A home in Shanti Niketan, New Delhi by Rajiv Saini bears testimony to the love of art, colour and happiness

NOV 17, 2022 | By Shriti Das
Sofa by Living Divani, centre tables by ClassiCon, armchairs from Etel, side lamps by Tato, a stone sculpture by Tallur L N alongside a cluster of wall art furnishes one of the living rooms in the home; Photography by Ashish Sahi

A grey area often creates reason for reservation and cause for concern. And for Rajiv Saini’s long standing client and friend of 25 years, grey was perhaps not her calling. “We go back a long way. She is one of my first clients and I can say I began my career with her family in 1995 or 1996,” says Rajiv. “Having worked with her family on umpteen projects over the years, a sense of friendship prevailed between us. She insisted on colour and glamour. And I would show her samples of grey basalt stone,” he laughs. And no prizes for guessing how the home turned out—a grand gesture in grey speckled with colour and art.

Located in Shanti Niketan, Delhi, Rajiv was entrusted with crafting the interiors for the magnanimous structure spanning across approximately 16,000 sq ft engineered by Verendra Wakhloo. Being a city home, this residence afforded no views. “The concept was to make a sequence of vistas within the home,” he says, to create little glimpses through rooms, such that every turn and termination offered something to look at, to behold and appreciate.

The entrance lobby is clad in basalt with an inlay of brass and blue lapis lazuli similar to the brass grid screen screening the staircase. Armchair and the sculptures in the niche are sourced from Merci Paris; Photography by Ashish Sahi

Built as two independent units, the larger primary unit for the family has the master suite and bedroom suites for the children with a common lounge, family room, a guest room, an office room, living and dining areas alongside a gym and utility areas, and a separate, but connected unit for the grandparents, if they were to ever move in at a later time.

Leather clad cupboard from BDDW, black and white artwork from Divya Mehta and a ceramic sculpture by Mrinalini Mukherjee ties together the various tones and textures of grey in the dining room; Photography by Ashish Sahi

Faced with crafting the spatial language and decor for the bare shell, the starting point for Rajiv was the stream of thoughts that emerge before he gets to the drawing board. 

The lounge is furnished with the Beam sofa from Cassina and Jan coffee table from Molteni&C Dada. A shelf with ceramics by Lubna Chowdhary and a large Aditya Pande canvas graces the adjacent walls; Photography by Ashish Sahi

“I don’t have a picture or an idea of the imagery. I listen a lot, I observe a lot. So when my clients are talking to me, narrating their requirements, I tell them to choose their words wisely because every word will influence me.

Sculptural works by Manisha Parekh across a timber clad wall, painting by Atul Dodiya on the adjacent wall and ceiling light from Atelier Areti are featured in the living room. A sofa from Liaigre is paired with vintage Marco Zanuso armchairs sourced from a Parisian gallery and Henge coffee tables with vases from Alexander Lamont. The carpet is from Jaipur Rugs; Photography by Ashish Sahi

The conversation leads to a direction. You understand their requirements, needs and key elements important to the project. And you build from there,” says the designer. Dialogue and ideation lead to mapping function and spatiality. And for Rajiv, the materiality gets superimposed subconsciously. “Space, volume and materiality go hand in hand. You cannot stick materials like an ornament,” believes Rajiv.

The concrete wall of the terrace continues inside the guest bedroom laid with green mosaic stone floor. The bed is from Poliform, vintage armchair is sourced from Paris and the floor lamp is by Isamu Noguchi. Baxter bamboo chairs and concrete tables furnish the terrace; Photography by Ashish Sahi

The idea with the Shanti Niketan home is to create a contrast of materials. Having used grey basalt with different dark veneers and brass accents, screens are used in certain areas to divide as well as create visual continuity. But grey emerges as a hero in moments big and small—walls in exposed concrete and basalt, as dyed wallpaper on cupboard shutters, in the art, marble cladding and so on.

Rod bed by Living Divani is flanked by custom side tables in one of the suites. Slatted wooden screen becomes a part of the bed back panelling. A collection of tribal African headrests sourced from Paris are grouped on the side table. The grey Auckland armchair is from Cassina; Photography by Ashish Sahi

He prefers bathrooms white, crisp and sharp but made an exception when the homeowner saw a black marble and fell in love with it. But beyond the colours, textures, materials and finishes, there is a whole other narrative—of the art across the home. “Art for a home as big as this is another project in itsnown right! The process of crafting an abode as magnaminous like this takes two to three years. I tell my clients, if you see a good piece, buy it. They ask me where it will go, and I tell them that in the end, it will all fall in place,” he smiles. 

Overlooking the balcony, the main bedroom features the Lady armchair by Marco Zanuso from Cassina, a side table from Mabeo and a custom made rug. The bedroom storage is treated with a special dyed paper made from tree bark and the dressing room wardrobes are sourced from Lema Mobili; Photography by Ashish Sahi

And that is what typically happens. This home too, is a melange of the homeowner’s former belongings, some curated by Rajiv and sourced from around the world. The grey offers a sublime backdrop for the pops of colour that transpire throughout the home with an overlay of subtle textures. Rajiv articulates, “Once the site is complete and everything is in place —the lights, the furniture, I style the art, sculptures and objects. I take the biggest space in the home and lay it all out there, and for me, that is the most enjoyable part. You start making connections.

Noctambule suspended lights from Flos hangs above a custom made wooden table with Cab chairs from Cassina in the second dining room. Sculptures sourced from New York are set atop the BDDW console. Triptych canvas by Sharad Sonkusale and a set of five photographs by Dayanita Singh grace the walls; Photography by Ashish Sahi

Something responds to the architecture, in some works you’ll find a common narrative, or a piece may have been a forgotten memorabilia. Achieving that critical balance between everything is imperative. Two extra things may ruin it, a single missing element will not cut it.”

Clad in Salvatori marble, the skylight floods the guest bathroom with natural light; Photography by Ashish Sahi

The designer is not shy from admitting that it is the culmination and conclusion that holds excitement for him. With an unabashed twinkle in his eye, he says, “In the lifecycle of a project, there are stages that make me happy and there are stages that I want to run away from! The start excites me, when it’s all coming together, the thoughts that take shape into things and then the last few months, when everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.” And it is this moment, that he calls the most fulfilling, “It is the joy of creation. But joy is still too trivial a term to define what I feel. At the end of the day, we are the designers, not the users. We will not be inhabiting the space. Yet, we build with as much gumption and love, to make something as beautiful and then to pass it on to its rightful owners.” Simply put, as famous poet John Keats wrote, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’, brings felicity to the sentiment that his work holds! 

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