A Guwahati home designed to recollect fairy tales and romance


The Internet is filled with images of perfect interior design. And that’s as true of the Indian Internet (yes, I know there’s no such thing, but you know what I mean) as it is of international design platforms. Flawlessly coiffed spaces with the right contemporary art, trendy lighting, furniture from design galleries—there’s lots of aspirational gorgeousness in magazines and on websites. What is much harder to find, because it is so difficult to explain, are spaces with a strong character. Homes where the design tells the story about the way a person looks at life. Homes where you look in and wonder, “Why did they do that?” 
 

There’s lots of aspirational gorgeousness in magazines and on websites. What is much harder to find, because it is truly rare and harder to explain, are spaces with character, with personality. Korobi Das’ home in Guwahati is a place like that. It reflects a derivative style, her collectors’ zeal to buy, and her fastidiousness as a homemaker.


Korobi Das’ home in Guwahati is a place like that. When I first saw pictures of her house, I wanted to know who she was, how she’d created that look and, most importantly, why she’d styled it that way. Because, Korobi’s home, though it is located in a busy suburban neighbourhood in the largest metropolis of the northeastern region i.e. Guwahati, it looks 

like a charming vintage illustration come to life. An old-world, English, Romantic illustration. It appears like the setting of a Barbara Cartland novel, waiting for a historical romance to come to life in its midst. All through the two-storey house, there are insignias of a by-gone anglophone era, and the tactile embellishments of such a world—lace, frills, embroidery—all exist in abundance. “I like vintage European style,” says Korobi, mother to two adult boys. “My home is like a fairytale, where everything is dreamy, and beautiful.”

Korobi has been in this home for 30 years now, since the time she moved to Guwahati from Shillong. To maintain such a specific style for so long, adding only pieces that maintain the original design is a feat of exactitude. Usually when individuals design their own homes, they begin with an idea of what they like but then attention wanders, impulsive purchases find their way in, disinterest takes hold and then suddenly, the home is no longer one specific 

Korobi Das sitting in her garden surrounded by colourful flowers

Veranda with an outdoor sofa set in white along with wooden shelves for plants.

style, rather it is many different objects sitting in one house. However, in Korobi’s home, every single room, from living till bath and kitchen, follows a singular sensibility. 
 

A victorian mirror placed in the corner of a bedroom with white furniture and a wooden cabinet

A Victorian-design inspired dressing table corner with a stool.

SEEN UNSEEN
You may think that the style of this home was cultivated by a person who loves the English countryside. That perhaps Korobi’s love for Victoriana symbols and accessories is extreme holiday hangover. Maybe she visits England regularly and updates her collectibles. Actually, Korobi has never left the country. She suffers from acute claustrophobia and associatively, she hates flying. So, Bangalore is the farthest she’s ever been from Guwahati. “When I was younger, my mother used to get foreign home catalogues and the images I saw in those publications were of an old-world decorating style, and I loved it,” she says. “I always told myself that when I finally get to decorate my own home, I’ll do it in that sort of style.” So Korobi’s house is a fantasy that she’s made real. A totally romantic dream she’s constructed into reality.

When Korobi got married three decades ago, in the tradition of Assamese culture, her parents gifted her some classic hardwood furniture, which became her first prototype set. She says she stripped the pieces down and painted them white to reflect the aesthetic she wanted. Then she made reproductions from published images and over the years, she’s referenced photos 

sent over by her aunt and niece who live in America. Friends admired her work, because it was an unusual aesthetic in that market, and asked Korobi to present some furniture in an exhibition. “The workers then had no idea how to create a curved leg, but we kept experimenting and eventually we got it right,” she says. And that’s how she got into the furniture business. Her company Craftique is now more than 20 years old.
 

DIFFERENT SIDES OF ONE
This sort of space isn’t for everyone. It cannot even be done without a certain fixation on one particular style. It reflects just this one person’s story and her inclinations, which includes a love for Barbara Cartland novels and Bollywood songs. Is it derivative, like a page from a book come to life? Yes, it is. But it also reveals her fastidiousness as a homemaker. There 

are layers and layers of precious objects all over, from floor to walls, but everything is in good condition. No shadows of dust, no cracked china, and all the fabric is well-tended. You wonder how some of the objects even managed to find a spot. “My family often exclaims ‘how can you fit more things in’,” she says laughing, “but if you care about something then you’ll find a place for it.” It is difficult to see anyone maintain this level of upkeep without a certain devotion to doing it. It isn’t surprising then to learn that Korobi does a lot of the housekeeping herself. As an extra measure, she’s got blue tack hiding under most things.

Does she ever change the style? No, she says firmly. That’s not her way. “When I was young, I had an idea of my dream home, but then I like it to come together quickly,” she says. “Plan everything, put it all together, so that I will wake up and it will be there, perfect.” 

A white table and a sofa placed next to a staircase with a lot of painted plates hung on the wall behind the sofa

A corner with a piece of low-seat piece; its legs are covered with frill accents. Behind it, there’s an accent wall of decor.


When you look at Korobi and juxtapose it against the home she’s created, the contradictions are so interesting: A Romantic, flowery, soft setting for a meticulous and highly disciplined businesswoman with a penchant for Assam’s signature Mekhela Chador saris. Both restraint and extravagance in the same person, and in one house. It is Korobi’s Das’ “fairytale” home. The Internet hasn’t seen anything like it yet.
 

Photographs

Isha Shah

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