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Social media was the design aid for this cosy Mumbai apartment

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When Arjun S Ravi describes his wife Samira Kanwar as Neo from The Matrix, it has nothing to do with her skill as a time-space bending fighter. He is just in awe of her ability to look at an old, run-down apartment in Mumbai and visualise a cosy home in the Scandinavian ‘hygge’ style. “It’s like that scene when Neo walks in and everything is green and numbers are around him and he is enlightened… Samira is like that when she sees a home that needs a makeover,” says Arjun. 

The young couple bought their dream home in 2019, when it was just a shell of a space that needed extensive work and they were excited to start. But as luck would have it, a global pandemic was called. The interior design was stalled for months, but that didn’t deter this Neo of home makeovers. As the world, and both of them, continued to work from home, amateur interior designer Samira actually got more time to solidify her vision of the new home. In her job as the Vice President of content for Vice Asia-Pacific she was already proficient in PowerPoint presentations, while Instagram and Pinterest became her source for ideas and information, new products and designers. “This allowed me to really go deep into the interwebs and find many indie Indian brands that do some really interesting décor styles. A lot of my references on social media were global,” says Samira. As the days went on, she had a mood board and presentation ready for every room in the house with all minute details in place. All that remained was the execution.

We spoke to the couple about the process of designing a home without the help of an interior designer, during a global pandemic. Edited excerpts:

Beautiful Homes: What kind of vibe did you want to create for your home?

Hall design with pink textured walls & wood paneling - Beautiful Homes

"I wanted to make a 'statement' corridor. Another artist I adore on Instagram is Justina Blakeney. Mermaids are my spirit magical creature and Justina's artwork just fit here perfectly,” says Samira. The 'Get in there Lewis' sign is part of the study/gaming room and refers to a phrase that race car driver Lewis Hamiltons' team says to him as words of encouragement.

Samira: Arjun and I work a lot. So our house is not only a sanctuary, but it's meant to feel the way you do when you walk into your hotel on a beach holiday. You're like—yes, now it's time to relax. My references to create this vibe were from the Danish idea of ‘hygge’, this comfortable cosiness in the home, which I discovered on social media. In fact, often when we are on holiday, we can't wait to be back to our own bed!

Arjun S Ravi and Samira Kanwar, a young couple, bought their dream home in 2019 when it was still a rundown shell that required substantial maintenance, but as luck would have it, the global pandemic struck. But having the whole work stalled for months didn't stop Samira from envisioning the new home. With her ability to see a quaint, Scandinavian-style home in an old apartment, Samira said that she found her inspiration in the Danish concept of "hygge," which refers to a cozy atmosphere in the home. She sought inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest making it her source for ideas and information that helped her incorporate really interesting décor styles like adding Indian handicraft décor pieces and art pieces that are a mix of Indian and international artists.

BH: In what ways did social media provide inspiration?

Samira: A house like this and having a space to display things was a big deal for me. So I was doing a lot of research online. I found many beautiful homes internationally, but soon I started finding many Indian DIY home designers. Through them I discovered other Indian brands that are doing some amazing décor pieces and art. Now it feels like there's a community being created, of people with homes that are not traditionally Indian and brands that use Indian handicraft makers to create contemporary looking pieces. People tag them on Instagram and it's like a treasure trove of fun, interesting things to be found.

Wall shelves with accent lights - Beautiful Homes

There have been many versions of what Samira displays on this shelf. The artwork here is from Nook at You.

White shelf with string lights - Beautiful Homes

Every item displayed has a memory attached to it. The artwork on the top shelf is by a street artist in Coratia that Arjun bought for Samira as a gift while travelling.

Bedroom design with minimalist décor - Beautiful Homes

Samira’s idea for the guest bedroom was to make it so that the guests feel like they are on holiday. She found this artwork on Calcuttan Art gallery that she obviously discovered through Instagram.

BH: How did the both of you demarcate personal spaces in this home?

Arjun: During the pandemic and even post that we are seeing the office come home. When we were designing the house, we knew that we wanted to keep a small study area specifically suited towards my work and play style. I love Formula One and video games and I have a steering wheel setup that I wanted to fit in this house. I wanted to have an area where I could store the guitars and amps, and workout. So when we were working with the contractor to do this, everything was designed exactly to my needs.

Samira: And we created a coffee bar for Arjun recently so he can indulge in his coffee habit, a pandemic-era acquisition. Since I designed the whole house, everything is in my aesthetic, so I wanted to give him a space to express himself. The bedroom is my safe space—a sanctuary with calming colours.

Living room design with sectional sofa set, coffee table & wall art - Beautiful Homes

Samira started collecting art for her gallery wall about a year before the house was ready. “I am drawn to Nordic décor styles including artwork. The artwork here is from a store I absolutely love called Fine Little Day in Sweden. The wall also features a Sameer Kulavoor original.”

BH: Tell us about the art in your home.

Samira: In my head the artworks set the tonality of the house and the feeling that I want to create. The art in the house is a mix of Indian and international artists. We know a few Indian artists whose artwork both my husband and I love. We have original prints of pieces by Sameer Kulavoor and Sukraat Tiwari. Sid Gandhi's art piece is special to me because he saw some pictures of my house online and sent over an original art piece of his as a gift because he thought it would look great in the house—and it does! Instagram has been my virtual store when it comes to the rest of the art in our home. I am drawn to art—created by women artists—where women are the subject. I have pieces that span the world— Kimmy Hogan from Australia, Giselle Dekel from Belgium, and Justina Blakeney from the USA. Because I'm very 

inspired by Nordic design, I follow these little bespoke art stores on Instagram that are located in far-flung places like a corner of Sweden. There's a lot of artwork that my mother's brother, who is no longer with us, had created when he was young. These are pieces that are especially important to me, and all of my family have pieces of his art in our homes.

BH: What about the storage?

Samira: I designed all the furniture here. I drew things always thinking about what needs to be stored in every room of the house. Then I started looking at what furniture I would need in order to have that much storage. I would go on Instagram to research products that I like with the amount of storage that I thought we needed. Now we have a lot of storage, but it's never enough for some reason.

BH: What does your home mean to you?

Arjun: We spend the most amount of time in our house—especially now. For me, this home is family. It's us. It’s my life with my wife and my cats. That's what this house is, every aspect of it, because it's so bespoke. Everything has been created to just meet our specific likes and wants.

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