Designed by Aratrik Dev Varman of Ahmedabad-based design studio Tilla, The Painted Forest is a 10-design series featuring tropical landscapes of plants including palms, plantains, frangipani, and jackfruit trees
Amidst the urban bustle of Chennai, the Wild Garden Cafe at Amethyst stands like an oasis. Nature flows seamlessly in this space—from the lush, ‘meticulously unmanicured’ gardens to the 90-foot monochrome panorama of non-repeating wild foliage on the café’s walls. The mural is the creation of Ahmedabad-based design studio Tilla, and draws inspiration from a series of illustrations done by studio founder Aratrik Dev Varman after he first visited the café. He showed the drawings to his friend and Amethyst’s owner, Kiran Rao, who commissioned a wallpaper for the café that would serve as an ‘extension of the garden’.
The project was completed in less than three months, with Jisha Unnikrishnan, an illustrator and print designer with Tilla, creating the entire pattern in black and white using pencil, pen, and ink. A colour version of the wallpaper was subsequently added to Tilla’s bouquet of design offerings.
In 2022, Asian Paints approached Tilla to further develop the Wild Garden wallpapers into a full-fledged collection for their luxury line, Nilaya. Called The Painted Forest, the now 10-design series features lush, tropical landscapes of plants including palms, plantains, frangipani, kachnar, and jackfruit trees.
Beautiful Homes spoke to Aratrik Dev Varman about the new collection, conscious consumerism, and how time is an important dimension when it comes to design.
Aratrik Dev Varman: I graduated in Textile Design from the National Institute of Design (NID) in 2003, and then studied Fashion for two years at the l’École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In 2010, I set up my own label, Tilla, in Ahmedabad. The largest influence on my work has been Indian textiles, handloom, and the handicraft sector. I also love working with botanical themes.
ADV: As a brand, Tilla stands for fine craftsmanship and taking the time to do things well. That core philosophy guides all our projects, whether it is fashion, home textiles, wallpapers, or stationary. We have a bespoke Indian line, where we do a lot of recycling because we are a zero-waste brand. We also work on recycling our scrap fabric from our tailoring workshop, which we conduct through Gandhinagar-based NGO, Soach. I believe it’s important to create an awareness of conscious consumerism at every stage of the process—from how things are being executed to whom it is impacting—and not just be led by sales and marketing.
ADV: The story really starts at the Wildflower Café in Chennai, which is like this tropical jungle in the heart of the city. When my colleague, Jisha Unnikrishnan, and I visited the café, it inspired a series of illustrations, which we showed my friend Kiran, who owns the space. She loved the drawings and asked us to design a monochrome wallpaper for the café. Last year, Asian Paints approached us to develop the Wild Garden theme for their Nilaya range of wallpapers. I thought it was very generous of them to approach a small studio like us because they usually work with much bigger brands. We have now expanded the line to 10 designs, which will be available exclusively through Asian Paints. This collection, called The Painted Forest, will launch on September 15.
ADV: We picked elements from the original panorama to expand the collection. Jisha’s inspiration is rooted in a south-Indian garden, and has aspects of reality woven with fantasy. There are elements of the Indian monsoon, and indigenous flora and fauna. She also drew inspiration from the dreamscapes of Henri Rousseau, Indian popular art, wood block printing, and the traditional French Toile de Jouy textiles. Asian Paints gave us complete creative freedom when it came to the designs and developing The Painted Forest collection.
ADV: I believe time is an important element when it comes to design. How will something wear, how will it last, and how will it evolve over time? Nature, for example, is timeless. You will never get tired of looking at a garden and this is something that has held true throughout history.
The Painted Forest collection is like a bridge to the outdoors, blending everyday life into nature’s eternal beauty.