Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Living In Color (Home Tour)

When decorating a home, the task at hand is to balance the functional needs of the space with a story that articulates about YOU - your aesthetics, your passion, your personality and your heritage. The New Jersey home of Shalini (an architect and designer), Manu Chakravarthy (a physician-scientist) and their two daughters Anika and Anusha,  illustrates all this and more. Tagging their style as ethnic-modern, Shalini goes on to say, "Our design style is defined by our experiences - from our upbringing to our many travels around the world. Indian art, crafts, textures, color and overall vibrancy remain an overarching theme and I can't be more proud to embrace it all in our style. We seek clean lines and strong massing in the main furniture pieces, with rustic/ethnic furnishings to complement them, with color being a defining element."
On entering the foyer, a slim console from West Elm (a favorite of Shalini’s), holds a beautiful collection of curios from the family’s many travels. The Garuda an exquisite piece claims immediate attention. Shalini snatched it up while on her visit to Thailand. Quoting Shalini, “The Garuda greets me each time I come in through the main door. I find it so tranquil. Funnily, the stores were so inundated with them in Bangkok, that one almost got sick of seeing too much of them! Here in my living space, I have utmost appreciation for it.” With the teal patina of the bell, mimicking the color on the Garuda, they make natural companions for each other. Shalini got a Christmas ornament stand to function as the bell holder. She shares that the bell hangs on it precariously but she refuses to find a replacement as she loves how they work together  !

At the far end of the console is a grouping of Indian brass artifacts. Describing the Bastar sculptural pieces Shalini says, "The stylistic mommy and baby elephant are a joy!" I couldn't agree with her more.
If you yearn for the energy generated by strong color choices, this formal living room is one your going to fall in love with. Scrumptious textures, patterns and colors, dress up this space ! Furniture from Bo Concept, Room and Board, West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn is effortlessly mixed with finds from their globe trotting adventures. I'm going to let Shalini do all the talking here. "Ahh, my formal living! This space makes me so happy to putz around it every morning and rearrange the cushions, sit on the odd chairs... and then retire to the area we REALLY live in. I do like to entertain and this is where I have my peeps, cozily sitting around. Each curio and piece has a story to tell. I might add, they serve as a great conversation starter at times of crisis (with those guests you are obligated to host and have nothing in common to discuss)...I just bore them with what the hand beaten Nepalese singing bowl is all about. They may show utter disdain, but boy, am I happy to share ;)"
I'd be one happy guest to visit Shalini in her beautiful home. I love how Shalini has layered a CB2 rug over a West Elm durrie. Wouldn't you agree if I said that the almost psychedelic rug pulls all the colors together and makes the whole room pop?

I was curios to know who called the design shots? To which she answers, "I think our disparate backgrounds helps cover the bases. Between my husband's researched/deliberate considerations and my instinctual, gut predilections, decisions are made, more often than not, pretty cordially (and I would like to think that over the past 13 years, I have honed his aesthetic sensibility;)"
Being a color fanatic myself, I was drawn to the fact how Shalini has used color to define and sculpt the space. Talking about her color connection she explains, "I tend to gravitate towards warm/earthy tones for the walls (ochres, burnt brick, chutney green and the like), colors that compliment my decor. I love experimenting with different planes and wall segments (e.g. the cabinetry in the kitchen is all white, so I decided to have the ceiling a deep chocolate brown to bring in some visual drama). But this is not to say that pristine white/neutral wall with sparse pieces and subtle bursts of color, don't excite me- I love that too. I think it all comes down to balancing one with the other, and I am probably overtly sensitive (a euphemism for obsessive!) about that fine balance."
For visual continuity, the ocher on the walls is carried through to the formal dining space. Dark wood tones and a deep slate blue is introduced to perfectly complement the ocher. Take note of the fact how the white molding is highlighted in the company of deeper colors and adds to the aesthetic beauty and charm of this space. The ocher rug picks up the wall color and the blue accent wall gets picked up by a blue chair in the adjoining formal living - call it alchemy or Shalini's discerning eye for design ! 
The Exeter 16 Jar Pendant from Pottery Barn adorning the formal dining space is a show stopper alright ! The couple enjoy entertaining large gatherings and their extendable 12 seater table comes in handy. Love how Shalini has traded in the regular chairs for a bench as a seating option. She says the bench works great, as it adds a casual flair and proves useful to shove lots of kids in a row when entertaining big groups!   
A closer look at a zen corner in the formal dining space. All the colors work together so beautifully !
The Chakravarthy's library.....Sigh! A shift in color play keeps things interesting in this space. With black and white being the dominating colors, restrained use of red and interesting decor finds keep the eyes entertained. The space also doubles up as a home office/studio for Shalini. (She spearheads the design consultancy "De.sha Creative" that specializing in brand identity, advertising, print and web design. Along side, she continues to illustrate and paint creating a niche market for her work in mixed media. Should you be interested in getting in touch with Shalini for her design services, you could connect with her right here.) 

