From paintings to sculptures, this home puts the spotlight on traditional Indian craftsmanship and art forms
Interior designer Amrita Guha honours her roots and creative beginnings in a home filled with beautiful art and collectibles that hold special meaning to her family.
With a successful career spanning two decades, interior designer Amrita Guha has made a name for her distinct style. She has worked on over 350 homes and is known for blending a raw, almost minimalist aesthetic with the ornate intricacy of many of India’s traditional crafts.
Several years ago, she had the opportunity to rebuild her husband’s family home to meet the growing needs of the family.
“A house is always a reflection of who we are and who we wish to be,” said Amrita. The project, which took over two years to complete, comprises a five-storey duplex for two families.
Standing in front of the house is a stately Harsingar tree, which is not commonly found in New Delhi. “Under normal circumstances, we would never have a tree right in front of the main door obstructing the path. But because it was planted by my father-in-law, we wanted to keep his story alive,” she explained.
“We are privileged to have lots of greenery that surrounds us, in spite of the fact that we are in the heart of the city of South Delhi, which is otherwise pretty much a concrete jungle.”
The 14,000 sq ft house features an elegant, pared back combination of locally sourced natural materials like limestone, exposed concrete and lime plaster, the latter of which imparts a dappled effect to the surface it is applied on. “Lime plaster is an ancient technique which was used in many forts and old buildings over 200 or 300 years old, proving that this method withstands the test of time,” said Amrita. “However, it is not being used currently so this is something I personally wanted to use for my home.”
On the first floor, a spacious light-filled open plan living and dining room is the perfect space to showcase how her design philosophy strikes the ideal balance between tradition and sustainability. For example, the dining room has a feature wall made of different, unevenly cut slabs of granite that fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It turns out that these are by-products of granite quarries that are usually turned to stone dust or used to pave roads.
Amrita saw their intrinsic beauty and salvaged them to be used in their original form. “I loved the organic quality about it and I just wanted one wall to have the uneven texture and the raw appeal of stone,” she said.
Her love for tactile surfaces can be seen in other corners of the house, such as the bamboo cupboards made by Indian weavers. “These weavers are found possibly in every city in India. Bamboo ages so gracefully that you do not need to maintain it, which is also a very important factor,” she said.
This conscious decision to incorporate the work of India's wide range of craftsmen into the house means that just about every corner has a story behind it. For example, the staircase was constructed using the original house’s doors dating back to 1975. This wood was sourced from Nagpur, believed to have the best teak in all of India, so it would have been a pity to discard the material.
The neutral tones of the house also balance out Amrita’s vibrant art collection, which she has been accumulating for more than 20 years. “Every art piece or every sculpture that you see in this home has its own story. I wanted to bring it all together under one roof and I wanted the entire family to enjoy that process and to be a part of it,” she said,”
Take for instance the bronzed ceramic piece that takes centre stage in the living room depicting the 10 reincarnations of the lord Vishnu in his 10 primary avatars, known as the Dashavatara. It is a modern interpretation of the traditional version she had in her childhood room. “As a country, we have a lot to offer in terms of our traditional skills, our art and our craft,” said Amrita.
“I collaborated with this brilliant ceramic artist and this Japanese artist who uses steel and bends it in different forms,” she continued.
In another room hangs a series of Patua paintings that holds special sentimental value to Amrita, who used to admire them during her visits to the temple when she was a young girl. Patuas, or artisans, used to sit outside temples, and devotees could give them money to paint their preferred deity, she explained.
These paintings also honour the key influences in her life. She said: “Having grown up in Calcutta, I was surrounded by a lot of cultural aspects. My mother has been a huge influence on me too. She has always been very passionate about art, music and dance,” she said.“I would want my children to learn who they are, what their roots are and where they belong to,” she continued.
Her son Ahaan appreciates how these items offer him a tangible connection to his roots. “The imagery in this house gives me a physical form to all the stories I have heard from my grandmother. Each little piece is significant to someone in some way. So all these little pieces of ‘significance’ make me feel that the world is a lot bigger and more rich with culture,” he said.
It is exactly what Amrita has hoped to achieve. Reflecting on how the house has in some ways become a physical manifestation of what she holds dear, she said: “I always call myself a storyteller so there has always been a very deep desire in me to impart certain values which I very strongly believe in.”
With a successful career spanning two decades, interior designer Amrita Guha has made a name for her distinct style - blending a raw, almost minimalist aesthetic with the ornate intricacy of many of India’s traditional crafts. This conscious decision to incorporate the work of India's wide range of craftsmen into this stately family home means that just about every corner has a story behind it.