They always talk about first love, but rarely in our documented history do we prefer talking about our other firsts?
The first job, the first salary, first car, first home….
You may call me severely materialistic, but all these hold a very special place in my heart, just like my first “Aam Panna” I shared with my husband, the first story that got published or the first ‘Phuchka’ that I had in Calcutta after returning from Europe after a year and a half.
Designing and making a ‘home’ out of a ‘house’ is always a challenge, especially if it is your ‘first’ one. You want it to be special and unique. My wishes were no different. I was a never a big ‘home decor’ enthusiast.
In fact, I often scorned at my mother who would scold me or my sister at the very sight of us sluggisly sitting on the sofa and squishing away her cushions. I was always the lethargic kid (“lyadhkhor”) as they call in colloquial Bengali), who loved her sleep.
Decide: Do you want to hire the help of professionals to design your house?
Recently, when we got possession of the apartment that we had bought together, we were in for a fix. For a while we thought about engaging the services of an interior designer to design the home. We even consulted two, but our experience with them turned out to be disastrous. Each one of them had ideas, but none matched our idea of ‘home’. So while one wanted to build a false ceiling, another wanted wooden floors. We wanted none. At the end of it, we were depressed and sad and wondered what to do?
But! Love makes you do wonderful things, darling! So here was I, a lawyer with a demanding full time job, out on the quest to design the home of my dreams from scratch.
It was not easy. All my weekends went into reading home decor blogs, magazines, visiting home decor sites and stores. Looking back, I do not know what pulled the strings for me, but it was definitely my idea of that random thing called ‘love’ 🙂
Step 1: Brainstorming Ideas and Themes
When I started looking at the blank walls of our beautiful south facing apartment, I knew that the ‘home’ had to be about ‘us’, ‘our stories’, ‘interests’ and ‘our celebrations’. We both are quite the ‘desis’ at heart, who may travel the world, but for whom happiness is ‘home’. And for us ‘home’ is India – the melting pot of kitsch, drama, dream come trues and colours.
We had named our house ‘Ihita’, which is a Sanskrit word mean ‘desired’. Accordingly, I wanted the name plate to have a distinct ethnic Indian touch. A name plate is the first impression that a visitor has about your tastes. So be careful about the choice. I got ours made from an online portal called ‘Unravel India‘.
I loved the Dokra figurines on the Sheesham wood panel. Our house name and our names were hand painted on the panel. The delivery was super fast and going by the number of queries that I got on Facebook, after uploading the image, I am sure that everyone loved it too.
Step 2: Home that speaks your story – Our love for the cities
Once we were clear about what we wanted our ‘home’ to be, there was no looking back. We engaged the services of ‘Asian Paints’ home solutions to give a magical make over to the walls. The choice of furniture should be done in coordination with the choice of your wall paints/art. Nowadays we have a wide choice of wall papers or paints to decide from. Since we wanted an India inspired decor, we flipped through the pages of Asian Paints’ “Nilaya” collection of wall coverings and wall papers.
We were stunned by the opulent yet classy designs of their premium “India Inspired” collection designed by the maverick Sabyasachi Mukherjee and zeroed on the “Varanasi” themed wall paper to be the chosen one for our living area.
The red “Benarasi” saree holds a special significance in every Bengali girl’s heart. It is the traditionally chosen wedding day wear for Bengali brides and the motifs of the same just added the right dash of 1920’s glamour to my living room. Besides, Varanasi is place which nobody can get enough of. I had the privilege of visiting her once, and since then, I have always longed to go back to ‘Kashi’.
While Varanasi made bold strides in my living room, my favourite city in the whole wide world made her existence felt subtly in my living room. The cushions are from Parama.
While designing our living room, many people that I spoke to, apart from the interior designers mentioned previously, suggested that we go for a false ceiling or wooden flooring laminates. I was unsure and in the end, I was happy that I did not go for one. The focus should be clearly on one specifically gorgeous or opulent corner in your living and one should not make a dumping ground for everything, just because its trendy. The marble provided by our builder had a very nice texture, very different from the monotonous floor tiles provided nowadays and we did not want that to be wasted.
Our bedroom wall was again a tribute to a favourite city of ours – Paris. We wanted something different, apart from the regular stencil art, when the guy at the Asian Paints home solution store suggested us to try decals. We were a bit apprehensive, but were rest assured that these were premium range of imported decals which were quality wise very different from the ones available in India. Needless to say that the vintage Parisian chic has made the wall a favourite among visitors.
Step 3: Wall of Memories
Ever since I dreamed of having a home of my own, I wanted to make one which chronicles the blessings and memories of the people very close to me and my husband. Thus was born the “Wall of Memories” – one which bears the anecdotal evidence of family history and the simpler times.
