Charming Retro Residence

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This charming retro residence in Karachi was built in 1960 and has been maintained beautifully over the years, retaining its original aesthetics and character. No major renovations have been carried out but the home has been lovingly spruced up when needed, and has seen three generations residing here. Today, the home is occupied by Aine and Fakhrul Arfin. The couple  welcomed us warmly, served us scrumptious treats and even let us harvest fresh, organic veggies from their delightful kitchen garden!

Retro Residence

retro residence

Did you grow up in this home?

Fakhri: Yes I did, My parents migrated to Pakistan from India in 1947 and first took up residence in Kharadar and later in PECHS.  My father, Justice Noorul Arfin, who was a lawyer at the time, built this house in 1960. I lived here until the early 70’s when I went to study in the United States.

What was this area like then?

Well there were hardly any houses here and it was a single road used by only a few cars. We cycled and played cricket on the streets, the gates of our homes were never bolted.   Over the years, the area developed and became busier.

I worked abroad for some years as well. This was our home for some part of the 80’s too but then we finally came back and took up permanent residence here in 1997. Before that we visited, of course, because my parents lived here.

You got married here as well?

 retro residence
Aina and Fakhri at home

Aine: Yes, I sat as a bride on a sofa in this very drawing room looking out into the garden. But before us, my husband’s uncle and then his sisters also got married from this house. And more recently my two daughters. So this house has seen many wedding celebrations and festivities.

You have not made any major changes to the house? You have kept all the retro design features.

Fakhri: Absolutely! All the original design features have been retained, like the wooden lattice partition in the sitting area, the original flooring, grillwork and even the switchboards! The wooden switchboards work perfectly to this day.

The wood panelled staircase is such an unusual feature nowadays.

Retro Residence

Yes. And it’s all teak wood. We only added on the storage under the stairs later. But all these features were designed by the original architects of the house, Naqvi & Siddiqui.

We love this colourful terrazzo floor.

Retro Residence

retro residence

Aine: You know, back in the day I didn’t like this floor and really wanted to replace it with wooden flooring but it was always out of our budget. Over the years though I have come to love this floor and it is really the best kind of flooring for Karachi.

You have many interesting collectibles. Tell us about some favourites.

Retro Residence

Aine: Many of these beautiful pieces were passed down to us by our parents and therefore hold special meaning for us. The Gardner pieces are from my mother’s collection. Then these antique Chinese vases were bought by my father-in-law and some of the silverware is from my mother-in-law’s trousseau. Over the years we have also  travelled and lived in the Middle East from where I picked up things that interested me, like the Egyptian chest or the Dutch pastry table.It has an unusual shape and a detachable tray on top.

I don’t really follow a trend, I just pick up things that make me happy.

This tall wooden bird you see outside on the patio, I carried that all the way from Sri Lanka.

Then there is the small table in the entrance which belonged to my father and was the first piece of furniture he had bought as a young man.

Is most of the furniture old ?

retro residence

Aine: Almost all the sofas are old pieces which have been re-modelled and the other pieces are mostly inherited as well. There is a lot of mix and match and we made do with what we had. But everything has a bit of a history.

You have a stunning copper collection as well.

Retro Residence

Aine: Again many of the pieces are my mum-in-law’s, the origin of which is in Old Delhi. I’m from Peshawar so some of these interesting pieces are from there; I picked them up from the antique inner city markets.

This old-fashioned cabinet in the kitchen was used to store food ?

Fakhri: Yes, it’s what was called a doli or a niamat khana and was used to hold food to keep it from going bad, back in the day before fridges were common. The netting allowed air to circulate. However this is a remodelled chest of drawers that was turned into a niamat khana recently.

You have a beautiful garden and a wonderful flow of space into the outside.

Fakhri: All the doors are folding doors and open into the garden which wraps around the house. Aine is very fond of gardening and maintains all the flowers and landscaping. I look after the vegetable patch, with the help of our malis of course. We used to have a fish pond here which was later filled up because it was difficult to maintain.

The house is constructed on half the plot and the rest was actually left vacant so there is also a second larger garden area. Here I have my kitchen garden.

This area is so green and open. It must be delightful spending time here.

Aine: We absolutely love it. It’s our favourite space where we can disconnect from the madness of city life. There are butterflies, squirrels and birds…it’s so peaceful. The fruit trees and the coconut trees that you see are as old as the house!

To be honest we really got to connect with this space during the two years of the Covid pandemic.

retro residence

My grandchildren love this area! When they come and stay with us they spend most of their time outdoors. They love to pick vegetables, pluck lemon and mint to make lemonade and play in the garden.

Photos by Naeema Kapadia