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Singer Sona Mohapatra’s apartment is a whimsical cabinet of curiosities

By Ela Das

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“I think the key to a happy marriage is separate bedrooms!” exclaims singer-songwriter Sona Mohapatra, quickly realising this could be misconstrued to fuel rumours about hers. But for her and her husband, music composer and producer Ram Sampath, this luxury allows them to not disturb each other between erratic and conflicting work schedules and travel. Between the two of them, they share a duplex apartment in a sky rise in Mumbai, designed by their long-time friend, interior designer Tejal Mathur.

With a style that is a riot of dramatic textures, bold colours and Indian handicrafts, Mathur’s designs have held a prominent space in eateries across the country, such as Pali Village Cafe, The Nutcracker and Dear Donna. “We first met around 15 years ago, when I styled Ram’s ancestral home,” she recalls. “Sona’s always wanted a space that would suit and reflect her personality and style of living. She didn’t want any conventional structures in the house—it was more important to enjoy a room by herself or with the few close friends she likes having over.”
 

The beloved Singer-songwriter Sona Mohapatra opens up the doors of her house, where she resides with her singer-composer husband Ram Sampath, which displays a style that is a riot of dramatic textures, and bold colours and Indian handicrafts. Sona always wanted a space that would suit and reflect her personality and style of living. She didn’t want any conventional structures in the house—it was more important to enjoy a room by herself or with the few close friends she likes having over!


CURIOUSITY AND WONDER

Perhaps the first space we notice this is in is the dining room across the living room, where a large wooden swing serves as seating across one side. “As a child I was very curious, exploring places to find little corners and surprises, which you don’t find in homes in Bombay where space is a constraint. So it’s a thrill to have a home where a bunch of things are awkward, like this dining table, where you can’t directly access the swing seating area. While it was being made, an architect friend called it a huge flaw, pointing out, “You can’t take a whole roundabout to go to the other side to sit.” I remember calling Tejal laughing about it, saying, ‘What do they know? We are not normal like that!’,”

When the couple bought the home, it was in mint condition like any other newly constructed apartment in the city with marble floors, tall windows, ample sunlight and a well-thought-out floor plan. “It disturbed me,” shudders Mathur when thinking about the large white marble staircase that connected the two floors. “I wanted to bring some life into this very deadpan double-height space, along with warmth and a sense of Indian-ness. A mix of stained glass interspersed between the windows with a mix of large and small artworks were placed along the walls to come alive as you walk up. At the time I also found antique planks of ship wood that had aged beautifully. It had been treated and seasoned to withstand just about anything—we could all get wiped out one day, but this staircase will still be here in all its glory,” she declares.

For Mathur, a large part of her work in bringing a homeowner’s vision to life is understanding the nuances in their brief. “It’s what they don’t say that matters. To expand on someone else’s ideas, you must look at their emotional responses around different styles—take cues from the things they aren’t able to explain,” she relates. While most homeowners would be averse to bringing in what Mathur describes as broken beauty in their homes, Mohapatra and her husband celebrated it. “Something that’s aged and stood the sands of time has a deep story. There’s beauty in sturdiness,” describes Mohapatra. 
 

Cane Chairs With Wooden Dining Table Attached To Wall - Beautiful Homes

Copper wire chairs and a wooden swing, fondly christened ‘Maitreyi’, surround the wooden dining table, where a single plank of solid wood supported between a wall and a column gives the illusion of floating without legs. A wall with aged mirror laid out in a brick pattern opens up the space.

Vintage Stained Glass Windows In A Well-lit Atrium - Beautiful Homes

The couple’s large collection of Indian folk art hangs around the stairway. In this well-lit atrium, as Mathur describes it, vintage stained glass windows seep the room in hues that change with the light of the day.

Artwork Hanging Over A Cement Sheet Wall - Beautiful Homes

A Madhubani painting hangs on a cement-sheet wall, which gets hidden when the projection screen (above) unfolds. A trunk by Ironworks doubles as a side table.

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

The couple wanted a mix of styles playing around their home with nothing modern or contemporary. Each space had to look lived-in and bespoke with every corner different from the other. “Ram’s older home had these gorgeous teak doors, which she was keen on adding to this home. I’d never seen them before but I knew they’d work. We added French handles in cast iron to give them a whimsical update.”

Mohapatra is also a compulsive home décor shopper and collector, and a true aesthete as Mathur describes. “I can’t resist picking up things every time I travel. I’ll buy them and figure out where to place them around the house later,” laughs Mohapatra. Moving upstairs (which houses the couple’s bedrooms) we start to see this come to life. Her husband’s space is more pared-down and minimal, with ample concealed storage and everything systematically organised to be within quick reach. Her’s, on the other hand, is like Aladdin’s cave, as Mathur describes. “It’s a universe. The biggest room in the home was given to her to accommodate the clothes and pieces she’s collected through her career.”

“This house is a combination of a lot of memories of my travels. My first show overseas was at The Raffles Hotel in Singapore. I 

Pastel Walls In A Black & White Tile Bedroom - Beautiful Homes

Reminiscent of a verandah in a heritage home, an area in Mohapatra’s bedroom has been visually segregated with antique panels of wood, iron brackets, and black-and-white tiled flooring. Pastel walls echo the femininity of the French-styled cane bed.

remember seeing black and white tiles on the floor and wanting them in my own home.” Today, you’ll find a strip of them in an area in her bedroom that’s separated as an enclosed balcony flanked by antique doors from her older home.

The room that truly comes to life is her walk-in wardrobe, where racks and shelves of glamorous and bedazzled outfits pour out of every corner. “I’m a performing artist—I wear everything in here!” Mohapatra promises. The space also includes a desk in a far corner where she spent most of the pandemic recording music and hosting live videos every day.

Lovingly christened ‘Tarasha’, the home’s name is a portmanteau of Mohapatra and Sampath’s mother’s names—Tara and Asha. “Everything in my home has a name—it’s never seen as an inanimate object. I’m a fauji kid who changed homes every three to four years, so I’m almost tuned to not feeling settled or rooted. I feel I must move every now and then, but this home makes me feel like I’m at home,” she proudly beams.
 

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