Interior designer Amrita Guha’s residence in south Delhi manifests an approach that is strongly pitched on sustainability, Indian heritage and contemporary design
With its understated grandeur and elegance, this is a home that greets you instantly, enveloping you in its warmth with a vibe that is instantaneously positive. Spread over a total area of a little over 4,000 square feet, this south Delhi residence of Amrita Guha and her husband, Shoumik evokes an aesthetic sensibility that’s Indian in its approach but contemporary in its execution. The couple, their two children and Guha’s mother-in-law occupy one of the duplexes of this four-storey residence (with a basement and terrace), while her brother-in-law and his family live in the other. For the interior designer and co-founder of Untitled Design Consultants along with Joya Nandurdikar, this home “is reflective of the philosophy” of her 19-year-old architecture, design and interiors solutions company.
If the interiors are nurtured with bespoke furnishings, objets d’art and paintings, its richness is further enhanced by the tall glass doors and windows that allow sunlight to stream in generously and provide a picturesque view of the leafy foliage of the neighbourhood
It is also a home that celebrates space utilisation, with the adage of form following function changing completely to, as Guha says, “function following form”. But most importantly, this is a home that is a fitting homage to its past glory; the original structure, over 40 years old, was an “architectural marvel in its own right”. New Delhi’s Sumit Ghosh, one of India’s leading architects, had conceived it as a “powerful structure in red brick and concrete”. For a residence that was already so striking, “it was an emotional journey to raze the structure”, confesses Guha. Why, then, the decision to rebuild it? “Each home,” she explains, “has a time span of roughly 20-25 years. Our home had outlived its time”. The growing number of family members, the need to create more functional areas in the given space, the need to conform to the changing times—these considerations allowed all the family members to give their consent to move forward with, but not away from, the old and embrace the new.
The journey of creating this home gave Guha an opportunity to become “my own client”—a responsibility that came with its own challenges. So, even though she could experiment to her heart’s content, she needed to be aware that every decision she took was on behalf of her entire family. And that’s where Nandurdikar, as Guha explains, became her sounding board, “as always. As we do in all our other projects, we approached this home with equal care and attention, focusing on R&D, giving emphasis on spatial planning and thoroughly utilising materials to their full capability,” explains Nandurdikar. It also gave the designers a chance to showcase Indian heritage and local craftsmanship while moving forward with an “environmentally friendly, sustainable approach”, the cornerstones of their company.
Few would dare to have exposed concrete walls and ceilings in their homes but the sheer elegance with which it is presented in Guha’s home is worth noting. Ditto the granite wall in the dining area, which was carefully restored with leftover stone found in quarries. If the slate colour of the stone gleams softly against the yellow lighting in the dining area, in the adjacent living room, the unique chandelier (inspired from the community cooking utensils of Kerala’s Palakkad region) adds another golden hue to the exposed concrete ceiling. A blue-hued cabinet is just another example of how this home re-imagines and reinvents traditional craftsmanship. “We do a lot of R&D in Untitled Design to achieve unique textures and finishes for various bespoke products. In this cabinet, the texture was achieved by melting brass and then patinating the sheet. Later, the patination was taken off from some places on the sheet for the colour to be achieved,” says Guha. And that wasn’t all; artisans from faraway places such as Puducherry and Gujarat were specially brought in to apply their traditional expertise to the spaces. This, of course, came with its own set of challenges. “The lime-wash technique,” explain the designers, “was particularly tricky in that our team from Pondicherry was used to using river sand. What was available in Delhi, however, came with a lot of impurities.” It took a lot of “curing”, and tremendous amounts of trial and error to get it right that led to precious time being lost. Another decision—this time with a team hired for terrazzo flooring—didn’t work out, so Guha tore down the three bedrooms completely and restarted the process with another team altogether! These were just minor roadblocks, though, when compared to the bigger journey of celebrating Indian heritage, sustainability and creating memories. Most importantly, it became a home shorn of any superficiality.
In the 20-month journey towards rebuilding this home, it eventually became, as Guha describes, “a storyline in continuity”. Not breaking away from its past narrative, this home has seized to capture the present in a bid to create timeless memories for the future.
Size: Approximately 4,000 square feet
Style: An innate Indianness that’s contemporary and not traditional; chic yet with a subtle glamour and a holistic, sustainable approach.
Philosophy: Emphasising on Indian heritage and sustainability through the use of environmentally friendly materials.
Favourite materials: “For us, using any material to a potential that has not been tapped becomes our favourite. For example, the stone wall in the dining area was ‘waste’ but we realised a new way of utilising it.”
Favourite crafts: “We have great regard for all of the Indian handicrafts and we have worked with many that have become absolute favourites. Pietra dura or parchinkari, the exquisite inlay technique of using highly polished and coloured stones to create images; Gond art from Madhya Pradesh and its other versions in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha; koftgari from Rajasthan, which is an ornamentation technique used for weaponry; pichhwai paintings also from Rajasthan that traditionally uses the scenes of Krishna to adorn the Nathdwara temple walls; patachitra or cloth-based scroll painting from Odisha that offers visual depictions of mythological and folklore narratives.”
Three thumb rules to follow when designing a home: “Seek expert guidance; do thorough spatial planning; reuse and recycle to create a more eco-friendly home.”
Furniture that was custom-made for the home: Most of the furniture is bespoke but the set of sholar tables are an example of how Untitled Design promotes the revival of Indian handicrafts. Sholar kaaj is integral to eastern India and the Deccan plateau region.
Conversation starter: A bespoke light in the living room with an antique finish is reminiscent of a kadhai or a frying pan used in community cooking. Guha and Nandurdikar found inspiration for this in Kerala where they were completing a project for a resort. They created a prototype in their production unit and installed it in the living room.
Best compliment: “An increasing number of our clients who come home tell us that the residence resonates with the design sensibility and the ethos of Untitled Design—it’s the single-most amazing compliment to hear again and again.”
Pieces they are attached to: In the living room, carefully framed on one of the walls, is Guha’s grandmother’s tapestry, which is easily six decades old.
Favourite space: Guha loves the lounge area on the first floor where the entire family congregates to spend time together.
Abhilasha Ojha is a freelance writer and a professional singer