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Objects of my affection with architect Sonal Sancheti

Jagannath Sculpture - Beautiful Homes
By Rachana Nakra

Aug 09, 2023

In this column, we speak to people from different walks of life about the objects in their homes they truly love

Architect and interior designer Sonal Sancheti founded _Opolis, a leading multidisciplinary design practice based in Mumbai, with her husband Rahul. “The approach we have for homes we design for our clients is that we don’t like to do it to the ‘T’ and have that perfect final handover. We always leave an element where they get to make it their home in their own way,” she says. 

Objects that hold memories and pieces bought instinctively is how she makes her own house a home too. “I collect things wherever I travel. Rahul is a contrast—he doesn’t like his home to be cluttered. So, we find a way to work things out in the middle.” There are pieces in her home that remind her of a certain time, a certain hobby and things that she resonates with.


She took us through some of her favourite ones.

Sonal Sancheti - Beautiful Homes

Sonal Sancheti, Founder of Opolis.

Shiv Ling

Many years ago, when my husband and I were moving out of my in-laws’ home to our own apartment, I saw this grinder stone that south Indians have for grinding their idli atta etc. I saw it in my in-law's garden, and I thought I’ll pick it up and make something out of it. And just out of artistic intention, it was never religious, I decided to turn it into a Shiv ling. I just thought it would be nice in my temple. But, whether it’s a coincidence or not, I’ve been an ardent Shiva bhakt since then. I have come to become very fond of Shiva, but not in a super religious way. And I’m trying to cover all the Jyotirlinga in our country as my target—I trace it back to this little incident that started the journey. 

Shiv Ling - Beautiful Homes

Shiv Ling in Sonal's temple.

Buddha Sculpture - Beautiful Homes

Buddha Sculptures sourced from the set of Cheeni Kum.

Bronze Antiques

This was again about 18 years ago when besides my Architecture and Interiors, I wanted to try my hand at designing film sets. Balki, who is a director and a friend, was working on Cheeni Kum with Amitabh Bachchan at the time. He offered me to assist the Art Director on this movie because she was from South Africa and would need help. That was my first stint at working on a film with a very well-known Art Director from South Africa.


I sourced these pieces from Chor Bazar in Mumbai. I got these two for a set she had imagined for Amitabh’s home. The idea was that after the set is dismantled, whoever is working on this can buy them for half the price. So, I bought these back from the set and I love them.

Clay Creatures

I have always been interested in pottery, ever since I’ve been a teenager. But I just never found enough time for it. I was at this exhibition in Pune where I picked these up and I said to myself that I have to get back to my pottery after this. It was one of those bucket list things for before I reached the age of 50. So, these really prompted me to get back to the wheel and get back to pottery, which I used to do many years back.


These are done by a not so well-known artist, and he creates only animal sculptures. This is hand pottery, not wheel pottery, and it’s not glazed. They’re just lovely and bring me a lot of joy. And they got me connected back to pottery—I have my own pottery studio in my home now.

Sheep Sculpture - Beautiful Homes

Sheep Sculptures from an exhibition in Pune.

Theyyam Head

This actually goes back to about 15 years ago when we were doing a house for a client in Goa. I went to Jew Town, which is the antique market in Kochi, and while shopping for the clients, this piece caught my eye. And at that time, I really had not seen anything of this kind. Now, I think, it is being mass produced and I see variations of it in Kochi all the time. But this piece is still very different. I don’t know the history behind this piece but it just appealed to me and I thought that I should get one. This became one of the first “antique” pieces that I’ve bought for my home.

Theyyam Head - Beautiful Homes

Theyyam Head from Jew Town, Kochi.

Fish Sculpture - Beautiful Homes

Fish Sculpture.

Fishy Story

I don’t know what it is, maybe because I’m a Piscean, I just love fish. I’m vegetarian and I don’t eat fish, but I love to watch them. And that’s how I got my scuba diving license, my advanced diving license and now I’m an avid diver. This kind of thing in my home, right in the middle of my living room kind of brings some kind of calmness into the clutter of everyday life. And is a constant reminder that I need to go diving soon.

Jagannath Sculpture - Beautiful Homes

Jagannath Sculpture from Raghurajpur.

Jaganath Avataars

These are two avatars of Jagannath Ji, which is very rare. Usually, it’s a family—there’s this Jagannath Ji, his brother, the sister, and then what is called the Sudarshana Chakra. You can find these four things in every home in Odisha. I had gone to Odisha to give a talk and then I just took a journey to Raghurajpur. The place had just experienced floods, the artists there really didn’t have work and I thought I’ll just go there to see what they’re up to. It is a nice little town and an art village. I got these two for myself because I didn’t want all four of them, the artist told me that these are two avatars of the same God. So, it’s okay to have the two avatars in your house, otherwise, usually people keep the whole family.

There are a lot of people who come to my place and wonder about them, a lot of them don’t know that this is Jagannathji from Odisha and is a form of God. So, it becomes a conversation piece in that sense.

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