The Nouveau Calcutta: Ajay Arya of A Square Designs reveals the calculated eccentricity of crafting his first home in Alipore
DEC 6, 2023 | By Pratishtha Rana
The Kolkata I’d seen almost two decades ago was still finding its ground in the early 2000s, fervently and perseveringly so. The former capital of colonial India, old ‘Calcutta’ had then recently been renamed ‘Kolkata’, and the post-90s’ urban awakening looked everyone right in the eye. Nouveau-style, high-rise edifices, serpentine flyovers, high-end boutiques and upscale eateries were actively in construction. This studious realisation was the consequence of my return here, many years later in 2023. While architecturally, the spirit of the city often mumbles its neoclassical influences, the new Kolkata’s dwellings evidently don an evolved hat. They are intrepidly modern, glamorous and may I say, cosmopolitan. But it’s only natural.
Given the rising, well-travelled troupe of homeowners who call Kolkata their home. Amidst it all, interior designer Ajay Arya’s home in Alipore, the premier Southern locale, exemplifies the sentiments of modern dwellers the best. As he likes to call it, “the new-age Indian urban home.”
A largely undisturbed, quiet lane dotted with bamboo palisades navigates to a grand building that engulfs his duplex on the second floor, spread out 4,000 sq ft carpet area. Deliberate observations tell me that this home is a playground of perceptions — one sees what they are seeking at a specific moment.
Be it the glorious, colourful artworks, traditional sculptures and layered foliage or neutral aesthetics, luxurious surface finishes and contemporary collectibles. It was two years of keen search before Ajay, his wife Sweta, teenage son Aarav and his paternal grandparents, finally stumbled upon this residence.
A first home completely bought and designed by Ajay himself, he excitedly narrates, “It checked most of our boxes. We wanted to have four rooms and we wanted it to be sectioned. Since it’s a duplex, my and my son’s room is on the upper floor.
Ajay, whose interior works are primarily synonymous to an exquisite, ostentatious identity, his Kolkata cove commands a different demeanour. It speaks of panache, but reasonably so. It drips grandeur, but timelessly so. And its double-height ceiling in the formal living room studded with nothing but a pristine Murano chandelier is a clear example. “We didn’t want a very elaborate or over-the-top home. Our base material colour is very light. I wanted to keep our interior palette very restricted and balanced,” he asserts.
With the walls dressed in light pale and sage green, sans much cladding and panelling, he used real silk wallpapers to highlight some key areas. Rejecting any ideas to build another room above the living room, the double-height ceiling was Ajay’s way of working with bigger proportions and more volume — a rarity in urban apartments. “The whole perception of luxury is changing. It doesn’t really mean that luxury has to be super opulent or super metallic.
Having space and playing with volumes is luxury in its own way,” he surmises. While every object holds its place in the living area, the towering artwork by Dhaka-based artist Vinita Karim on the main wall continues to beguile, who the designer has known for years and commissioned this abstract piece, especially for the new home. Eyes keep gaping upwards, only to meet another magnum opus. The delicately curled, liquid-finish staircase railing offset with lustrous white Michelangelo Marble flooring from Portugal.
The dining room, too, cross-examines the notions of modern spaces through Ajay’s lens with jovial illustrations of Jaipur’s gardens, temples and palaces directly hand-painted on the background wall by Jit Chowdhury and team. Leaping beyond the confines of Scandinavian minimalism, he urges young minds to envision traditional-Indian with a more open-minded, fresh approach.
As for the art, tip-toeing from one room to the other, a subconscious story of tropicals and mythology stitches itself together, hinting at a hidden connection of the homeowner’s intuitive choices that eventually decide the new-age home’s disposition in the present and years to come.