Friday, July 20, 2018

Preserving memories in a Restrained Maximalist Style

By eschewing traditional design rules and embracing only that which brings out their authentic personal style, the "Desor-Singh's" have created a beautiful home away from home in Melbourne, Australia. Their 3 1/2 year old home is a delightful melange of  aesthetic collections, sentimental keepsakes, fun accessories, color and pattern in abundance and subtle desi touches to proudly display their bond with India. Neha and Kabir are both IT professionals and share their beautiful home with their 3 year old daughter, Mila. The couple met at the University 14 years ago and have been together since. It is their "poles apart personalities" that brought them together.  But somehow these differences work very well together in creating an amazing home that encompasses their different styles and personalities. Neha tells me, "Kabir is quiet, an introvert and happy to stay at home with his family and his play station kinda guy. Whereas I am talkative, social and love to be out and about."

Rather than focusing on one style, the couple decided to decorate with memories and thus bring a slice of the past to a newer home. Result being a fun, functional, cozy, interesting and exuberant home with meaningful vignettes at every turn. In Neha's words, "We have tried to preserve a lot of old family memories and used them to add soul to the decor around the house. We've used a lot of older objects from our childhood homes in India to build a space that has an emotional connection and a sense of comfort. If I had to classify our style it I would say bohemian, eclectic and restrained maximalist. I say restrained because as usual Kabir and I had very different ideas when it came to decorating the house and he loved the clean minimalist look whereas I wanted to fill the house with plants and colors. Needless to say I won him over but he does keep me from going overboard!"    
Neha's favorite feature is 'The Great wall of India'! She has effortlessly created an eye catching display by juxtaposing Indian touches in terms of wall art and little figurines. Almost all of the elements in this vignette have a sentimental connection. The vintage flat woven rug was handmade by a woman in Bikaner (Rajasthan) and belonged to Neha's mother. It was made when her mum was born, to be used later for her 'dowry'. The small painting of a woman in the doorway was done by Neha's mother during her degree in fine arts. The woven fan is a treasure that belonged to Kabir's father and is displayed with fond remembrance. The framed cross stitch embroidery was done decades ago by Kabir's mother, now gracing the walls of her son's home in another land.
To broaden the color palette, Neha decided to add a bunch of Turkish kilim pillows to the lounging room. She says they were a splurge that she never regrets buying them as they bring in that punch of color and pattern that she was looking for.

As you can tell there is a strong Bohemian influence in Neha's style. Here's more from Neha on why she's drawn to the Bohemian look, "It resonates very well with my idea of home. I think Indian homes have been doing bohemian decor before such a term even existed. The use of colorful dhurries, cane and wicker, decorative baskets, crocheted or knitted throws, vibrant art pieces, brass and copper, all these are integral to the boho style and have a been part of Indian homes forever. So it is no surprise that this style comes easy to me."
Neha is a huge fan of layering! She's more than adept when it comes to mixing and matching. She does this without overwhelming the space, making each item stand out in the happy decor compositions that she creates. Love how she has layered the phulkari throw on the couch with the Turkish pillows. Another treasured piece, the phulkari textile is around 25 years old and hand embroidered by artisans from Punjab. It was lovingly given to the young couple by Kabir's parents.  

