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Indianisms in interior design

  • Indian Interior Design
By Nikitha Sunil
6 min read
Sep 21, 2022
Traditional living room décor with platform seating - Beautiful Homes

Elements of interior design that are identifiably Indian in nature

When we think of Indian design, our mind usually goes straight to architectural works. But there are in our vernacular design language, elements and features that have become almost emblematic of ethnic interior design. These features are rooted in cultural nuances, geography and a practical approach to problem-solving. There are many examples, but we’ve listed some of our favorites, based on its continued popularity in contemporary homes.

The Prayer Room

Prayer rooms or at least a little niche for the favourite gods of the house were once a ubiquitous feature of Indian homes. As homes became smaller, these spaces for introspection have also changed in character, but to make up for the reduction in space, the prayer room today is also a site for luxurious design interventions. In addition to being a space for spiritual practice, it must also essentially contain storage for its accouterments, such as books, candles, incense sticks and other objects.

Pooja room in Indian home design -Beautiful Homes

A dedicated space for offering prayers inside Indian homes. Image courtesy, Two Storey Design Studio

 

 

Courtyard design for an Indian house - Beautiful Homes

A traditionally designed courtyard inside North-Indian homes. Image courtesy, The Samode Haveli, Jaipur

The Courtyard

Be it Kerala, Gujarat, West Bengal or Ladakh, courtyards have always been a prominent feature of traditional design across the country. Courtyards are a powerful spatial element that allows flexibility for diverse climatic conditions. It is an interesting area as it blends the outside with the inside, while also becoming a focal point for conversations and gatherings. Entry of fresh air, sunlight and rain through these courtyards makes such houses more sustainable and scenic.

 

 

The Verandah

In traditional homes, much of home life took place in public areas with rooms exclusively meant for rest. Given the climate in different parts of the country, spending time outdoors was also a necessity rather than an indulgence. In this type of living room, a verandah, wrapped along the periphery of the house, allowed for a common area for the family and others to connect without going into the house. These spaces also became the center of activity during celebrations as well as daily rituals. 

Balcony design idea for a traditional home - Beautiful Homes

A verandah acts as a buffer between the outside and inside spaces of a home. Photography by Syam Sreesylam

 

 

Traditional living room décor with platform seating - Beautiful Homes

Seats with lowered heights are seen in both living and dining rooms. Photography by Ishita Sitwala

Low Seating

Being seated close to the ground or floor is considered healthy and auspicious. Most of our seating arrangements are therefore closer to the floor. The baithak is such an arrangement, usually placed in community spaces like the living room, dining room and prayer room as a sign of being humble and grounded in the environment. In many parts of the country, it is also common to sit down on the floor to eat, a practice that is considered good for digestion. Contemporary design studios have adapted this classic seating arrangement to modern interiors, with several low-seating designs. 

 

 

Dual Color Walls

Dual-coloured walls were a hallmark of many homes, particularly in the South, where contrasting colors were partnered together. White-and-green, white-and-maroon, were common combinations. Usually, a lighter shade, such as white or cream went on top, while a deeper darker color was placed at the bottom. These two-tone walls were also designed in such a way that the darker shade covered areas likely to be affected by people’s hands, dust and dirt. Some combinations, like the maroon and white went well with the dark red or black oxide floors. 

Red & white stairwell design - Beautiful Homes

Dual coloured walls was a unique design element mainly used in stairways and common hall spaces inside homes. Photography by Rakesh Anand

 

 

Indian kitchen with white walls - Beautiful Homes

The wet kitchen has been represented in all its grimy details in the recent Malayalam film “The Great Indian Kitchen”. Image courtesy, The Great Indian Kitchen

Wet And Dry Kitchens

Indian architects and designers understand the nuanced differences between dry and wet kitchens. Many Indian homes, particularly houses, have more than one kitchen in order to facilitate different kinds of functions. Traditional Indian meals being what they are, various parts of the process often have designated areas. A wet kitchen is devoted to the messy preparatory steps of cooking such as grating, grinding and such, but also for washing up, while cooking usually takes place in the dry kitchen. 

 

 

Niche Storage

Recessed storage is a simple solution seen in many Indian homes. It is a minimalistic option, one that involves nothing more than creating a dug out crevice that can be used as a space for placing clothing or for displaying objects. This type of storage solution allows for space optimisation, and avoids the need for unnecessary furniture. In contemporary homes, these niches are accentuated with lighting for display. It is more than just a practical solution, it is a statement feature.

Indian style living room with sofa & wall art - Beautiful Homes

In the living room, niche or recessed walls can act as ideal storage for books and other objects. Photography by Pulkit Sehgal

Glass mandir design with floral decoration - Beautiful Homes

Prayer rooms are accessorized with hanging lamps, candles and incense sticks. Image courtesy, A Square Designs

Modern Indian home with a courtyard - Beautiful Homes

A minimally designed modern courtyard inside a home in Kerala. Photography by Prachi Damle

Indian balcony design with seating arrangement - Beautiful Homes

A verandah offers uninterrupted views to the outside of the house. Image courtesy, Ariel Huber, Lausanne

Indian living room design with low seating - Beautiful Homes

Low seater options can also double up as sofa cum bed in an expandable living room. Image courtesy, Studio Course Architects

Black & white living room idea - Beautiful Homes

Seats with lowered heights are seen in both living and dining rooms. Image courtesy, Studio Nirvana

Indian kitchen design with terracotta tiles - Beautiful Homes

A separate wet and dry area was intended to easily organise and do effective cleaning inside kitchens quickly. Photography by Syam Sreesylam

Indian bedroom design with wall shelf & mirror décor - Beautiful Homes

Niches can act as storage as well as customised design element. Photography by Lakshay Arora

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