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The art of designing modern homes

August 09, 2008 14:53 IST

Sainik Farms in south Delhi is a paradox. A maze of extremely narrow, potholed lanes, it is nevertheless home to some of the richest and most powerful in the land who live their jetsetting lives behind high fences in palatial bungalows that are lavishly designed and even more luxuriously furnished.

Jajoos, somewhere deep inside Sainik Farms, is no exception. Home to the Jajoo family who moved in less than a year ago, the house itself, or at least its bare structure, isn't new. But it's been extensively redesigned and retrofitted to reflect the tastes and lifestyle of its new owners.

"I wanted a house that was stylish and comfortable," says Rajshree Jajoo, who entrusted designer Anjana Bhargav with the project. "I've known her for years. Besides, she is also a cousin and I completely trust her choice."

Bhargav is better known as a fashion designer, but she's been doing spaces on the side for many years now (the interiors of the Maurya Sheraton and the Delhi Stock Exchange are two of her more high-profile, commercial projects).

Recently, she ventured formally into interior design with "Spaces", a store in Delhi's tony Khan Market, where she retails furniture, home accessories, lamps, furnishings, even art and sculpture.

At Jajoos, Bhargav's transformatory vision took in the exterior facade of the two-storied structure as much as it did the interiors. "It was one of those conventional houses with arches everywhere," she reveals. "But I wanted something that was more contemporary, plainer and with clean lines."

Breaking down and building again was not an option, given the restrictions in Sainik Farms, so Bhargav imposed a superstructure with the lines and sharp angles that she wanted.

"The arches are covered with solid wrought iron pillars, over which there is a layer of plywood and on top of which is what you see outside, slats of seasoned teakwood coated with PU and melamine."

The result is a dramatic play of black and white, set off by the panels of clear glass windows and the little hints of steel in the railings. "Instead of iron, I used moulded stainless steel because it is more new age and weathers better."

The focal point of the exterior is the balcony just above the main entrance into the house, which Bhargav has entirely covered in wood to make space for a puja room, but which gives the entire structure something of the look of a wooden chalet.

Interestingly, Bhargav has carried the wooden slats as a unifying theme into the interiors too. Everywhere, the woodwork is in lines and angles, whose dark walnut hues contrast very nicely with the white marble flooring, the low-slung, moulded furniture and furnishings in tones of beige, rusts and blacks.

Particularly ingenious is a screen that Bhargav has placed in the front room, which also functions as a casual lounge area. The screen, a simple contraption of planks fixed onto a wooden frame, blocks the view of the kitchen just behind - and also works as a stand for the large LCD television. It's fixed on a steel strut, which means the screen can be turned around.

"I didn't want to put in a solid partition. It would have cut space, whereas I want to build on space."

There are other such little touches which lend Jajoos a touch of distinction. For example, the wall installation in the billiards room on the first floor.

This floor is given to the recently-married son of the family and the design brief here was clearly to keep it young and trendy. So there's no forming dining table but a low oval table (with just a ring of Italian marble in the centre to relieve its severity), low chairs everywhere and stark animal prints for that hint of cool.

The billiards room is, of necessity, a long, box-like room dominated by the large pool table. "I couldn't do much with it, so I simply made this," says Bhargav, pointing to a panel which runs up one wall and slants across the ceiling.

"These are just pieces of wood that I've cut and stuck together. It has an interesting texture, and makes a change from the usual paintings on the wall."

Every once in a while, Bhargav has offset the white-black-brown colour palate by throwing in a hint of shine. It could be the little triangles of mother-of-pearl inlay on the banisters, or the silver foil placed under the glass of the footstools, or the square gold etchings on the glass of the cupboard.

The bling reaches its acme in the formal seating and dining area, where everything is covered in shimmering gold, copper and bronze silk or velvet encrusted with sequins, Swarovski crystals and other shiny stuff.

"Rajshree and I picked up that over-sized copper bottle," says Bhargav pointing to one corner, "and the entire decor was done to match it." One wall, covered in white slate, has even been painted a shimmering "mix of gold and copper".

"I think textures, more than furniture, is my forte." We'll go along with that.

Gargi Gupta in New Delhi