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Designer Sarah Sham’s home renovation is the before/after we can all learn from

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When interior designer Sarah Sham tells me the story behind finding and designing her current home, it feels like destiny brought them to each other. A crumbling apartment, unoccupied for 25 years, in a building from the 70s could only be an attractive choice for an interior designer. Where other people would only see the decrepit, Sarah saw promise. “The house had been closed up for so many years that when we came to see the place, we literally had to kick the doors down,” she laughs. “The place was in shambles and the owners were very conscious about showing it to us. But I told her I am an interior designer and to just let me see it.”

Watch designer Sarah Sham's fabulous home makeover

Sarah knew the condition of the space was bad, but what she didn’t expect when she kicked the door down was the abundant natural light in the whole house. “My husband and I just looked at it and instantly fell in love. Obviously, it was a dump, but the bones were just too beautiful.” They didn’t see a single house after that and Sarah made the owners an offer they couldn’t refuse–she’d renovate the space using her expertise but at their preferred budget. “Next day we just closed the whole deal. It was the weirdest experience ever to get a house.”

The renovation was always going to happen on a tight budget. While the landlady had an amount in mind, Sarah also didn’t want to spend too much on an apartment she wasn’t going to occupy for long. “The landlady said she could spend 15 lakhs to fix the kitchen, three washrooms, all the flooring, carpentry, electrical etc. When we were making the contract, I asked her to give the money to me so that I could spend it as I liked,” says Sarah.

She and her husband spent another five lakhs of their own to furnish the house. Of course, as an interior designer she did get better rates from contractors and other vendors involved and managed to get the entire shell ready in that amount. Forty-five days later she moved into her new home with her husband Mustafa Ghouse, dog Steffi and cat Dali. When you see their two-bedroom apartment at first, the adjectives to best describe the space are - bright, airy and green.  As you look closer you notice the terrazzo floor, the archway in the living room interior design, the sleek furniture mostly from IKEA and Urban Ladder, the quirky artwork on the walls. The home is now exactly what Sarah planned it to be–contemporary yet keeping the old world charm of Mumbai apartments from the 70s intact. 

Bright living room with big dining table in glass and wood, wooden art piece and several big indoor plants - Beautiful Homes

The archway in the living room already existed and Sarah decided to keep it as it is.

“I think if I was left to my own devices it would be much more contemporary, but this building is from the 70s and so the shell of the space was set. It’s got the terrazzo floors, the teakwood framing on the windows and doors, the archway in the living room, and I kind of went with this vibe,” says Sarah. But she is also quick to admit that the feeling of warmth in her home can largely be attributed to the shell and not to her stuff. “Just the amount of wood used here, the light, the flooring is, that in itself sets the entire mood,” she says.

Living room with two big windows, wooden midcentury furniture chairs and TV stand, two green sofas with patterned cushions - Beautiful Homes

Picking up on the green chips in the terrazzo flooring and the trees around the apartment, Sarah planned the palette for her interiors.

While designing any home, context is everything for Sarah. So, when planning the décor of this space she decided to take her cues from the home itself. Picking up on the green chips in the terrazzo flooring and the trees around the apartment, she planned her palette. “It became clear that green would be the colour theme for this house,” she says. With a big green couch surrounded by plants of all sizes and bright floral cushion covers, a balcony that overlooks trees, the living room is the sanctuary you need in a city like Mumbai. “I wanted the living room to feel like a jungle,” she says. “I like that the space is warm and easy to maintain. I want to come home and feel like I can put my feet everywhere. Plus, I have this brat (Steffi) who gets everything dirty, and I don’t want to be constantly thinking about maintenance.”

Like chefs who rarely cook in their own home, does a designer prefer not to pay as much attention to her own home? Sarah both agrees and disagrees. “When making my home I want to get every detail right but don’t want to be bothered with daily maintenance. I am talking about other people’s home all day at work, when I come back to mine, I don’t want to think about all of that. I will live with a broken bulb for days,” she laughs.

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