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May 08, 2015

Opera House

Text by Shigorika Singh. Photographs by Anshika Varma

In true large-hearted Dilliwala style, designer duo Anjallee and Arjun Kapoor throw open the pearly gates of their dramatic, larger-than-life home and let Verve into their world of glam and glitter

Walking into someone’s house is an intimate exercise. You unravel them, layer by layer until there is nakedness. All clumsy bits with the pretty bits; we are generous to those we like and judgmental of those we want to hate. Anjallee Kapoor has the assuredness of someone who’s made plenty of mistakes and is therefore unafraid of making them anymore. Her living space is reflective of her candour and courage. So, if she likes angel wings, she shall have them — commissioned and placed on the ceiling above her bed.

Arjun, the yang to her yin, speaks with comparative restraint but is equally vocal in his presence in the house, voiced by artefacts gently strewn about the home. So if they both embrace the joie de vivre of colour — the singularity lies in the manner they do it. The lady is finicky about the wall paint — focusing on the golden flecks in a dulled taupe and fawn, making it shimmer as it catches the light (a baroque obsession that will be visited repeatedly), the man will have a painting by Chris Martin (not of Coldplay fame) dominating these golden flecked walls.

Exploring the many nooks, we settle on the balcony overlooking the garden for our little tête-à-tête. Water wafts gently in a fountain spread laterally on the margin of the garden, in the middle of which is a giant terracotta structure closely resembling a zipper! “We got it made for one of our stores,” says Arjun. “It’s so emblematic of what we do, we decided to keep it.” In full nostalgia gear now, he remembers a time nearly 20 years ago when there were hardly any Indian designer stores. “We were always throwing parties for our friends and designing for them, till we decided to do it professionally.”

He recalls showing up with his work at one of these rare stores for the very first time, a phone call telling him to leave his pieces there since the boss couldn’t be around, and then being called in again for the ‘final chat’. Walking in with trepidation, fully braced against any form of negative feedback, his clothes taking up most of the space in the tiny office they sat in, he was told, “We’ve already sold 60 per cent of your clothes. Can you make 20 more pieces of the entire collection for me?” and the rest, as they say, is a very stylish history.

Focusing on bridal and occasion wear, their style is an amalgam of the fairytale whimsy that Anjallee brings and a contemporary edge provided by Arjun. Having displayed collections on multiple themes such as the Mughal Opera or the Jamawar, a decided Victorian influence has come to be one of their signature looks. “Even if we’d like to introduce or experiment with other themes, our loyal clientele always returns demanding that same style.” And Anjallee might have something to do with that. It is easy to see where the pastoral influences lie. “I just love flowers,” she says though she doesn’t need to. Walk into the house and you encounter a flower vat half the size of a standard bathtub filled with blossoms, all in the colour of lilac. “It’s impossible to fill this flower vat to the brim…I can’t find enough flowers of the same colour in all of Delhi.” That little bathtub faces a vase of flaming orange blossoms, there are flowers big, small, real, fake and one has seen so many here today one can’t tell the difference anymore.

The only place without any flowers (other than sunflowers peeking from the oil on canvas) is the basement, Arjun’s favourite haunt. “It’s where the TV is, so we watch the matches and spend a lot of time here.” The whole family hangs out and while the boys (her son included) are lounging about, the girl is making productive use of time working out behind the loungers on the TRX machine. It’s not all work and no play — there is a serious collection of Judith Leiber clutches that are led out of the glass case on the days she has been good.

Her favourite place is predictably the closet, and it’s quite a closet. She’s earned it by putting up with the grumbles of a dour husband not happy to have let go of precious and ample bathroom space to make up for it. Packed to the rafters but organised to the hilt — this is the fairy godmother’s secret stash of all things girly. And she happily confesses to shopping online for the very same closet she has no more space to stuff clothes in whenever she is sad.

This closet also comes with an ornate glass and gold chandelier. Dramatic luminaire seem to be a bit of a weakness for the Kapoor household and they indulge in opulent lights with their eyes closed. The 100-year-old chandelier in the hall has been constantly added to and updated; the more theatrical one is the floor chandelier in the space where they entertain. There is a chandelier in the en suite bathroom, of course. Even the bedside lighting is two mini chandeliers on either side. And when one tires of the real thing, there is the digital print of a massive chandelier at the foot of the grand staircase.

Good enough to light up an Italian opera house, this home is a romantic longing for the beauty of an era gone by. As one reflects on and in a 300-year-old Venetian mirror, the vibe of the space ranges from baroque to neoclassical. One turns around to bid adieu on the way out to be greeted by two busts — Greco Roman in style, male and female, flanking the entrance on either side. Busts — because what are artists without some eccentricities. The thing to be said about clichés is that they are often truths. A ‘classic’ is only that which has stood the test of time and this home is a nod to all those greats; a labour of love and always a work in progress.

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