Roger Chen shares the stories behind the artefacts he’s collected over the 25 years of his globetrotting career as a diplomat
SEP 4, 2018 | By Sonia Dutt and Roger Chen
My career over the past 25 years as a diplomat has allowed me to explore a number of culturally rich countries. I was based for a few years in Jakarta, Kuwait, Shanghai, São Paulo, Cairo, Beijing, and now in New Delhi—and I wanted my home to reflect the traditions and aesthetic heritage of the cultures in which I’ve had the pleasure of being immersed.
I have been able to travel, document by photography, and bring home art, handicrafts and objets d’art which serendipity helped me find.
I feel a sense of real pleasure when forms, shapes and patterns somehow connect in objects and furnishings which were purchased years apart, from different corners of the world. Each time I start an assignment at a new location, I relish with excitement the opportunity (over the first month or two of settling in a new living space) to place my furnishings and artefacts in different juxtapositions, new colour schemes for walls, and new finds during my time in that country.
I prefer a muted palette such as charcoal, dove grey, ecru or taupe. And, over the years, my aesthetic has developed towards showcasing art objects and let the eye wander. I have a penchant for sculptures and 3D objects rather than wall-mounted works.
The furniture, much of which I designed myself, is contemporary and minimalist, while the objects I am attracted to are usually extravagant, ethnic and evocative with respect to the stories and history of that culture that are suggested from the appearance and patina.
During my three years in India, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hunting for period pieces, which represent the country’s rich and ornate artisan traditions. An antique pillar from Gujarat, temple chariot panels from Kerala, bracelets from Orissa and half-completed sketches for miniature Mughal paintings from Rajasthan—not only has my decor collection been enriched but my travels and vivid memories here have left indelible marks as life experiences.