When Prasenjeet Mukherjee bought a second home in Kolkata, he had two objectives in mind to create the perfect weekend abode. The first, was to make the most of the panoramic lake views and the second was to tell his life story through the art and antiques he had collected over the years.
“All my life I was trying to achieve perfection and then at the age of forty or so, I realised that accepting and embracing your imperfections is the highest form of perfection,” says Prasenjeet. And so, the investment banker along with his close friend and interior designer Chitralekha Biswas of Cee Bee Design Studio zeroed in on a countryside theme inspired by his travels to Europe. The home, although chock-a-block with distressed wood furniture, antique and flea market finds, framed art and potted plants, is warm and inviting.
Chitralekha takes us through the two-bedroom property in the heart of Kolkata and shares her tips on achieving rustic perfection through country style interior design. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Beautiful Homes: Tell us about the project and the brief you received from the homeowners.
Chitralekha Biswas: The client is a dear friend, and we have similar interests in art and travel. For his second home in the heart of Kolkata, we took cues from our favourite holidays in Europe – rustic towns, the cobbled by-lanes and street-side cafes. The idea was to create a cosy weekend abode inspired by the English countryside with all the modern trappings. Another objective for the two-bedroom house was to make the most of its panoramic lake view.
BH: What was this home like when you first saw it? Did you face any challenges during the renovation process?
CB: When I first walked in, I was startled by how pigeons had taken over the crumbling house with damaged ceilings and even the doors falling off. The property itself is very old and there were many construction issues. We couldn’t hang anything from the ceilings, so we made use of joist beams. There were weight restrictions, so we couldn’t use any heavyweight materials like marble. In addition to this, we were allowed to only work for three to four hours during the day.
BH: Take us through some countryside features of the home.
CB: The flooring tiles have a stone finish. Since we couldn’t work with inlay, we chose printed tiles with delicate patterns. A veneer wood panel runs through the ceiling of the entire house. The living area is split into two, a casual side with distressed wood seating and a more formal space with a Chesterfield sofa set.
The kitchen has a typical countryside look too with wooden cabinets in a pastel Duco paint finish concealing all the appliances. The backsplash is also rustic looking with wooden print tiles. In the dining room, you will see a lot of restored furniture. We mix and matched chairs and decorated with a lot of antique objects and art frames.
For the primary bedroom, we worked with local craftsmen to create a rattan weaved headboard and matching cupboard panels for the primary bedroom design. We matched this and the wooden flooring with a lot of distressed wood and metal furniture.
BH: How did you incorporate the client’s vast art collection into the overall theme for the home?
CB: The client has an extensive art collection but since it wasn’t all modern art, it was easier to blend it all into the country style look of the house. When we design a home, we put every aspect of the home décor, from the artefacts and the artwork right down to the wallpaper into a 3D design so there are no surprises when we execute our vision. But most importantly, designing a house is not about getting the theme right, it is about making sure the client feels like they belong in their home.
BH: Can you share some decorating ideas suited to the country style aesthetic?
CB: For a homely, country feel, make sure all the furniture has soft edges. Overall, I would avoid straight lines. Secondly, nothing you do in the home should look brand spanking new. Work towards a weathered look, with vintage accessories and distressed, worn wood furniture. The flooring and ceiling need to evoke an old world feeling too – choose more ethnic-looking stone tiles or wooden flooring, look at Tudor ceilings and delicate cornice mouldings. The lighting needs to be subdued as well.