By Suchita S. 

I’ve grown up flitting through pages of Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and Inside Outside. I’ve seen pages of chandeliers – shining on the opulence of marbled floors – embroidered carpets, mirror cabinets and plush sofa settings. A few pages later, there would be a landscape shot of a red-brick and sandstone house, lit up with copper lanterns, and accessorized with effervescent upholstery, brass urns with scattered petals and tea-light candles. They looked beautiful, no doubt… but see, there’s a house and then there’s a home; And even glossy pages of magazines can’t photoshop personality into a space. Disillusioned by this farcical interpretation of what a living space ought to be like, I sort of, subconsciously, set out to discover beautiful homes in Delhi. Homes that are lived in, which embody the home-makers and resonate the life and times of a family, a couple, a person – whatever the case may be.

Enter, Seema Kohli’s three story home, studio and labour of love. A dark, solid-wood door opens to indigo walls, which I imagine vary in hue with the changing hours of the day. Auburn flooring and yellow railings, framed photographs, canvases and artwork accompany you all the way to the third floor – a sprawling space lit up by white and natural light. There’s an easel with a painting in a corner, set in front of rows and rows of paint boxes, brushes, and a sink that bears splatters of paint. She’s working on a few small canvases on an artists table, evident in dashes of color through which dark polish of the table top appears. A warm welcome and a few pleasantries later, our guided tour of her home begins.

Seema-desk

seema-kohli-canvas

Seema-kohli-studio{Seema’s studio}

“We just try to pick up things that we like, and they become a part of our existence…” She tells us as we make our way to the second floor of the house – her daughter Anshika’s work space and bedroom. A Chinese camphor wood chest, set against a warrior red separates these two spaces, which have contrasting decors. A double door entrance opens into her study; an ingenious space, filled with literature and coffee table books. Windows open to a curtain of creepers, making you feel like you’re far away from city life, and cordoned off in a world of your own. Anshika’s bedroom, on the other hand, is a mellow yellow, with a very interesting open-bulb light fixture. There’s a little balcony outside, which has bright yellow patio chairs and a table, recently ordered from Urban Ladder, and a cock-a-doodle chime that Seema bought for her from Bali.

anshika-varma-room

Anshika-studio

anshika-studio-2Anshika-studio-wall{Anshika’s studio and corridor}

Next, we made our way down the staircase to the first floor of their home. There’s a calming creativity about the space, despite it bursting with art. Nooks of the staircase have bronze sculptures made by Seema, and the now deep-sea blue walls have an assortment of frames and mediums of art on display. There are sketches, works in watercolor, and oil on canvas, and there’s Anshika’s photography, including this very interesting image.

S Seema-kohli-wall-artwork-5 Seema-kohli-wall-artwork

{The walk up the staircase | Blue walls are filled with works of art by Seema and other artists as well, and photographs by Anshika and those collected by the family}

doorhandles_seema{Beauty lies in the details; staying true to this, you’ll find that every nook of the house is embedded with something interesting. For instance, each door handle is sculpted differently}

“It took us 3 years to build our home… we started constructing it in 2008 and shifted in in 2010.” Over the years, each of them has collected trinkets, memorabilia and pieces with a story. They’ve all found a spot somewhere in Seema’s home – on the walls, kitchen counter, cabinets… and especially on a vintage table that sits beautifully in the corridor between her and her son’s bedroom. It’s an open treasure chest, with little murals and sculptures, religious figurines and gods from many faiths. “The Mary you see is from Goa, a friend got a Jesus {statue} from Italy… then there’s something from Florence. This Yum & Yumi are from Darjeeling. And the Hanuman is from Pondicherry.” She points at scattered items, and we travel the world with each of them. The shaft that runs through the 3rd to the 1st floor comes to a close here. Hanging from the ceiling, at different heights, are bronze finished, star-shaped lights, which throw light on a stunning collection of antique and new Tanjore paintings. “This installation’s been done by Anshika… I think she picked up these lights from Janpath or something. She wanted to create a feeling of stars falling from the skies… they look so dreamy at night.”


home-decor-5{Stars falling from the sky; a light installation by Anshika}

table-seema-corridor{This table was sourced from Jodhpur; figurines placed on this can be traced back to the family’s travels all over India & the world.}

seema-kohli-room-6

{Seema’s room and the corridor on her floor | “My room’s most furniture from Fabinida, and shelves from Jodhpur. Anshika had specially gone to Jodhpur to collect things for our home, and most of the big pieces have come from there. The bed is from Country Inn… they have good beds. You’ll find bookshelves everywhere, and for all three of them. We read a lot as a family!”}

Svabhu’s room, a compelling contrast to his mum and sister’s rooms, is a fairly modern ensemble. Powder blue and white walls have framed prints designed by him. There’s a lot of playfulness in the space; toy planes from his childhood hang from a corner, and a wooden scrabble case, seated on a cross table, opens into a case of collectables, including his very first camera.

Seema-kohli-son-room

seema-kohli-home{For his balcony, Svabhu created a grid, and old glass bottles and mason jars hold plants and foliage.}

Svabhu 1

Svabhu 2

{An old scrabble case, I suppose, has been used to create a corner table and storage for all his collectibles.}

“The theme, per se, for our home was to make it look our own…” Seema tells us, pointing at a wall painting done by her son in her drawing room. “The last time he was here, growing a little tired of the white wall, he mixed together some colors and created this on the wall.” Silhouettes of blue make splashes on the wall and corners of the ceiling. “He said that now it’s looking a little messy and nice. It’s a statement!” The mural next to Svabhu’s creation is the handwork of tribal artists from Jabalpur. They stayed with the family for almost 2 weeks. “They painted and they sang as they created this. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful experiences we’ve had.”

wall art

drawing-rom-seema-kohli{Wall art | Created by artists from Jabalpur; and Svabhu’s latest creation}

Through the course of our walk around her home, we saw displays of gods from many different faiths. Why so many gods, I questioned. “I think my art and my practice are about faith and beliefs, you know… that’s why instead of making it a religious space, I’ve made a spiritual space – but so many faiths together. I feel it all comes down to the same thing.”

The final stretch of the staircase open into a basement, which serves as a mini-home-theatre and a space for Seema to store a selection of her work. The first artwork we see is this 8ftx5ft display called ‘Kali‘. The wall space next to that is shrouded by masks in myriad shapes, sizes and colors. They’ve been collected over 15 years and from all corners of the world –  South Africa, Badrinath, China, Burma, Indonesia, Bali, Florence, and there’s one of Seema and Anshika made by Seema herself.

IMG_0791-003_2 home-decor-seema-3 buddha

{“I think my art and my practice is about faith and beliefs, you know.. that’s why instead of making it a religious space, I’ve made a spiritual space- but so many faiths together. I feel it all comes down to the same thing.” Seema Kohli}

masks 2 basement

{Pictured here: the basement which works as an emporium of her art and a screening space.}

So what makes her fall in love with her home over and over again? “It’s not the space, but it’s what you put into it. In our earlier house, which was a simple three bedroom house, we’d colored it in different colors, and because the three of us are very creative, there was always a dialogue being created through our approach towards designing… I feel a space becomes your own when you share yourself with that space. You have to pour out something to get something back from it.”

 

 {Photography Credits | Rushil Khokhar}