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April 13, 2014

Miller on the Wall

Text by Neha Gupta. Photographs by Ankur Chaturvedi

Bazaars, hidden boutiques or chain stores, artist Brinda Miller and her architect husband Alfaz Miller go to lengths to lend their home an extension of their earthy, antique-loving personalities

  • Brinda Miller: a home built with joy
    Brinda Miller: A home built with joy
  • A cabinet of riveting collectables
    A cabinet of riveting collectables
  • International wall of artefacts
    International wall of artefacts
  • A quaint setting in the Miller washroom
    A quaint setting in the Miller washroom
  • Giant spectacles and photo frame
    Giant spectacles and photo frame

One side of the Miller home overlooks serene waters crashing against walls of the Breach Candy Club and the other side reverberates with an incessant honking of cars climbing over each other, manoeuvring around puddles of shoppers. But the space between the two windows is poles apart from these vistas. The eclectic living room is lined with artefacts – smartened up cardboard boxes, a bureau of sorts with angels hovering around it, a couch fit for Thumbelina, huge spectacles holding two views – enough to keep you absorbed.

Each item in the house is carefully picked, probably even hunted for during Brinda Miller’s travels. The artist goes on to explain, “One of the reasons is that we don’t have time to do shopping in Mumbai. Another is that when we go out, we really look around. Our eyes are always open for something to bring back. That’s why we have a collection from all over. So it’s a complete mix and match.”

Even though her home is shared with her architect husband and interior designer daughter, (the second daughter is studying architecture on another continent) most of the arrangements in the house are by Brinda. As her spouse Alfaz Miller puts it, “I take care of the hardware and she manages the decorating of the facades.” In spite of that roaring appetite to bedeck, she is more than willing to incorporate her family’s suggestions. For instance, when her daughters decided to rearrange the living room’s layout, all she did was give her concluding feedback.

Today, if there is one part of the house that she happily steps away from revamping, it is her daughters’ room.

Being artistic themselves, their space screams creativity, not surprisingly, in step with the rest of the house. The beam over their beds is wrapped in newspaper print, one of the two is a flexible sofa-cum-bed so as to leave them more floor space to work on, and part of a wall holds an interesting painting of an auto rickshaw.

Here today, gone tomorrow
Enter their home on any day and you will be guaranteed an altogether altered appearance when you revisit even three months later. If nothing at all, the turning around of their upholstery is a given – because that sure can effortlessly change the look of any room. Yet, it is never a fixed idea that they follow at the time of shuffling things over. “When looking for upholstery, if we see one interesting fabric that we like, then that can be the starting point to match the rest accordingly.” And so just like that, though they had never dreamt of ever owning a pink sofa, in all unlikeliness now they do!

Similarly, they had never dreamed of walking past a red wall in their house each waking day either. “There were a lot of objections from all of them. I said, ‘Once I do it, you decide if it looks nice or not.’ When it was complete, they admitted to liking it,” the lady of the house beams contentedly. The idea behind this boldly dyed wall in the master bedroom was to enhance the entire display of masks on it. Again, each is a reminder of one journey or another, with timely additions, rotations and replacements.

This and that
There is a splash of joie de vivre in every corner of the house, which greets you at the door with four serving dishes painted on by Brinda herself – a depiction of each family member, as well as one for their adorable Labrador – all mounted above the doorbell. “Basically my home is an eclectic mix of a lot of things, and built with a lot of joy.” If you are familiar with her works, you will know that she never shies away from vibrancy or unusual combinations for that matter.

Walls of the Miller home are hidden behind bold canvases – some hers and some by fellow artists. “Actually, it’s the paintings that came first and then everything else followed.” Alfaz draws attention to how each frame is unique in comparison to the others. “Even the lamps themselves are unusual,” continues the pleased husband as he points to a quirky black and white lampshade from Ikea, placed over an old lamp from Chor Bazaar. There is an old chest too, more than a 100 years old, from Mumbai’s infamous market. “A lot of things in this house are from Chor Bazaar,” he mentions. They aren’t particularly fussed about where they shop. “It’s not about how expensive it is, but about what we like,” Brinda maintains while adjusting a stunning necklace over her kurta.

While the giant spectacles were picked up from Pottery Barn in Kuwait, a small shop called Petals in Dubai contributed to their collection of angels. And then, the cabinet on which the figurines rest was, once again, picked up from Chor Bazaar. “We don’t have time to go to Chor Bazaar as often as we used to,” the artist complains. “Both of us enjoy it more like a hobby. All the old guys from there know us. But now we avoid it because when you go, you start buying things and then you don’t know where to put them!”

Vintage in intention
Even though the tastefully crowded abode has more of an earthy feel to it, there are a lot of art deco furniture pieces to complete the subconscious antique manifestation in their home. Their dining table, for instance is a thorough example of this style. They don’t care much for carvings or busy designs in interiors. And with that, they don’t find false ceilings or ceiling lights very thrilling either.

“There are some accent lights here and there, but lamps give a cosier, more intimate feel.” Alfaz continues animatedly, “We believe in keeping the prefaces original. You know, have a good ceiling height, don’t shut down any openings or windows, and get maximum air and light into the house.”

They have even gone as far as letting the archaic mosaic tiles from over 70 years ago remain. In spite of being subject to enough brainwashing attempts to ‘upgrade’ to marble, they refused to sway if even for a second. “People threw these out as junk, but we both love them. That’s just how we are,” the couple smiles.

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