Some homes attract people in spite of being cluttered, full of furniture, no design scheme, dust on ledges; homes that got shaped by the needs of its inhabitants and time. We all know such homes because that is the home of our grandparents. The welcome is very warm. The sense of ease is great.
I grew up in such a house. There were at least 20 people in it at any time. No one had a room of their own, except maybe the master of the house. And God. The best you could hope for was a table in some corner of the house that was exclusively yours. People slept wherever there was space. Bedding was rolled away in the daytime. Clothes were kept in a tin box or suitcase. There were a few chairs for visitors. But mostly people sat on the floor, on the steps to chat, on the verandah to play games, on the parapet walls of the terrace to study and chat and peer into the neighbour’s garden. There was one bathroom. The toilets were at the back of the houses. Nothing was ever thrown away.
Possibly in reaction to all that I wanted to have a house of my own where things had a place and the overall effect was neat and nice. I started off in a small house where the rooms could barely accommodate two beds. We moved every year to a slightly better space. Each one I arranged to the best of my ability and learnt while making do with limited resources.
I’ve learnt that my taste changes with time. So I don’t feel too sad that I can’t afford something. For instance, I badly wanted a deep maroon bathroom when we were building (yes! it was fashionable to have a crimson bathroom). But not being able to afford it, I put in a single row of maroon tiles between rows of white and boy, am I glad now. These days I keep a wish list. Small items have to wait for a month and larger items, even a year.
Divans are great when you are short on space and money, adding sleeping space and a great deal of cheerful colour. It was one of our first pieces of furniture and is still with us now. But I do have to curb my urge to buy too many cushion covers because they are cheap and attractive
Polished wood, brass, gleaming floors are all elements that make a room look great. Especially when there is a window that lets in golden rays of sunshine to highlight them. But when I look at those wonderful brass lamps or multi tiered chandeliers on sale, I think of the maintenance involved and pass. I prefer pictures that I like to hang on the walls. All they require is an occasional wipe.
Every six months or so, it gives me pleasure to clean and rearrange and give away at least a few items. Something that I heard Sudha Murthy say in an interview, ‘When I buy one saree, I give away another ‘has stayed with me and I try to follow the principle.
Keeping surfaces free gives a great sense of space whether it is floor, table or shelf. Something that doesn’t always happen in the clutter of living but a standard to look up to.
Living in rented houses was good preparation for building my own. Ten houses later, we started building a house high on a hilltop. Initially, there were three rooms, a makeshift kitchen and bath. A few years later, we added an upper floor. And further on, we painted. Six years later, most of the rooms still look good. Only the kitchen has been repainted.
I love colour. Bold bright solid colours. And that shows in the rooms of my house. Living in Ooty where it rains often and the weather is cold, depression can come down heavily. So I painted the rooms in bright colours and used warm yellow lighting. And before you gag, most of the rooms have one or two walls of white to break all that colour.
For the living room I wanted a mango yellow, bright and warm. I did manage to find it in a shade card of Asian paints. After the first coat I was a little taken aback because it was so orangey and bright. We had been living with the white of the primer until then. But it did settle in and is a great background for photographs.
There is a little alcove in the living room which actually is the result of a mistake when the house was being built. We had some glass shelves put in and a light above and it now forms a display corner. This alcove needed a different colour because the surrounding wall is white and I used the crimson (used in the puja alcove) behind and orange (from the dining room) on the sides.
The dining room cum kitchen began with walls of bright orange and yellow and white. It has a small niche and to give it a different texture, I covered the area with coconut fibre by mixing it with a paste of fevicol and putty. We had to try different colours in this space before we settled on white which contrasted well with the orange wall. The white of the alcove remains and is a good background for the little things that gather.
Bedrooms are to be a restful, cool blue say all the guidebooks. So blue it was. But there was one wall which rises high to the peaked roof. And I had to liven it up. On the Asian paints website, five years ago, I found a pattern of panels painted alternately in 3 shades of the same colour. I debated between triangles and straight lines and the former won. The painter took it as a challenge and did a great job with it a long piece of wood, a pencil and a very steady hand.
The girls’ bedroom was of course pink but a deep shade of pink on opposite walls. The pink now forms a nice background for a collection of photos in black and white. This bedroom also has a cupboard whose doors have been fitted with a piece of lacy cloth sandwiched between two layers of glass. And a window seat which is one of those carried over dreams of childhood.
A friend was talking about old houses which were decorated with a row of tiles in the centre. And that inspired the guest bedroom in two shades of green with a little decorative band in between which I painted myself with a simple pattern in orange.
One bathroom which I thought was rather boring has the ceiling painted in green. Another has one wall in a textured surface painted orange. The texturing was done with a layer of putty and fingers! The puja niche is rich in panels of maroon and orange, another combination which I found on the Asian paints website. We’ve further enlivened it with two bands of figures painted on yellow.
The outside walls became a light mint green with windows and doors highlighted in light blue. A combination I found in a book.
Being housebound for more than three weeks while the house was being painted, I started a little project of my own. On the outside wall I drew and painted a Sun God over the three weeks using all the colors used inside the house. It kept me happily occupied and took away some of the stress.
The mural, the house and walls still look good after six years thanks to Asian paints. Painting is the most economic and spectacular way to transform a house. A freshly painted house gives off so many good vibrations however big or small it may be. Some years later, I hope to do it all over again.
Now looking at the Asian paints website, I see it cuts down on a lot of the homework and research involved in painting a house or a room. There are lots of pictures and inspirational ideas. One can even create a project right from collecting pictures on My Inspiration wall and managing the whole project step by step. And then play around with the rooms using tools like Screen Test, trying out shades and effects. With Experience Magic, one can have fun with stencils. And their stencils which I have seen in several houses are very good.
There are advice columns and Paint Selectors and Budget calculators. Paint can be selected according to the material on which it is to be painted; by budget, shade, coverage, ante- fungal, wash ability and many other factors. The best part is they have a paint service where you can just tell them what you want and then let them do the rest. While I live in a small town and have had to deal with painters working for daily wages, I would prefer something like Asian paints Service who ask you want you want, draw up a contract and get down to it.
A house which reflects you and looks fine is a good place to come back to. But like housework, it never is done. One can keep adding, deleting and keep up the interest in the house. Whatever the decor, I only wish my house is half as welcoming as that of my mother.
So good reader, be kind and leave a comment!