One can’t go far wrong with the charm exuded by Art Deco buildings dotting the streets of Kolkata but there are certain mansions designed with contemporary accents without losing the claims of Indian masters.
Designed by architect Rajiv Saini for a family of five on Belvedere Road, in the heart of south Kolkata, the 1920s or 30s Art Deco style mansion commands the attention of passerby as it invites the renowned names in modern Indian art to redesign it as per the tastes of inhabitants.
This home possesses all the merits it takes to make even a gallery look drab in contrast because if one cares to look closely, how its walls are equal parts brick and art.
The walls of the corridors are embellished with a series of Indian miniatures and the installation of 300-odd cast-aluminum sculptures by Riyas Komu and the dining space hosting an arresting collection of paintings by Arpita Singh makes for an impressive sight.
The main living room houses a mix of furniture, a lot of it custom-made by Alexander Lamont. The table on the right is clad in stingray skin, while the one on the left is in bronze with a parchment surface. The red carpet—28 feet long—was custom-made by Jaipur Rugs. The grand artwork in the background is by Akbar Padamsee.
The second living room, mirroring the first, is dressed in an orange carpet custom-made by Jaipur Rugs. Each of the grand carpets in the living rooms took six months to complete. The beige sofas are by Holly Hunt, and the lights are by Apparatus Studio. The painting to the left is by Rameshwar Broota, while the Ganeshas are by M.F. Husain.
A ‘lady in red’—a giant disembodied head of a woman with a bejeweled bun, quite obviously by Ravinder Reddy—faces the entrance, positioned at the flat end of the C-curve. Her dramatic eyes follow the symmetrically lined archways that tunnel through the living areas on the ground floor, with one leading into and mirroring the other.
The other living room flaunts three Ganeshas on a canvas by M.F. Husain that covers the breadth of an entire wall, foregrounded by stone figurines from the Gupta and Pala periods. The floor is clad in a bright orange rug, and this riot of colors is offset by a somber cluster of Rameshwar Brootas in moody tones opposite the flamboyant Husain.
Knowing the family for decades now, Saini and his team worked substantially on this project, the ground floor of the residence, around three years ago. It got delayed in final touch due to pandemic in but has just got completed now.
The whole idea, right from the outset, was to modernize the home without stealing the claims of its inherent old-world appeal. When surveying the space, Saini remembers walking through its corridors and peeking into rooms that lay unused with furniture wrapped in white slipcovers—like stepping back in time and catching glimpses of the house’s history.
In Kolkata, one will always find oneself mesmerized to see how old homes carry a legacy wedge in the series of windows and doors that have their own rhythm and symmetry.
Images by Architectural Digest