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Indian interiors: decorating in indian style

Monday, 22 September 2008

indian interiorsIndian theme is not as completely new as it may seem at first glance. It has been a popular theme from olden times and up to this day. Bright and motley coloring of Indian interior with strange objects and gold embroidery appeal to generous and full of zest European nature.

Still, the precise copying of this style and its elements can be overwhelmig for our character, which was formed in the illimitable fields and pine-tree forests, upon quiet creeks and not in the tropical jungle full of wild monkeys and blooming lianas. It is easier to borrow some fancy details - they will get into place in any interior. And it is no wonder: they come from the country where all kind of styles get along better than in any other place.

Let us start with clear understanding of what can be borrowed. Mainstay of Indian decoration is carved wood and patterns. Throughout India you can find a lot of carved wood decorating windows, balconies, doors, sometimes ceilings, and, by all means, furniture. Carved columns and plate traceries of figured arches are essential elements of Indian architecture. This way or another the Sun, which has been worshipped by Hindus for ages, is part of Indian interior. Many elements symbolize the sun: circles are for the heavenly body itself, radiating lines stand for its rays, and bright spots resemble its light.

Very real, not symbolic, sun is reflected upon lacquered surfaces. India, rich in different types of resins, posesses advanced technologies of lacquering coating. Coloured, rapidly drying lacqueres are mostly used for carved furniture details. Another method involves applying multilayers of lacquer and scratching the picture through on its surface like sgraffito (from Italian «sgraffito» - «scratched through», scratching through the upper layer of plaster to reveal the lower layer, which is different in colour).

In India not only furniture and walls are lacquered, but also various accessories. It is understandable that there are more than one method of lacquering. Nirmal (named after its place of origin in Adilabad district) is the most known of them. It appeared more than four hundred years ago. Black, red and gold lacquer is produced from tamaringo seed juice. It is applied over different objects made of papier-mache and soft wood, like boxes, trays, and dishes. Then they are painted with bright water colours, and another layer of lacquer is applied. An explicit array of expressions is portrayed in myriad colours and forms, including large lotus flowers, people, mythological characters, copies of portrait miniatures, and even fragments of Ajant cave temple paintings. Lacqueres of Kashmir usually have some petty floral patterns which totally cover the surface. Lacqueres of Orissa, as a rule, have red background with white «flies», and depict legends about Krishna.

Sari for the window

Turquoise, raspberry and orange are prevailing colours in Indian interior. But only in Hindustan they get unique shades and nuances; therefore, it is advised to bring decorating cloths for the interior from there. Cotton fabrics has been used in India since olden times - cotton grows abundantly in this country. Folk artists came up with a fascinating product - printed cloth - cotton fabrics with printed scenes from the rustic ethos with multiple figures of musicians, dancers, and animals. They are amazingly bright, cheerful, decorative and picturesque.

Indian silk is special not only in colour, but in texture as well. It is a little rough by touch, not as smooth and slippery as Chinese silk. Traditional woman's clothing is sari, the cuts of cloth 15 - 25 feet (5 - 8 m) long and 44 inches (110 sm) wide. Indian women have been wearing sari with dignity and grace for centuries. And Russian women gladly hang them upon the windows. One silk sari is enough to make two curtains, or one can select two slightly different pieces. Indian interior is not complete without colourful carpets with geometric pattern. They come with a nice bonus: they are cheaper than Persian or Turkish ones.

Indian furniture is low, sawn by hand from Indian oak, nut wood or pink wood. It is functional and whimsical at the same time. Indian furniture is enviromentally friendly: all mordants and dyes are of natural (plant) origin, and natural wax is used for polishing and coatings. Easy transformation is a common feature of Indian furniture. Stools, chairs and tables, screens, shutters and doors frequently change their places, and their function. For example, an elegant carved door easily can transform into a table top. Some objects are brought in from the street (so to say «guests from out-doors»). A former elefant saddle or a cart (arba) taken off wheels may become a coffee table. These whimsical things are abundantly decorated, sometimes in-laid by ivory or camel bone, they are riveted or rimmed with metallic strips to protect wood from thermites and moist climate. Typical items of Indian furniture are a stool with grooved lacquered legs and a woven seat, a low couch with brocade pillows, and a dresser with multiple sliding drawers.

Matryoshki from India

A screen is a traditional attribute of interior in the country of miracles. In maharaja's chambers it was used to create cosy spaces in the enormous palace rooms. Today it is an active element of every interior in Indian style. And the choice is overwhelming. Screens made of Indian oak with openwork carving are not varnished and emphasize the natural beauty of wood. Screens, decorated with lacquered colourful miniatures with images of people, flowers or fruit. Screens, made of varnished wood with modest carving and a strip of large pattern, with metal inserts in the shape of the stylized sun or a flower. Another amusing Indian thing - a set of three table-stools of different height, which are placed one under another. They occupy little space, look originally, and they are very handy. Usually this «matryoshka» is decorated in Rajasthan style - with carving and mother-of-pearl or brass laid-ins, or in Goan style - with magnificent lace carving.

Indian cabinets are very expressive. This reduced imitation of ancient originals accurately copies decorating details and accessories of cabinets from maharajas' palaces. Heavy wardrobes made of Indian oak have doors, which resemble ancient fortress gates, decorated with strips of nonferrous metals and carved flowers. Cabinet for things and bed linen storage is called «damchi». It is a long box with four legs, decorated with carving and incrustation, with two small doors in the middle. Sideboards with convenient shelves are called «almadi».

And don't forget elefant figurines. Other animals, respected in India - cows, horses and antelopes, can be placed together with them. They can be cut of wood, or made of papier-mache and stretched over with camel or buffalo skin. The ancient Indian tradition demanded bronze and copper dishes for ritual ceremonies, and they are very decorative and appropriate not only in the kitchen. One more ancient element of Indian decor, which is very popular today, is a hookah. Best samples are made of glass and metal with leather hoses and carved mouthpieces. The hookah goes well with a chess table with figures carved of sandal wood. The composition can be complemented with a vase filled with floating candles and flower heads, and Indian fragrancies. Now you are ready to begin meditation.

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