As you can tell, the family has some avid readers amongst them. Every inch of the space is efficiently utilized with shelves lining the walls. Shalini loves this space and absolutely digs the organised - messy look with books oozing from all corners. The chevron rug from West Elm and the telescope totally make the space rock ! 
Points of visual interest await you at every corner! Quoting Shalini, " I love grouping things and believe I can put my architectural and design expertise into good use when determining the subtleties involved with spatial relationships - height, staggers, negative space, color schemes, and scale. It is a marvelous thing, when you get it just right." This lovely lady has definitely  mastered the art of creating visually engaging spaces.
Another well thought out vignette in the media room. Shalini wanted a little grouping that looked aesthetic yet did not compete with the TV. African wrought iron figurines, a painting done by Shalini herself (inspired by the original painting titled Batua by Dithi) and abstract Madhubanis complete this vignette. Shalini says,"You can never go wrong with Madhubani paintings - so detailed and opulent, unless they are badly framed (which I have seen plenty of). I loved the linearity of these and got them framed back home because you know how ridiculously over priced custom framing is here!"

Shalini's wall of masks! The wall is a WIP project I'm told. Masks from Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Costa Rica come together beautifully to create a one of a kind focal point against the saffron wall. The adjacent wall has a mirror, which compliments this arrangement perfectly.
A successfully put together home always has stories to tell.The more time you spend in them, the more you decipher about the people who inhabit them. The home of Shalini and Manu Chakravarthy's is no different. They believe in creating a home with a personal style where every piece in the home has a story, purpose and meaning. Like this little grouping here in the kitchen, where each piece has a story to tell. And who better to tell the story than Shalini, "I am an avid cook. I find it therapeutic. Oh how I wish I had a humongous gourmet kitchen. But I don't. So whatever space I have, I want it to make me happy, while I chop away and fuss about. I picked this pot up at a street exhibition in Bangalore this time. I like faces (my mask wall, remember?).....Gumla - that's his name, makes me smile. So what if he holds a fake plant (I have the opposite of green thumb but that's a different story), he is happy being my kitchen custodian. The lady next to him is a lovely piece of pottery with a pretty face. A broken bell if you please! They were discarding it in a little Mexican restaurant shop in Cancun. I emphatically asked them if I could have it, they looked at me weirdly and handed it right to me without any hesitation. Ahaa, I use it as a lid sometimes, her big skirt can cover it all and looks oh so pretty!
And I must talk about the incense holder. It is from a Pondicherry store in Mysore. This is an ingenious design where you light the incense inside the holder while the smoke comes out from the ornate holes. Once burnt out, all the gunk is collected inside. Makes sense? If not, go get one, you'll see. I am not pious, but after cooking, I must light one, lest my house reeks of garam masala." 