There is ‘us’ there, our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, handwritten congratulatory note by my maternal grandfather in law, an old inland letter written and signed by my maternal grandfather for ‘arranging’ my parents’ marriage 32 years back, the wedding invitation card of my maternal grandparents in law from 1952, an extremely old photo of 3 generations of my husband’s family (the toddlers in the picture are my father in law and aunt in law), the invitation card for the centuries old Durga Puja of my husband’s family from “Rarhikhal Munshibari”- their ancestral place in present day Bangladesh (the Partition still hurts in this part of the world) bearing the address of our nostalgically old house in Tollygunge, Calcutta and vintage photographs of Calcutta (she had to be there!) captured by Nemai Ghosh which I randomly purchased one day from a bookstore.
Arranging the photographs, the letters and restoring them took away much of my time. Our archival tendencies are poor and there is no denying that we should learn somethings from Europeans on this count. We have treasure troves back home, but we hardly ‘preserve’. It is not only the case with our family heirlooms, but also with our national treasures.
This wall holds a place of pride in our house and I am sure no professional could have done this for me. As I said earlier, it is all about ‘love’ 🙂
Step 4: Lighting up the walls
Deciding on the right lamp shades was very important to compliment the walls. Both me and my husband spent several weekend, taking tours of the flashy modern day lamps and accessories stores as well as the traditional markets like Chandni Chown or Ezra Street in Calcutta for the correct lamp shades. We picked up pieces from everywhere, almost.
The vintage lamp to compliment the walls.
The pebbles that add magic to the living/dining partition area.
Step 2: Decide on the furniture
Furniture, is again, a reflection of your personal taste. Be very clear about what kind of sofa you want for the living room, the cabinets that you want, whether you want new furniture or you want reuse some old furniture. We went for a mix, as we had some fairly new furniture that we had got made during our wedding.
Also, we wanted our furniture to be classy, simple and sleek. We always had a theme colour in mind for our living room and we wanted a “Mahogany” finish for the living room and the dining area furniture. For the bedrooms and the temple we went for “Teak” finish furniture.
The dining table and the modular kitchen were also designed with the same colour combination in mind.
We got our front door redesigned, but kept the design clean and crisp.
Recently, there is a trend of having “Puja Cabinets” in houses. I for one, have a very spiritual connection with God and for me he/she is somebody I regularly connect with. I do not want a claustrophobic experience for anybody and why will God be any different? I went for a hanging teak wood Temple. The Ganapati figurine below is standing on a tool enriched with traditional Kashmiri handiwork. Both of the temple and the tool are again carefully preserved family heirlooms, which I reused for the new home.
Both me and my husband are bookworms and we always wanted a library in our house. I hope we earn enough one day to have an entire floor dedicated to books, but as of now, we got a custom made book shelf. May it grow bigger to enrich us in the coming days.
Step 5: ‘Ghare Baire’ – ‘The Home and the World’
One good thing about being born as a Bong is that you are genetically blessed with a curious case of ‘Wanderlust’. So while we may crave for ‘home’, we also yearn to travel the world. The travel souvenirs are almost like our ‘Olympic medals’, that we show off to our neighbours and visitors to make them turn a patch greener with envy. The one and a half years that we spent in Europe was probably the best thing that happened to us, just at the right age and time. We travelled, met people, ate a lot of cuisines, made memories and left little bits of us on those cobbled stoned corners of Europe. I also carried back along with me some souvenirs that I had long wished to get my hands on.
The Venetian Mask reminds me of the wonderful time that we had spent in Italy – riding Gondolas, bargaining with Bangladeshi vendors in Bengali for knick knakcs, walking across the actual 3000 year old Necropolis beneath the Vatican, roaming around Rome, Florence or Pompeii while being awestruck and making promises to ourselves to return to those gorgeous alleys in Positano.
A true Bollywood buff will know what significance does the cow bell from Switzerland hold in the hearts of die hard SRK fans? Hint: DDLJ. I visited Switzerland twice and I tried to visit the places where my favourite movie was shot. I also remembered to pick up the cow bell.
Fridge magnets are a wonderful way to preserve memories. I placed the magnets in a pattern to make it random, yet my preference for the favourite being known.
People who have visited my house have complimented me for the job done and I thought of sharing a few tips and tricks, here and there. However, your home is reflection your own self and your tastes. It is a place you wish to return after fighting a thousand battles outside. There is no recipe or a formula. I, had no idea of home decor before I designed my home. But if I can, anybody can! Right now, if you have just bought your first home and looking for inspiration and a little bit of support about doing it yourself, feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Trust me, conversations are wonderful! 🙂
P.S. The ideas and the photographs are mine. Do not steal, give due credits. Class is not about showing off, it is about good manners and upbringing.