Homes

This quaint New Delhi home is a treasure trove of myriad artefacts

SEP 4, 2018 | By Sonia Dutt and Roger Chen
A military green colour scheme was chosen for the apartment as it complemented the earth tones and dark palette of Roger’s collection of antiques and objets. In one corner of the living room stands a pillar with carvings found in Gujarat. This is accompanied by an alabaster Buddha statuette from Burma and a ceiling fixture from the Khan el-Khalili souk in Cairo that features elaborate, hand cut geometric patterns hammered into brass. The coffee table, armchair and fur cubes are some of his custom designs that were fabricated in Beijing and New Delhi; Photographs by Amit Mehra
A similar carriage-like elm bed from Ningbo, China was one of his discoveries while shopping in Shanghai in the late ‘90s. On one side is a rare Chinese art deco chair with a rattan seat; Photographs by Amit Mehra
The master bedroom has a minimalist aesthetic. The table and floor lamps next to the bed are fashioned out of old Egyptian sheesha pipes. A wood cut print titled College Road by Chennai artist Vijay Pichumani covers one wall, supplemented by statues that are Khmer-style reproductions. A Bhutanese prayer mask of a deer sits atop a Ming Chinese elm cabinet; Photographs by Amit Mehra
The guest bedroom houses a Chinese canopy bed with exquisite carved panels, latticework and traditional motifs including palace scenes with maidens and floral carvings. Coincidentally, the tie rack installed on the wall incorporates complementing embellishments; Photographs by Amit Mehra

My career over the past 25 years as a diplomat has allowed me to explore exotic, culturally rich countries. I was based for two to three years at a time in Jakarta, Kuwait, Shanghai, Sao Paulo,Cairo, Beijing, and now in New Delhi. I wanted my home to reflect the traditions and aesthetic heritage of diverse 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.

These etageres, with camel bone inlay accents, were designed by Roger and fabricated by a craftsman in Cairo. Featuring an Arabesque aesthetic and Mashrabiya latticework, this assembly showcases knick-knacks like antique Bedouin jewellery, Chinese seals, Jordanian ceremonial daggers, antique Chinese embroidered shoes and hair ornaments from minority tribes in China; Photographs by Amit Mehra

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 to create over the first month or two of settling in a new living space using my furnishings and artefacts in different juxtapositions, new colour schemes for walls, and new finds during my time in that country.

Sitting atop an ornate bridal chest from South India are rare pieces like a headdress with intricate birds and flowers carved out of tin and a necklace from the Miao minority tribe in China, a Bedouin diadem adorned with carnelian inlays and a Syrian Jambiya dagger; Photographs by Amit Mehra

Anchored by my usual preference for a muted palette such as charcoal, dove grey, ecru or taupe, over the years my aesthetic is usually to showcase art objects and let the eye wander. I have a penchant for sculptures and three-dimensional objects rather than art hanging on walls. The furniture, much of which I designed myself, tends to be contemporary in lines and minimalist in shape, while the objects I am attracted to are usually extravagant, ethnic and evocative with respect to the stories and history of that culture which are suggested from the appearance and patina.

Continuing the overall theme, eight different chairs from various warehouses in Beijing are paired with a selfdesigned, contemporary table that mimicked the angular design aesthetic of archaic Chinese furniture. A lamp fashioned out of a bird cage, a ceiling light fixture from Cairo which included wooden and wrought iron egg shapes, a Tibetan chest with a hunting scene, a majestic peacock replica found in Beijing and Thai Celadon dinnerware complete the dining room setup; Photographs by Amit Mehra

During these past three years in India, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hunting for period pieces which represent the rich and ornate artisan traditions for which the country is renowned. From an antique pillar from Gujarat to temple chariot panels from Kerala, to bracelets from Orissa and half completed sketches for miniature Moghul paintings from Rajasthan, not only has my decor collection been enriched, but my travels and vivid memories from my time here have left their indelible marks as life experiences.