room. This room features an ornate silver swing imported from Udaipur in Rajasthan, India. “Harshad loves swings,” Ulka shares. “Many people in India have them on their porch, as a gathering place. We have several in the house.”

The light color palette of this room makes a clean backdrop for the Shahs’ colorful collection of family photographs and fine furniture. A baby grand piano is played by the Shahs’ grandchildren when they visit. “They’re taking lessons, and they love to come play for us,” Harshad says. Above the swing, photographs of the Shahs’ three beautiful children, two daughters and a son, were taken for their engagement ceremonies.

Across the corridor, in the adjacent family room, a mirror-image bay of windows features their wedding photographs, as well as Ulka and Harshad’s wedding photo. This room is sunken down a couple of steps to create a more intimate feeling for gatherings. And the Shahs have plenty of gatherings. As Harshad shares, “We have family over all the time. All of our children live in Tennessee and love to come visit and stay. We also have friends over every week. We have movie nights, cook for company, have karaoke and card nights, and host sleepovers for the grandkids. We have people here all the time.” The intentional design of the home was very focused on family and friend get-togethers.

Pops of red and elephant figurines are a recurring theme in the family room, as well as the rest of the home. “We love elephants!” Harshad says. “They are our company logo and very important in our family.” Symbolizing wisdom, family spirit, and strength, the elephant-headed deity, Ganesh, is a remover of obstacles.

Stepping up into the kitchen, this room is spacious with a wonderful flow around the working areas. Custom cabinets ordered from Germany dictated the design of the room. “We loved these cabinets so much, and there were only so many, so we designed the kitchen around them,” Ulka shares. Their black and white design is perfectly echoed in the stunningly detailed chairs of the kitchen table. Black with camel bone inlay, these chairs are a favorite of the Shahs. “This is actually the second set of those we’ve had. We had them for so many years they had been broken and torn up. So when it was time to replace them, we loved them so much, I ordered the exact same ones,” Ulka laughs. The table they surround is inlaid with earth-tone marble, which matches the kitchen backsplash and the design in the seat of the swing that hangs in the windowed nook at the end of the island. The open swing has views of Chickamauga Lake and the backyard. “I like to sit there and have a cup of tea and talk to Ulka while she cooks. And when I cook, she likes to sit at the table,” Harshad says. The couple cooks often and for many people. “This seems to be the room that people flock to when we entertain guests or have family dinners,” Ulka says.

Adjacent to the kitchen is a new addition to the home. The spacious area is floored in solid marble and features a red card table to one side. The dining table can seat 14, and the nearby bar offers another great location to serve food and drinks when entertaining. The bar has transparent backlit marble countertops, and the custom-made canoe bench makes for a unique focus of interest.

Upstairs, the bedrooms each have their own private balconies overlooking the lake and their own private bathrooms. The rooms which used to belong to each child have evolved to reflect their own families with new photos and décor. “They love to come stay here with us, and we love to have them as often as possible,” Harshad says.

Off to one end is a private, raised entrance to the master suite. Custom doors with inlaid camel bone depicting a mogul king and queen were imported from Agra, India. They open to a very serene setting with a warm neutral paint color that evokes an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Touches of pink and a rose gold swing add a sense of softness and comfort. The fireplace and large television pair with the gorgeous bay of arched windows to make this room a comfortable place to spend lots of time. The adjoining master bathroom boasts a large specialty steam shower with multiple settings and jets, a soaking tub, and more windows to capture the beautiful surroundings.

“All of our five grandchildren have been blessed here as soon as they were brought home. It’s a very special place.”

– Harshad Shah

personal hindu temple in the shah home in chattanooga

 

Also upstairs is the home’s temple. This special place sees Ulka and Harshad’s daily rituals. “We each go to pray right after we take our showers every morning,” Ulka explains. “All of our five grandchildren have been blessed here as soon as they were brought home. It’s a very special place,” Harshad adds. “We recently prayed for our son and his wife to have a healthy pregnancy with our sixth grandchild.”

Taking the elevator down to the terrace level of the home, many of the luxurious amenities and entertaining areas are found. This level features a dazzling movie theater with a 140-inch screen, a massage room, a dry sauna, a billiards room with wet bar, and an indoor heated swimming pool with waterfalls and a hot Jacuzzi. In the swimming pool, the floor and walls were hand-painted by Ulka and Harshad. “We painted turtles to represent our children and their spouses; one painting represents our family of five, and on one end, another image represents both Harshad’s and my parents raining blessings down on all of us,” Ulka explains.

Outside is abundant with bright and cheerfully colored plants and landscaping. Several water features around the property offer a soothing background sound. Their porches have ample room for entertaining, and a second dock is large enough to host parties with 150 guests on the water. “We had one daughter’s civil ceremony, our son’s high school graduation party and one of his wedding events, a baby shower, our granddaughter’s first birthday party, family reunions, spiritual leader lectures, music concerts, and all kinds of special family events there. We have shared our home with many. Our family comes first in our lives, then friends and our community,” Harshad says.

For nearly 20 years now the Shahs have enjoyed the company of their family and friends in this welcoming and unique abode. They’ve updated and added on as they go and are looking forward to many more years surrounded by grandchildren, and family and friends. Ulka and Harshad agree, “This has been a wonderful home for our family.” CS

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