Srila Chatterjee’s South Mumbai home is nothing short of a life-size treasure chest

NOV 23, 2017 | By Mrudul Pathak Kundu and Srila Chatterjee
The living room with old Morvi tiled flooring is the nerve centre of the home. It is peppered with works by varied artists—C Douglas, Anjum Singh, Susheel Soni and Adeela Suleman. Furnishings include a coral Baro sofa, a metal tree of life done by Jaidev Bagher, fabric blinds from Russell Street in Kolkata, a Rekha Rodwittiya canvas, cushions by Anek Designs and the trio of star tables from Contemporary Arts and Crafts. The giant Buddha head was an old find from Chor Bazaar, there’s a Ravinder Reddy head that sits in a big brass thali and the old wooden tiger is from Kerala; Photographs by Fabien Charuau
The living and dining room housing a chandelier and varied artworks; Photographs by Fabien Charuau

Designer and curator Srila Chatterjee and filmmaker Mahesh Mathai’s top floor apartment in an old South Mumbai building is a tightly packed treasure trove of art, travel souvenirs, stories and memories. We give you an insight into their house and how they designed their humble abode…

Back in October 1993, my partner Mahesh and I decided to take a gamble on a space we saw and a life we had imagined within it. It wasn’t in good shape but it was beautiful; the owner wanted to redevelop, but hadn’t done that yet. Our gamble was on five years: It’s been 25 [in 2017] and we’re still in the space we love!

The building is almost 120 years old. It’s a little jewel and creative juices flow out of each doorway. You can make a movie, buy high fashion, invest in fine jewels, get vintage carpets, re-plan a city, style a home, own real book sculptures or get rid of terrible allergies naturally—all within its walls. Transforming an old flat into a modern home came with the advantage of being able to decide what we wanted.

The attic is a spot “most guests never want to leave. We scraped 110 years of paint off the ceiling and left it like that.” The arch windows are the tops of the windows in the room below, and they swivel open. The carpet is a Persian kilim, the wooden chest belonged to Mahesh’s mother and the bed was specially made by Red Blue and Yellow. The yellow and white lape (“thin quilt” in Bengali) is from Russell Street, while the light is an art deco find from Baro. Pinned to ceiling are a trio of Vasudha Thozhur watercolours. On the floor rests a photograph of Che Guevara in his study; Photographs by Fabien Charuau

We wanted big public spaces and smaller private ones, a dining table for 12, a good sized kitchen…and as much of the view as we could get. This home wasn’t created on a computer, nor was there a mock-up or a plan to see. We never poured over drawings and we didn’t have a single scrapbook or mood board. Mahesh got the space done, and then we filled it with things we liked or needed. And when we needed to, we changed them.

“Merill”, a magnificent metal buffalo by Valay Shende, has a commanding presence in the living room corner; Photographs by Fabien Charuau

I believe that things don’t have to last forever, so pieces changed and places also transformed over the years. Spaces changed, so did our needs as we evolved. A little attic, that was once a TV room, is now a guest room with a bath; another bath lost its walls and is now a part of my bedroom.

Chatterjee calls the building staircase leading up to the apartment, their “wall of fame” that tells the story of their lives and people near and dear”; Photographs by Fabien Charuau

I believe homes tell stories—and this one has numerous. There’s a story in each piece of art that has come into our lives; in every change of colour; in every bit that has come back with us from travels: A window from Rio, a picture from Dubrovnik, a light from Istanbul, a scroll from Yangon and so much from so many parts of India. It’s got a different vibe in the day, when the sun is so intense that the blinds stay down, it’s beautiful at sundown when the best light comes flooding in and it’s magical at night with spotlights and chandeliers and lights all over the place.

The study and TV room serves as a second guest room, with a Baro sofa and Tribaels carpet; Photographs by Fabien Charuau

I never grew up in Bombay. I chose to live here, and in a city that has changed drastically over the years, coming home is always a refuge for me. I have space to breathe. It feels comfortable. It’s got great energy. And it truly is beautiful. I never forget how lucky I am!

Scroll below for more images from Srila Chatterjee’s gorgeous home!

Near the arched window are a carved bull skull from Bali, a stone Nandi as well as collars, leashes and toys for their brood of dogs; Photographs by Fabien Charuau


This door near the dining area leads to the attic guest room and is made by Remen Chopra. The steps, hand done in mosaic, were designed by Ila Chatterjee, Srila’s sister, while the painted, mirrored window pane is from Rio de Janeiro. The canvas is by Manjit Bawa; Photographs by Fabien Charuau


A square dining table for 12 is covered in a vintage hand embroidered Gara from China. The chairs are from Baro, each in a different fabric. Also pictured are a chandelier from Chor Bazaar as well as paintings by Jogen Chowdhury, Manjit Bawa, Muralidharan, Shubha Gokhale, Baiju Parthan, Rajeshwar Rao and Sumanto Basak; Photographs by Fabien Charuau


The guest washroom features a brass kadai as a basin and thali for a mirror frame; Photographs by Fabien Charuau


The master bath features a basin fitted into a chest of drawers redone by Baro (seen in the reflection) and an acrylic copy of a cast-iron tub; Photographs by Fabien Charuau


The focal point in this bedroom is the suzani quilt by Anek Designs that has been converted into a bed cover. On the bedside table, a metallic blue Paul Smith elephant bank is a playful addition. Above the bed, a rectangular paper light from Soto Decor, which Srila loves. “I’ve had it like this for almost ten years!” she says; Photographs by Fabien Charuau