The main challenge that the couple faced in setting up base here in Australia was getting the right pieces that complemented their decor style. Neha explains, "It was difficult to find things that showcased our roots and our personal journey here in Australia. And shipping from India was not an option. We ended up getting a lot of the smaller pieces from India like family heirlooms, old toys, textiles, art and then blended them together with bigger pieces bought here, thrift store finds and some weekend DIY. With the bohemian style garnering popularity it has become a lot easier now to find such eclectic home wares anywhere in the world but it is not always kind on the pocket."
Another lovely corner in the living room is strategically sprinkled with more of the sentimental mementos that the couple own. The tall brass diya, Neha inherited from her Aunt. The stack of brass pots are from Kabir's parents' home. The wooden chess, a gift that Neha bought for Kabir from Simla during a university trip.
Neha has always had a thing for baskets! So she decided why not group all of her pieces in one place to create more visual impact. The colored baskets were ethically sourced from women in East Africa. These baskets are woven by hand using seagrass and sisal. The aztec patterned basket is from the Maati collective in Munsiari, India (Its made from bamboo by a local craftsman Nain Ram from Jaiti village in the mountains. The bamboo is then darkened using ash to create the pattern.) The other ones are lucky thrift store finds.
More from Neha on why decorating with memories is so important to them, "Our daughter was born here in Australia and we want her to be her own person without imposing or forcing our cultural and traditional beliefs on her. But we do want to share our memories with her while we build new ones together. So it was important to us to have a house full of objects old and new that we are emotionally connected to. It feels amazing to see my daughter playing with our old teddy bears or her grandmother's brass kitchen set. Using objects tied to our special memories as display items around the house makes them topics of conversation and interest for her. Plus we feel a sense of belonging, a sense of 'home'." I can so relate to all that she has to say!
Comfort and style combine in Kabir's den/gaming arena. Bookshleves to keep the clutter organised as well as provide a place to display their collection. A pop of color is integrated into this area through the Ikea Strandmon wing chair, framed Hayley Mitchell artwork and selective accessories. As is with any other corner in Neha's home, Greens are a must to pull the look together. Neha shares, "He loves his ps4 and it occupies a proud spot on the desk/shelf opposite the chair that I always conveniently crop out of this pic. Not sure if this was his idea of a man cave but I love it and he can have the garage if he doesn't like it;)" Now that's one chic and comfortable gaming space if you ask me!             
A close up of Neha's collection of Hayley Mitchell artwork in the den area. Love how the Thanjavur Dancing Doll picks up all the colors from the artwork. 
Neha is quite the DIY queen if you ask me. She recently undertook this mammoth stenciling job! Armed with Cutting Edge Stencils and some paint, she turned a blah cabinet into one that screams global style. The framed artwork is another of Neha's DIY projects. I personally think that's a brilliant idea to sneak in some color through the mat boards in the wall art.  

Here's a quick rundown of the foolproof decor mantras that have worked for Neha:
~ "Bring the outdoors in by having greenery inside the house. Plants would work better than any expensive decor item while improving the quality of air by being a natural humidifier and freshener!
~ Use textiles. Cushions, throws, tapestries help you add color, texture and patterns to your space without burning a hole through your pocket.
~ Color coordinate but do not over do it. Build a flow by connecting the colors in the room and using a focal point. For example if use a yellow chair as the focal point like I have done in one of the rooms, make sure there is just enough yellow in other objects to make it look cohesive but also use other complementing or contrasting colors along with it."
When it came to setting up a play area for Mila, the couple decided to set it up right next to their main lounge area for easy supervision. By focusing on creating separate play zones and colorful work stations around the periphery of the room, the center opened up keeping the space open and airy for child's play. The adorable playhouse that you see was a DIY project by Neha! Cardboard boxes, paint and lots of art paper was employed to create the cubby house. No points for guessing, it is Mila's favorite spot. She escapes to her little retreat and is lost in there for hours together. Another favorite with Mila is the teepee tent. The blanket layering the floor by the teepee was made by Neha's grandmother when Neha was a baby. The cat painting on the cube shelves was done by Neha's mum while the 3 bears was handpainted by Neha herself.
Well preserved vintage Indian toys that belonged to Kabir's mother are now lovingly handed down to Mila. I am told that Mila cooks up a storm with these in her play kitchen!

With that we come to the end of our home tour. Wise parting words from Neha, "Don't try to make your home a catalogue home. Instead, use your individual style and fill it with things you love and cherish. Let your home tell a story of who you are. And it because of this that our home is a place that provides a sense of warmth, comfort and security, where we love coming back to at the end of the day, everyday."

Thank you Neha for inviting us to tour your fabulous home. We wish you and your wonderful family, the very best! 

To stay connected with Neha and follow along her decor journey of #decoratingwithmemories, do join her on Instagram.

