After spices, it is indigenous handcrafted objects that travel with Indians wherever they go
BY MALATI K. VIJAY
Some homegrown textiles, a carved idol of a deity, or a beautifully crafted spice box—these are not mere souvenirs, but a way to stay connected with the mother country and celebrate its time-tested heritage in their everyday living. It’s these objects that help them create a home away from home.
Global citizens are exposed to multiple cultures; they want it reflected in their modern, minimalistic homes. What they are looking at is not necessarily typical Indian art and craft objects for their home, but contemporary pieces with universal appeal.
Unlike their parents’ generation, global Indians may not prefer to wear their heritage on their sleeve, yet they long to make it a part of their cosmopolitan personality.
“Today, young people take great interest in our ancient traditions, and want to make them a part of their life. The Indian way of living is wholesome and our interiors should reflect that. Because, in the end everything is energy, so creating the right vibe is important,” says architectural designer Geetanjali Kasliwal, who, along with her husband and designer, Ayush Kasliwal, runs AnanTaya Décor and AKFD. As torchbearers of contemporary handcrafted objects, furniture, and interiors with an Indian soul, they are well-known for reinterpreting the most obscure of art and design traditions for the modern milieu.
Sarah Sham of Essajees Atelier agrees: “Most people want to incorporate some portion of their heritage into their home, and as a studio, we have a strong sense of wanting to include materials and products made in India by Indians. But in terms of aesthetics, few people today want the super carved and detailed look. Adding a contemporary touch is the way to go.”
IDEAS AND INSPIRATIONS FOR INDIAN ETHOS IN URBAN HOMES AS INDIA CELEBRATES ANOTHER YEAR OF BEING INDEPENDENT
INDIGENOUS FABRICS AND MOTIFS
“It can be as simple as taking an Indian fabric or motif on curtain trimmings, or traditional embroidery on cushions, or the ancient way of knotting a rug, like in the Kashmiri carpet, but with a more contemporary design… these are some ways to instil Indian-ness into interiors,” says Sham. Silk, raw silk, textured cotton, linen, khadi, organza et al are popular for soft furnishings. Textiles with native motifs instantly transform the vibe.
The Kolam carpets designed by Tania and Sandeep Khosla, the graphic-designer-and-architect couple, in collaboration with Jaipur Rugs, is an apt example of incorporating an ancient folk art form into contemporary design. Kolams or rangoli, made of rice flour, are line drawings adorning frontyards in most South Indian homes. The drawings are composed of curves and loops around a grid of dots to create mesmerising geometric forms. The charm of the hand-drawn kolam has been captured through hand-woven knots in these carpets. “Symmetry is central to kolam art. While we preserved the sacrosanct symmetry in individual forms, we broke it in the overall compositions to create dynamic, bold and layered designs. It is the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary motifs, symmetry in form and asymmetry in composition that make the carpets so exciting,” say the designers.
COLLECTIBLES AND ANTIQUES
Even when they seem like random picks, collectibles and antiques have a strong connect with our consciousness. “Who you are forms the canvas of your home. Who you are as a person is your value system that gets reflected in the memories. When we do something new, we populate it with these memory pieces, in this case, the antiques. They remind us of a historical context, carry a message, or become talking points,” explains Geetanjali.
Often, by using an antique object in an unusual manner, rather than the way it was intended to, you can inject freshness in the environment. “You could use an antique door to decorate a ceiling, or turn it into an artwork by mounting it on the wall,” suggests Sham.
USE COLOURS JUDICIOUSLY
We Indians love colour. However, for a pared back appeal, “use colours judiciously,” says Geetanjali. “But if you love colour, go all out to showcase it, because no one else can do it like we do. However, you need to balance the colours by choosing a base of natural materials, some nice textiles, then accent it with patterns, motifs that remind you of another era.”
The Khoslas bring a global appeal to the Kolam carpets by juxtaposing the decorative motifs with a more western colour palette. “Rather than using a saturated Indian colour palette, we created a nuanced mid-century palette of powder blue, dusty salmon, mint, ochre, garnet and charcoal black/grey,” they say.
A GROUNDED BASE
A neutral base allows you to play with many styles, materials and elements that establish the eclectic character you’re looking at. “When you have a natural base, you can add the spice through colourful, handcrafted panels, beautiful textiles, and of course wallpapers… they are so versatile,” says Geetanjali.
In a modern set-up, adding a piece or two of traditional furniture pieces creates visual interest. “The modern interpretation of an Indian charpai is an amazing piece of furniture not just for its aesthetics, but the way it lends itself to reinvention through different artisans. Similarly, the moodha, which allows us to fold our legs and sit, enables us to stay in touch with the Indian way of living,” says Geetanjali.
Used in interiors since ancient times, brass and copper are finding many stylish applications including in inlays, panelling and in furniture and accessories, forging a new connection with the past. “The one material that will never go out of fashion is traditional brass work. It fits perfectly in any interior,” says Sham. AnanTaya champions the use of ancient metals in many of their designs. The Sultan range of tabletop accessories combines acacia wood and brass details. The gorgeous Spire collection of jars blends marble, copper and cast brass. And the Suri 2-tier platter celebrates hand-hammered brass and turned walnut wood.
A MINIMAL POOJA ROOM
Most Indian home décor is incomplete without an altar or a pooja room. If you’re looking at including it in your home, this modern pooja
room designed by Pavan Chatlani of Dash Square for his home is a good idea. The glass-enclosed small room features minimal aesthetics
and sits discreetly within the living room. Or you could take inspiration from the hidden pooja room designed by Sham.
(The writer is a Bengaluru-based freelance journalist and content consultant. Formerly with the Times of India, Economic Times and Livingetc India, she writes primarily on design, art and lifestyle. She also enjoys giving a healthy twist to various cuisines)
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