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.)

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