(Photo Credits & Image Copyright: Neha Desor. The images may not be used for commercial or non-commercial purpose without the prior written permission of Neha Desor & TECD.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Paradise Found (Home Tour)

Today, we go all the way to Mumbai to tour a fashionably furnished home done up in a Contemporary-modern style but then sprinkled with just the right amount of Indian touches that readily identify the home owner’s Indian roots. The home of “Amritha Karnakar” (founder and principal architect at AKAD - Amritha Karnakar-architectural design) and her parents (late Dr. Sachin Karnakar and Vrinda Karnakar) is brimming with personality, class and an electric mix of styles. But more importantly, it is suggestive of an unhurried pace of living that balances an otherwise very demanding metro lifestyle.
While her parents love for antiques and nature set the tone for the design elements and color scheme in the home, it was Amritha’s professional acumen, her aptitude for close observation and global exposure that effortlessly brought the modern edge and architectural interest to the scene. Set on the 6th floor of an apartment with a terrace garden, the crux of the design plan sought to make the most of this wonderful space by blending the indoors with the outdoors.

The antique artifacts in the home not only talk of the homeowner’s love for timeless treasures but the collection also imparts an authentic vibe of the by gone era to an otherwise modern palette. Wooden carvings from the south of India and metal/brass work from Gujarat are thoughtfully placed to add visual drama and interest. The outdoors too are dotted with stone sculptures from Hampi, making it a captivating green sanctuary. 
Amritha proudly shares, “Every plant big or small, each has been treated as our own baby. We have a mix of bonsais, cacti, orchids, a number of other flowering plants (like the Plumeria) to fruit bearing plants like chikoos and oranges!” A green oasis like this in the midst of an otherwise urban concrete landscape is sure to have a calming effect and drop those elevated blood pressure readings significantly! 
Will let the images do the rest of the talking for me….. 

Will be sharing more from the portfolio of Amritha Karnakar so watch this space for more. In the meantime should you wish to reach out to Amritha regarding your design challenges or a project at hand, please mail Amritha at or connect with her via her Instagram page or FB. Thank you Amritha for sharing your absolutely beautiful and tastefully done up home with my readers.

(Photo Credits & Image Copyright: Amritha Karnakar for AKAD; The images may not be used for commercial or non-commercial use without the prior written permission of Amritha Karnakar & TECD.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Indisputably Indian in Style (Home Tour)

