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If walls could tell the story of a home and the people who live in it, then we need to turn to two walls in Priyanka Modi’s home. One wall, in her living room, is painted a soothing sage green, the only use of colour in a space defined by neutral shades of grey, cream, and beige. She went over 30 shades of sage green before she chose one. The other is a wall with a concrete texture finish in the family lounge room. It has been over a year and she cannot settle on an idea for it, to pick between an artwork, a large mirror, or the television set that her children are rooting for. For now, the concrete wall is bare. “I’m very picky. It takes me so long to find things that it’s almost restraining,” she said, standing in front of it, on a recent frosty winter morning in Delhi.
It is a sense of careful restraint and control that pervades the home of Priyanka and Ankur Modi. They say that minimalism is harder to pull off, as you simply cannot hide behind elaborate decoration. As I spent the day in their home, I could understand why that is, while it may seem easy to work with less, it can be a lot more challenging.
It is tempting to see their home as an extension of the work they do as the designers behind the fashion label AMPM. Like the clothes they design, their home is minimalist yet luxurious, but not luxury as we might imagine in the Indian design context. “Luxury for me is using natural material like wood and cement, bringing in sunlight and plants,” she said. The home matches the personalities of the husband and wife who like to maintain a low profile in the extravagant world of fashion.
Located on the top floor of a standard Delhi builder home, the three-bedroom house was originally planned in a way that cut off sunlight and created partitions between the spaces. They took up extensive renovation two years ago. Priyanka took the lead in design while Ankur kept a watch on the budget. They wanted a house that would be modern, functional, and comfortable to match their lifestyle as a busy working couple with two young children.
They brought in Jaisika Jabbal who runs the studio Design Staple in Delhi. “Priyanka had a very strong sense of design and we collaborated on ideas. Though it’s not a large scale job in terms of the size of the flat, it was challenging as we were retrofitting quite a bit. And it took a lot out of me to work with fewer elements,” said Jabbal. Walls were broken down and glass was put in where possible to connect all parts of the house, create a seamless effect and bring in sunlight. She wanted a home that would be easy to maintain. The flooring was changed from marble, which she finds cold, to tiles with a natural stone finish that have a warmer palette and are easy to maintain.In the living room, part of one wall was replaced by glass windows with large tropical plants peeking in from the balcony, giving the effect of being on a secluded and quiet island in the middle of the congested city.
They live in Friends Colony, a tony neighbourhood with wide parks and large bungalows in south Delhi that was developed in the 1950s. The Yamuna once flowed through this area, which was called ‘River View’, but the river changed course with the construction of the Ring Road that connects the city. No evidence remains of that time, except for the trees that have survived the onslaught of expansion and development. Priyanka has always lived in and around the area, which she says is largely unchanged, even as some of the old bungalows give way to new flats.
There is a hint of whimsy, but only if you look for it, to the pieces that she has collected and every single one has been carefully thought over. As you enter the home, the lobby, a sort of waiting area for guests, has a Japanese-inspired spindle bench made of a block of raw wood. Next to the bench are three drawings in charcoal by Harshada Kerkar, an artist from Goa, whose work Priyanka has been following for some years. The raw and emotive drawings stand out all the more in the empty space.
The living room feels more Scandinavian for its starkness than Indian, there are little flourishes that point towards Indian art and heritage. But typical to her style, they are not in your face.
On one side of the room, next to the dining table are wall tiles from JJ Valaya’s Gulistan collection, inspired by Mughal miniatures. The tiles are framed to look like an art piece. The centre table made of cane wood, two armchairs inspired by mid-century design, and the chandelier made of curled wood shavings are all extremely spare. The artwork has been carefully curated and not just stuffed in. Some pieces were bought on holiday like a stone sculpture of a man that looks raw and matches with the rawness of the floor and the walls, that she bought from Zanzibar. “I don’t like anything that causes bulk. I like the perfect balance, not too heavy and not too light,” she said.
There is one clever feature in the living room that Priyanka is proud of. One wall is made of veneer with copper oak finish that appears to be a design element, but is hidden closet space. “One can never have enough storage space and I think women have a special understanding of that.”
Since the pandemic, the family has naturally been spending all their time at home and every room has become more adaptable to their needs. The living room, the formal part of the house, where the family would usually entertain guests, has become Priyanka’s private retreat. It gets the most sunlight in the day and she spends her mornings and afternoons here, reading, meditating, and working. In her bedroom, which has almost no furniture apart from the bed, she has put up a lean work desk, which has turned out to be very useful in these months.
On the other side of the lobby is the lounge that leads into the bedrooms and kitchen. The space was created so that the family could spend time together and not just be locked in their rooms. In this room, they get together every evening to take their meals, play board games, and read. The room is sparsely decorated, there are three oil paintings by artist Vijay Sharma that add a splash of colour and a touch of eclecticism. It is modern yet firmly Indian, something that Priyanka found would fit in with her house.
The children’s room unlike other homes is decluttered and done in neutral shades. The one painting in the room, a lion’s face in many colours stands out. Since online schooling has started, the children bring their homework here and have been demanding a television set. This brings us back to the bare wall. “I might give in to their demand, I haven’t decided yet,” she said with a smile.
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