The trend gods have spoken, and maximalism is back, and it’s here to stay. Mounds of color, chic metallic accents, woven textures, and bright pops of colorful prints can be the most obvious way to add some personality to a space—and while the style may be having a resurgence in some parts of the world, it’s always been a touchstone of Indian design.
“The current resurgence in nationalistic pride in India has led to a renewed interest in traditional Indian patterns and proportions in homes, not just with a view to replicate it, but also to put a somewhat post-modern twist on residential interior design,” explains Ankit Soni, managing director at Swastik Spacecraft, an interior design and architectural company based in Mumbai, India.
In Indian design, cultural wood pieces, gold and silver accents, intricate beaded embroidery, and interesting materials like velvets and silk in a variety of hues characterize what is more traditional in style. But sometimes, more modern pieces do make their way into the design style, thanks to Scandinavian minimalism taking over the world (literally!), which means the designers have to maximize these elements and make them stand out without losing the bright hues that characterize Indian design.
Indian designers play with ornamentation and mix prints on a daily basis, so we tapped a handful of experts for their best tips to help you embrace maximalism in your home.
1. Play with shades of gold.
Hindu and Muslim design feature a lot gold accents and threads, but the trick is, each shade of gold is different—you have dull, muted shades juxtaposed with ones with a silverish tinge or bright shine.
“A lot of traditional Hindu and Muslim patterns and techniques, when used with modern, high-end materials such as imported marbles and different shades gold leafing lend to a luxurious and ultra modern atmosphere in homes,” explains Soni. “It’s an opulence that appeals to the Indian taste for maximalism, as well as the pride in India’s rich heritage.”
2. Layer different materials in the same color family.
India is famous for its materials—rich velvets, printed cotton fabrics, silver and gold brocades, and dyed ikat—which usually mix in a lot of color on a small surface. The key, therefore, is to use the materials that all play within the same color family for a more muted look: Consider a blue and silver combination, for example, or try reds and blacks to make more of a statement.
“A design is only successful if it evokes a sense of equilibrium and calm in the eyes of the user,” says Cherag Bardolivala, partner at Mumbai-based RC Design Studio. “To merely use accents to create a bold look will eventually tire the end user, and wouldn’t soothe their senses every time they experience the space. My advice to anyone wanting to fuse two different styles into one space would be to use the more stronger color or design element as an accent, and keep the basic color palette neutral. Patterns which complement each other by way of fluid lines and shapes marry each other well, as well as hues which evolve from the same color family that leave the space a well-balanced, yet tantalizingly refreshing space.”
3. Let your statement pieces command attention through craft, instead of color.
Still not feeling like going all out with your color scheme? That’s okay: You can still mix and match some tradition with more modern styles without feeling like your room should be a rainbow of color. Vikram Goyal, principal designer and director of Delhi-based design studio VIYA, says that while designing a home, he looks to create modern and dramatic masterpieces that “blur the lines between design and art.”
Though his spaces are modern, he relies on heritage in other ways: ”We typically evoke India through material and craftsmanship, using several customized sculptural pieces designed and developed at our studio,” he says.
4. Use neutral paint as a backdrop.
An easy way to go all out is by using the background to your advantage—i.e, let a plain white or blue backdrop be the ultimate blank canvas so that you can really play around with textures and prints on, say, your sofa, chairs, or even floor and ceiling materials. Renu Chainani, founder of Eastern Treasure—a lifestyle design store that focuses on luxury speciality wallcoverings and funky shapes in furniture—says her favorite way to play with prints is through those woven accents that can really lend “a lot of spunk to a home.”
“When designing, we add pattern into accessories and fabrics that can be easily changed,” she explains. That allows for removing a few patterns if you want a more muted look, or going all out with wild colors if the mood allows.
Director of Mumbai-based design firm MuseLAB, Huzefa Rangwala, further explains this philosophy: “The Indian aesthetic is dotted with global influences—although it is pluralistic in some form, it can best be described by the sanskrit word ‘rasa’—an Indian concept of aesthetic flavor. This is an essential element of any work of visual, literary, or performing art that can only be suggested, not described,” he says.
“When it comes to combining the Indian designs and modern designs, the elements which belong to the former should be transitory (statement furniture pieces, furnishings, accessories, or screens),” he adds. “The shell of the space, along with a few fixed furniture pieces, can be modern and minimalist with Indian motifs sprinkled in a controlled manner. Patterns and colors must be used in a controlled manner and must complement each other, rather than contradicting each other: For instance, a busy or complex pattern must be complemented with muted, pastel colors, while a bold color palette can add wonder to a simple pattern.”
5. Use your space as inspiration.
“For us, design is spatial,” says Aditi Vora Nair, principal designer at AVN Interiors. “A lot of importance is given to utility and the experience people will have around a space, rather than mere decoration.”
She uses different textures and prints depending on the area: “We like to incorporate more of the traditional and colorful, like wooden screens, colorful cushions with Indian ikat prints, or carved temple art; those are some of our favorite design elements,” she says. “A colorful ‘durrie’ (an Indian woven rug or a traditionally embroidered cushion) is an accessory that can instantly add a hint of tradition to any modern space, while a carved wooden bench or a bronze figure of an Indian Deity can fit in a modern space without having an overpowering effect.”
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