Our last feature here on Prakalyam Gallery was so well received, I couldn't wait to bring you more from Veshali's wonderful portfolio. A 1,184 sq. ft. apartment in Singapore, belonging to a lovely young couple, Chandrasekar Ganapathy Subramanian and Indhu Chandrasekar gets transformed at the hands of Veshali Visvanaath and receives the all Indian touch. Chandru is not only a cricket/sports buff but also has a discerning eye for antiques and Tanjore paintings. It is this love for the old world charm that drew him and his beautiful and talented Bharathnatyam dancer wife Indu to Veshali's Prakalyam Gallery. Within minutes of being introduced  to each other they hit it off and it lead to the renovation and design of a beautiful home that is indisputably Indian in appeal. 
The couple were very explicit about what they wanted to include in their design plan. The deliverables included - smart space planning,  practical approach to design expression,  personal style married to their Indian roots. Chandru being an ardent cricket fan wanted the decor to include his bats and other sports memorabilia. His love for vintage and the old world charm too had to be incorporated. Indhu on the other hand wanted color to be a huge part of their interiors. Not the easiest directives for any interior designer but Veshali being adept at making all of her client requests come true, made it all come together seamlessly. It took Veshali 5 months from conception to delivery. The on site renovation was done in 2 months but the prior planning took a huge chunk of the time (3 months) as Chandru was very detail specific and did not want any surprises or deviations during the course of the renovation.
The living room is an interesting space with a range of contrasting materials bringing in tactile and visual balance. Done up in shades of vermilion and gold together with attentively selected furniture pieces and decor accessories, the home is cozy with a strong interplay of refinement and traditional elegance.The dark wood tones of the furniture complement the well chosen colors beautifully. As for the seating options, they have a carved day bed that was commissioned from India by the clients. The design process however of the commissioned pieces was overseen by Veshali from Singalpore. In addition to the day bed, they have lots of low seating. The floor style seating was specifically requested by the homeowners for many a reason. Sitting on the floor gives a homely, intimate and nostalgic feel and syncs well with the ambiance of the house. Yoga too recommends sitting on the floor in padmasana thus maintaining a good posture and healthy lifestyle.
The TV console was made in Singapore by Veshali's team of carpenters. Treasured collections of the couple flank the TV on either side. On the left is a wooden plank with a silver scroll. Veshali tells me that this was presented during the 1952 England cricket tour of India at Kanpur. The scroll has a velvet cloth inside it with the scorecard for the day. On the other side is a ‘Vibuthi’ box (scared ash) in form of a Nandi. This was sourced from North Karnataka and is one of the many favorite pieces from Chandru's passion to collect antiques and vintage treasures. Next to it is a wooden panel from a temple car in south-India. The car is used to take religious processions on the streets. The vintage coffee table is a cradle that the couple acquired from India. Another piece of low seating is the swing plank that they decided to just rest on the floor to make the space look bigger rather than hanging it up and visually dividing the room.  
Veshali talks more about the color choices made for this project, "Talking about the colors, this was the most challenging part about the project. Chandru wanted a classic look with creams but Indhu wanted to go bold with colors. She even wanted color on the ceiling! Chandru compromised on the color part and promised not to interfere as long as he got more cricket bats up on the wall! We managed to incorporate a different color in each room. A new experience for me as well but I love the way it turned out."
The photo gallery wall happens to be one of the first things that the couple had discussed with Veshali while expressing their requirements in the project. The wall has frames set genealogically, thus creating a family tree. The photos (and a painting) are all originals from both sides of the family, capturing the family history for nearly 200 years (Pre-World War 1 to Present Day). Here's what Chandru had to share about this aspect of the project, "A history buff, I believe in capturing family history and passing it over to the next generation. This is the ‘true’ inheritance we can leave for our kids." Veshali seconds that saying,"This was the main reason I took up the project as the nostalgia was too strong and I wanted to be a part in this journey." Absolutely love how Veshali has chosen the mint green wall to showcase the photographs. A subtle shade that's effective in enhancing the vintage feel of the space! (On a personal note, I can so relate to this color as the walls in my  grandmother's old home too were of the same shade.)
The couple have an enviable collection of statues. Seen on the left is the Tripuranthakar (form of Siva which created the state of Tripura) and on the right is Ardhanareshwarar (Siva and Parvathi in same idol) sourced from Praklayam gallery. I believe both these are made from true Tanjore Chola style.
Apart form the photo-wall, another focal point is the Tanjore art wall.  The theme for this wall was to have the couple's collection of Tanjore paintings with unique subjects displayed in one place to create an impactful exhibit. Some of them are inherited  by the couple while the rest have been acquired for them by the gallery. Indhu being a bharatnatyam dancer, wanted to have a special spot for Nataraja. Veshali  found a place of prominence for him by placing him right under the paintings. ON close observation, you will see that Paai or chattais (natural fiber woven mats) have been used here and below the coffee table as these are from Tamil Nadu and Veshali wanted to create the feeling of "close to home".
The formal dining table is clearly the most striking attribute of this space!!! The inlay dining table is made out of rosewood and was specifically commissioned by the client. The details of the inlay work talks of the grand Dussehra procession in Mysore. The presence of ‘Gandaberunda’ (symbol of Karnataka and Mysore) is prominent here. The chairs all have a king riding with two attendants on an elephant. There's an abundance of floral designs across the chair, with the foot supported by a playful elephant inlay on the sides.
Custom made handsome cabinetry spans the wall across the dining table making display and storage possible in one simple unit. The vintage pieces exhibited in the unit were especially sourced for the client from Prakalyam Gallery.

And finally we get to see Chandru's priced possession, his cricket bats framed and proudly displayed on the wall!

