Sensitivity thrives in the interiors of women’s staff quarters by Shivani Dogra

SEP 29, 2021 | By Anushua Aich
An interaction of shades blue and brown revel in this living space; Photographs by Shivani Dogra
Reflecting an old era, this photo wall enhances the beauty of the dining space; Photographs by Shivani Dogra
This living space is indeed a chic room of pristine designs, with refurbished furniture that is secured from school campus; Photographs by Shivani Dogra
The dense woody tone of the dining space meets the repurposed furniture in the room with rigour; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

Being a woman, and someone who has studied in a boarding school, interior designer Shivani Dogra outlined this project based on joy, simplicity and comfort. The project has also been deemed experimental as the two conservation architects SECTION CC and Ajaydeep Singh Jamwal, in collaboration with Dogra, decided to revive, recycle and restore a historic building with less conventional furniture.

The quarters for women’s staff at Scindia, Gwalior overlooks quietude. The building inhabiting these quarters is not only a reconstructed part of the Gwalior fort but was also known as the Raj era ammunition depot. The area that this entire building structure takes up is 6000 sq ft. 

One of the design forms that has been retrieved carefully, acknowledging its original essence, is the Raj era form. Ashlar masonry design emerges to be one of them too. Besides, the other main structural changes includes toilet blocks at the rear end of the building, sandblasting the walls to reveal the beautiful Ashlar masonry and placing a corrugated metal sheet roof.

A view of the minimal dining space adjoining the kitchen with accessories like the clock and the old railway light evoke the vintage times as they are sourced from the school storeroom; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

One of the most significant attractions of this project is studio-based quarters for the young women staff. “I’d lived most my life in a boarding school or hostel and I recalled that one of the main aspects that determined a comfortable and happy stay were the rooms I lived in. I thought of how the young women staff occupying these spaces would want to feel whilst living in them,” reminisced Dogra. 

The headboard on bed is repurposed from an old balcony railing; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

Each studio features a unit of different colour and shade. The first door opens into a yellow and black themed studio, the second exhibits a cherry pink studio, the third a muted brown, the fourth an orange and navy, the fifth featuring a green studio and the last unit is a multicoloured one. Indeed, these colours unfold as an ode to the multiple tones of green that trees like Keekar and palm have, the lively pink of Bougainvillea—largely bringing to the fore the kind of dry vegetation found in Gwalior.

Sourced from a local antiques vendor and refurbished in Delhi, the grey couch appears distinct amidst shades of browns; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

Each space, ranging from living area to the bedroom, upholds the emotions of ‘joy, simplicity and comfort’, which initially Dogra started designing with. On either side of the studio sits the living room and the dining space. The kitchen adjoins the dining space, which also faces the bedroom. And a small L-shaped wall separates the bedroom from these spaces. 

Standing at the height of 5.5 metres, are ceilings, with vents and air based cooling systems that keeps the rooms cool during summer. 

Prettiest of all, this dining space is immersed in shades of pink. The chairs with the yellow metal legs are refurbished, so are the table and the corner stand; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

“I enjoyed designing the green and white studio the most. There is something extremely comforting about working with green and it lends itself beautifully to lime washed walls. I also enjoyed going through the archival photographs of Scindia school and choosing pictures from them that we could use for these units. This project allowed one to escape momentarily into the school’s past and experience briefly the world of it’s older students and traditions”, expressed Dogra, as she made clear that her choice of colours of the room is determined by the kitchen handmade tiles that have been sourced from Delhi. In the meantime, she also stated that she wanted to keep the finishes of the furniture as basic as possible as the building lent itself to a rustic aesthetic.

Bed adorned with this beautiful counterpane as well as the soft red cotton rugs are sourced from fabric markets in Delhi. It has been made in the school campus with wood procured from the vicinity and the quintessential railway lights by its side were found in school storerooms; Photograph by Shivani Dogra

The multicoloured studio was an uphill task to design. “I found that working with multiple colours such as the burnt orange and blue were more challenging, as we were working within a deadline and a well done multicoloured space takes time to put together,” mused Dogra.

The arm chairs with orange cushions and upholstery were sourced from the school storeroom and refurbished; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

At the core of this project, is grounded a powerful design learning, which is based on sustainability and judicious use of school property to build these charming quarters for the women staff at Scindia, Gwalior. Ranging between sourcing furniture and lights from school storerooms to turning wooden planks found in school campus into kitchen shutters; all were directed at where the use of the artificial was minimal.

Scroll down to see more glimpses of the space—

On bed, this gorgeous red cotton block-printed bedspread is sourced from local fabric market of Delhi. Made with wood found in the school storeroom, the bed brings forth comfort, complementing the wooden crib next to it that was also found in the school campus; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Refurbished classroom chairs and tools adorn this dining space that adjoins the kitchen too. The glass bottles have been secured from school storerooms; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The classic black and white photo wall features old photographs of students at Scindia school. The dining chairs are classroom chairs, which were found in the storeroom. Unpainted seats and backs with metal legs lends a basic yet appealing finish to the chairs; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


This green couch, which was repurposed at the campus, alongside the two-seater, summons contrast in the living space. The centre table, which is made from planks of wood found in the school campus, enhances the simplicity of the rug that is custom woven in Bhadohi by IDUKI; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Living in harmony with the whitewashed wall, are the rug and counterpane, which are both from IDUKI; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The campus-found wooden chairs and table seem to establish a bond with the door and the frame on lime washed walls, which were picked from a thrift store in Delhi; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The pottery perched above the wooden cabinet adds charm to the dining space; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The table which is made at the school site from discarded planks of wood exudes grandeur at the backdrop of a ashlar masonry wall; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


With shutters made from campus wood, this kitchen lends a contemporary yet crude finish to the handmade tiles, which have been made in Delhi; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


A beautifully crafted headboard, made from the remains of a boundary wall at the school campus; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Rugs from IDUKI, alongside repurposed school furniture adds elegance in the living space; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Glass bottles and jugs of different shapes and sizes are sourced from the school storeroom, Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The lamp that draws attention to the setting of the living room is secured from school storeroom; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Refurbished furniture adorns this burnt orange and navy studio; Photograph by Shivani Dogra


This check patterned tablecloth from IDUKI complements the rest of the colours of the dining space; Photograph by Shivani Dogra


Headboard stones, borrowed from a boundary wall being built in the school campus, accentuates the shades of both the counterpane and the cotton curtains that were that were sourced from a local fabric market; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


The lime washed walls feature thought provoking pictures of the school and the old Gwalior Fort; Photograph by Shivani Dogra


Chairs secured from campus and refurbished with bright yellow metallic legs greet the dining area with liveliness; Photographs by Shivani Dogra


Multi coloured embellished cotton rugs are sourced from IDUKI and the upholstery adorning the arm chairs and sofa were brought from local fabric markets of Delhi. All the furniture in view was refurbished at the school site; Photographs by Shivani Dogra

If this space makes your soul happy, make sure you check out this family home designed by D’WELL!