The breakfast nook - a no fuss space. Functional furniture in dark wood tones and a rust colored carpet adds a cozy touch to this nook.
The Master Bedroom - a sanctuary! A subdued color palette promotes relaxation while clean-line furniture from Crate and barrel lends an urban casual vibe to the space. Color and pattern is injected into this space, by way of textiles. Shalini shares her thought process that went into designing this private refuge, "I really gravitate to the combination cane and wood. The headboard is reminiscent of my aunt's home in Delhi, back in the day. I picked up that interesting wall art, can't remember where, which adds a bit of dimension to the wall. The deep chocolate color on the wall along with the chutney green accents, I believe, is a marvelous color combination. The Raja Rani pictures flanking the bed are a recent find. The frames is what makes the pieces work! I found lamps that complimented the hardware of the furniture and I personally think, the grouping works! Now I can rest in peace!
The guest bedroom - the four poster bed makes  a grand statement in the guest bedroom. The boisterous character of this bright azule accent wall is toned down by pairing it with grey in the room. To unify the space, large motif bedding mimicking the blues and greys was  thoughtfully chosen by Shalini.

And now for a quick synopsis of  Shalini's decorating mantra : 
  • I do not believe one has to spend loads of money to bring character to a space - the more creative you are, the less you have to spend.
  • Be fearless and keep experimenting.
  • Just because you have kids doesn't mean the whole house has to turn into one gigantic toy room!!!
  • Don't let the buck stop at dressing well. Your home is an extension of you- bring your personality in it.
  • If you can't envision, steal ideas- go online, look at books, there is no dearth of amazing stuff out there.
  • One coat of color is all it takes to bring in some drama.
  • Every curio you have, should tell a story... and collect over time, let the process be organic... this is what distinguishes a real home to a staged home.
  • Don't forget to pick up an indigenous thing on your next travel, your living space is waiting...
  • Bright rugs can really lift a space.
  • Balance balance balance (one wee little thing - an extra curio, too much color - can tip it all on the wrong side).
That my lovely readers is some damn good decorating advice ! Before we call it wraps, Shalini's definition of what a home means to her, "My home is absolutely an extension of myself. It is a reflection of my personality and my biography." That it is Shalini, without a doubt! 
I've thoroughly enjoyed putting this post together and more so my long telephonic conversations with Shalini. Her ever enthusiastic personality, accommodating nature and sense of humor is so endearing. I'm glad I had the opportunity to connect with such a wonderful and creative soul like her. Thank you Chakravarthy family for letting us tour your breathtakingly beautiful home ! Wishing this beautiful family love , health and happiness ! 

It would be amiss, if I did not thank Anupama Gupta for introducing me to Shalini! Thank you Anupama for making this happen :) 

Image Credit/Copyright : Shalini Prasad. The images may not be used without prior written permission from the home owners. 
(If you do plan on pinning the images from the home tour, you may do so from my Pinterest boards and please link to the source, "The East Coast Desi".)


  1. Very pretty and vibrant home! Loved the virtual tour!

  2. very elegant and refreashing ;).. love the colors on the wall ;)...Thanks for sharing this lovely home

  3. Such a warm and thoughtfully done-up home. And her little gems of advise ring so true! I love your style Shalini!

  4. Thank you for having that great eye for my cousin's lovely home and for doing justice to her aesthetcs. A pretty picture of shalini would be so welcome too!

  5. Shalini's home is so colorful and full of life. Thanks for sharing, Sruthi.

  6. Loved this post! Elegant & vibrant decor.

  7. Very nice house and beautifully captured and presented by Sruthi .

  8. Beautiful home.. Artifacts very well displayed.. Thanks for sharing Sruthi and Shalini!

  9. A veryvery warm and welcoming home. Loved everything about your home Shalini.
    Sruthi thanks for sharing all the beautiful images and story behind every picture with us. I have already gone through this post three times since you published it and will be coming back again....don't know how many times :)

  10. Beautiful! The breakfast nook is the most inviting...

  11. Thank you everybody! So appreciate you'll stopping by!

  12. Lovely home. Thanks for doing such wonderful home tours.

  13. a lovely home + an articulate homeowner = an impressive feature! Enjoyed this one tremendously!


  14. So glad to see and hear of your home Shalini...Anand and Kavita have always raved about your sense of style and the warmth. Thanks for the write up and brining it out there Sruthi


  15. Such a warm and lovely home. Love this blog and it inspires me to be creative.

  16. Would like to know where is the sofa from?


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