The Pooja room as you can tell has the divine vibes. This particular room took the longest to execute. Chandru and Indu had a lot of religious pictures and wanted a dedicated room for worship. Veshali wanted to create something different but wanted to keep the traditional feel of the space intact. The gallery wall gives the couple the option to expand their collection as and when they acquire a new piece.
Veshali decided to bring in the Kerala Kasavu saree for the sheers and used Indu's cotton sarees for the blinds. The golden sari border compliments the gold foil finish on the wall. The blinds are easy maintenance and the fabric choice adds the soft touch.
The stunning brass Elephant lamp  had been in the family for years. Indhu being the 6th generation DIL in the family, inherited this beautiful treasure from her mom-in-law! Indhu makes sure that this diya is lit on all special occasions.
Here's what Veshali had to say summing up her deep contentment on working with this wonderful couple, "It was an awesome experience doing up the house . What makes me happy is that they message me and invite me for every family gathering and have given me the space of a family member. Design and details apart , I got new friends and family in this journey."

Thank you Veshali for sharing another gem from your portfolio. It's been such a pleasure interacting with you. Wishing you the very best in your creative venture. Should you have other projects too to share, you know we are all eyes and ears:)

(My Singapore readers, should you wish to visit Prakalyam, please make sure to book your appointment right here or call (+65) 9008 3979. And for those of you not in Singapore, Veshali is willing give online consulting a shot. Do write to Veshali at with your design dilemmas.)

(Photo Credits & Image Copyright: Veshali Visvanaath for Prakalyam Gallery; : The images may not be used for commercial or non-commercial use without the prior written permission of Veshali Visvanaath & TECD.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Distinguished Taste (Home Tour)

Prakalyam Gallery, the Singapore based antiques and furniture store is truly your gateway to the past. Prakalyam translating to mean "ancient times" in Hindi and "beautiful things" in Sanskrit has a concentrated collection of the most unique pieces of furniture and artifacts sourced from all over India. Veshali Visvanaath, founder and curator of Prakalyam, strongly believes in maintaining the old world charm of her curated pieces with minimum restoration. A spontaneous decision led Veshali to embark on this fascinating journey. With no formal education in either architecture or interior design, little did she know that her innate talent would lead to the opening of her own antique store and interior design business. It all started when she decided to renovate her own home and ordered a huge consignment of decor and furniture pieces to decorate her home. The surplus of exquisite furniture pieces from her home renovation project steered Veshali in the direction of Prakalyam as well as her interior design firm, "After the gallery started in 2013 , people loved the aesthetic approach and requested me to help do their space when they came looking for furniture. It all started that way and today I am happy to be have been a part of many such dream homes."
Sharing one such turnkey project from Veshali's portfolio is the stunning Singapore home of Reena and Rahul Ahuja (a lovely young couple with a great taste of fine things). The project involved a complete tear down and build up of this 2200 sqft apartment and interior designing. It took Veshali more than 9 months from the first drawing to delivering it. 

A traditional south Indian style swing (popularly known as the oonjal) anchors the transition space from the living to the dining. Reena and Rahul had snagged this a couple of years ago from Prakalyam. It now fits in like a glove into the design plan thus injecting old world charm. The swing is suspended by antique chains that are now a rarity. A combination of cushions in solid hues give the rosewood and satinwood plank of the swing a soft edge. As a perfect backdrop to the whole setting, a reproduction of the legendary painting "Lady with the Swan" by Raja Ravi Varma takes center stage (Another master piece from Prakalyam).
The thoughtfulness to balance and symmetry gives this living room its refined charm. Lots of seating options, unexpected pops of color to break the monotony and selective decor accessories dictates the sophisticated design approach.

The colossal Dashavtaram painting behind the couch was sourced from Prakalyam. Done in the ubbal (3D) style of Tanjore, this is a new piece that has been given a vintage finish. Paintings of this scale take almost 9 months from start to finish. I personally think it is the art in this design plan that gives the room its Indian-ness.
Among the few previous possessions to pass muster in the new design plan is the client's silverware collection. Veshali has effortlessly made it a part of the coffee table display, coaxing any new guest to start a conversation around it. 

