India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
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June 15, 2013

Many-Splendoured Things

Text by Viseshika Sharma. Photographs by Manpreet Singh. Published: Volume 21, Issue 6, June, 2013.

Delhi-based fashion designer Urvashi Kaur leads Viseshika Sharma through her inspiring home and the treasures it holds

Walking into the peaceful bungalow in Chattarpur, New Delhi, I am encompassed by the beehive that is fashion designer Urvashi Kaur’s home. To one side of the lawn are three individuals busy arranging fresh flowers in vases, and from the other, you get a glimpse into an entertainment space that begs a thorough investigation. Waiting in the vibrantly patterned entryway, I am assailed by the buzz of a household in action and it is reflected in the many prominent pieces of mirrored furniture. Urvashi arrives in the midst of all this industrious activity, clad in a white linen dress from her own fashion line. The two-storey bungalow is home to Urvashi, her husband Gagan Dugal, who is Managing Director at Matrix Cellular, their three children, Simran, Suveer and Sumair, and her father-in-law.

It is simply futile to put a number to the rooms in this home for by the time this issue hits the stands, I have faith that it will have changed! “We started renting this house almost 12 and a half years ago and bought it two years later. It was tiny then, just a small bedroom and dining room on this floor,” she says, waving away the space that is unrecognisable from her description. She walks over to the window to point out the changes – “We bought land on this side and on that, extended the dining room, then we…” We lose track. The property has been through three rounds of structural changes since she has lived here. The last of the brood is only two years old now and the most recent changes made to the home were to accommodate him.

The entryway walls are hung with various artifacts – an aged ikat from Bali and a gorgeous antique pichwai are prominent among these. “I was getting something framed when other customers in the shop approached me to sell this pichwai,” says Urvashi. “I held onto it for three years because I didn’t know where to put it and when I made more changes to the house, this finally looked like the right spot.” Sculptures and baubles dot the way into the formal entertaining area. The walls are hung with art by Urvashi’s mother, among other artists, and carefully curated arrangements of books and trinkets decorate the tabletops. It’s not just the mirrored pieces here that give you the impression of seeing double – chances are that you are seeing multiples. Urvashi certainly seems to have a penchant for decorating with many pieces from the same design family – though all with a light touch that doesn’t digress into boring repetition.

The dining room too displays this knack for decorating with multiples – the ‘chandelier’ is constructed from many pieces of the same light fixture. Brightly patterned wallpaper from a distinctive line by Good Earth lend impact to the walls of the living area while a more muted design papers the walls of the contemporary formal dining room. “We dress so vibrantly as a nation, but when it comes to décor, we tend to be so scared of excess. I think I was just waiting to let all this loose in here,” says Urvashi.

“My husband and I are both from a services background and we grew up moving homes all the time. We were raised in these old British-style bungalows and that atmosphere really stayed with me,” she says. Various spaces in the house echo the love of the colonial aesthetic. The existing marble staircase was torn out and a wooden staircase put in – it has now aged beautifully. The family room upstairs takes one right back to childhood holidays spent in dreamy hill stations – the rustic walls look deliciously warm for Delhi winters and all surfaces are chock-a-block with figurines and photographs. More mirrored tables are strewn with objets d’art in artful disarray. A couple of antique Balinese wedding dolls sit next to a papier maché figure of Lord Krishna. Over 120 years old, it was found in an old temple in Sri Lanka and is one of Urvashi’s favourite pieces in the home. “I love the beauty in every religion,” she says, pointing out to religious iconography from around the world. What appears to be just another pretty distressed cabinet opens up to reveal a full-service bar, complete with refrigerator and wine cooler. “I like to use pieces in ways that they aren’t traditionally meant for,” says the petite whirlwind.

The family room leads out onto her older son’s room, which in turn leads to a fully equipped gym that overlooks the pool house. Working out is a passion for Gagan and he has Urvashi hooked too. The rest of the upstairs bedrooms branch outwards from the stairs. The nursery is the newest addition to the house and Urvashi had a skylight put in over the landing when she extended the room out from an existing balcony. Now the landing is brightly lit and houses a capacious diwan with vibrant cushions. “When I come home, I tend to walk upstairs, dump my bags on it and then catch up with the rest of the family,” she says. Another room, her daughter’s, is to the left, and Parisian accents add to the feminine appeal of a lavender and eggshell haven that is every little girl’s dream.

A rustic painting by Urvashi’s mother greets you upon entering the master bedroom. Here her favourite piece is the entertainment unit her husband had constructed to meet Urvashi’s conditions for having a television in the room. “I told him I didn’t want the TV to divide up the room. So he used his stupendous engineering brain to come up with this metal contraption that has space for the TV and DVD players. It rotates off the wall so you have an unimpeded view from anywhere in the room and you can easily access the wiring,” says Urvashi, with more than just a note of pride in her voice. She demonstrates the mechanism for me and it truly is amazing.

We walk through to her dressing room where the rails sag under the weight of envy-inducing togs. “I keep meaning to put a couch in here, but I don’t want it to get too comfortable,” confides Urvashi. She has a point. We might never leave. The large master bath is flooded with light from the huge window that looks out onto a small walled-in garden. “We rotate the theme – in February we had a lotus pond out there.” The couple’s love for greenery is evident from the large garden that surrounds the house, as is their love of art. A huge bust of the Buddha stands a few feet away from one of the windows on the ground floor – an anniversary present from Gagan that is illuminated at night.

The home that Urvashi built is packed to the rafters with stories. Her love of travel is reflected in the pieces that hold pride of place. The chandelier in the entryway was from one of the couple’s first trips to Venice, packed in with their luggage to arrive back home half-shattered. Giant Moroccan vases with bone and silver inlay sit in the hall. The dressing room holds unusual foil reproductions of Klimt’s work from Austria. These glorious finds are interspersed with pieces from Indian design favourites like Good Earth and Casa Paradox. “Another place I love is Second Floor Studio by Punit Jasuja. I went for the opening and just couldn’t leave,” says Urvashi. Even with all the bold elements and treatments, this cornucopia of riches is an undeniably warm home. “I really think the idea is not to spend every possible penny but to spend it very wisely and interestingly. You always feel the need to upgrade and improve on what you have previously done,” she concludes.

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