A tailored mix of patterned and solid fabrics were chosen to reupholster the clients existing couches and arm chairs.Throw pillows in shades of flattering pink tones and mango yellow bring warmth and zest to the interior landscape.
A vintage Malabar massage table is converted into a coffee table. The details on the leg, like the inverted pillar capital make it unique thus adding to the design element. Woven cane plantation style chairs were sourced from a store in Singapore. Veshali stresses on the fact that at no point are her clients compelled to own pieces from her gallery. She includes them only if the design calls for her curated pieces from her very own gallery if not more often than not, pieces are sourced from other brands and stores to suit the personality and needs of her clients.
The most challenging aspect of this project was sticking to the timeline and meeting the clients' specification of not wanting the  house to look overly Indian. Veshali decided to mix in some contemporary pieces of art and clean line furniture to bring the contemporary vibes to the space. She says, "I personally felt that the dining wall could break the monotony and hence we went with installing the original pieces of the renowned artist 'Sohan Qadri'. I absolutely love the play of colors and the tantric effects which he is so well known for. Both are his pieces and I helped them source these."
At the far end is another beautiful almost antique Tanjore that of Maratha King Shivaji and his minister. The details on the painting is mind blowing and Veshali confirms that it is close to 90 years old!
As you can tell by now, Veshali earnestly enjoys being the interpreter of her client's vision. In her own words, "I love the 'sharing of stories' and dreams of my clients while doing up their homes. The excitement and sparkle in their eyes when the design detail is exactly what they had in mind is overwhelming. Creating a space which is loved by the homeowners and for them to remember me everyday with a smile is truly what I work towards."

My Singapore readers, should you wish to visit Prakalyam, please make sure to book your appointment right here or call (+65) 9008 3979. And for those of you not in Singapore, Veshali is willing give online consulting a shot. Do write to Veshali at with your design dilemmas. 

Veshali thank you so much for choosing TECD to be your debut platform to share your amazing portfolio. We wish you the very best in your creative endeavor! Before I sign off, I'd like to share with my readers that Veshali and I will be collaborating soon to share another gem from her portfolio, so  make sure you stay connected.

(Photo Credits & Image Copyright: Veshali Visvanaath for Prakalyam Gallery; : The images may not be used for commercial or non-commercial use without the prior written permission of Veshali Visvanaath & TECD.)

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Drishti Collection from Mayil

Remember the ritual when mom used to rub her little finger against her kohl lined eyes and transfer a smudge of that to our cheek as drishti pottu or kala tika? Well, that happens to me to this very day, when I have mom around. I personally find the act very endearing and feel like I'm five again. So when I found out about the new collection "Drishti" from Mayil, it struck a nostalgic chord. I have blogged about Mayil earlier and have even featured snippets of Madavi Oliver's (the heart and soul of Mayil) home. Go ahead and give it a read if you haven't already
Today, however the focus in on their new collection Drishti. What I absolutely loved about the collection was the way in which Madavi had reinterpreted these traditional rituals and beliefs to cater to today's modern woman. You probably already know that, this belief of evil eye is not only evident in Indian culture but is also prominent in various cultures across the world. There are various remedies to nullify the effects of evil eye - the Hamsa that is popular in the Middle East and North Africa, Talisman and amulets in Islamic sects and then our very own lemon and chilli strung together used in North India or the colorful demon masks guarding the outside of the house in the south. 

Here's what Madavi had to say about how the collection came together and how it works, "I was inspired by memories of drishti pottus, drishti bommais and other rituals found in South Indian culture to design Mayil's drishti necklaces. An odd (albeit beautiful) bead for an asymmetry to deflect any drishti coming your way. While a black bead seems to fit in perfectly, I have also used copper, silver and coral beads as a variation in these necklaces to create a visually pleasing asymmetry as well."

These handmade neckpieces come in an array of colors and are a marriage of colored gemstones and silver pendants. My favorites from the collection being the Om necklace, the Celtic style mandala and ofcourse the the Ganesha neckpiece. Grab yours today to give your outfit a touch of the boho while it also works to deflect any negative energy coming your way. These are also a very thoughtful gifting option. Madavi also takes custom orders so reach out to her at To check out the entire Drishti collection click here. TECD readers get a special discount with the use of code MAYIL10 (a $10 discount) off all your purchases. Offer valid until the end of May 2018.

While you are virtually visiting the Mayil online boutique may I also suggest that you check out their range of colorful scarves and hand selected range of decor accessories

(Images are the property of Mayil/Madavi Oliver and may not be used without prior written permission.)