Sunayana Malhotra: From the canvas to the interiors

The Story of My Home Dated:  Dec. 31, 2013
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Tearing across a promenade of buildings lying somewhere in the center of west Punjabi Bagh, we landed straight across a three storied white building with black wrought iron gates at the front. No sooner were we ushered to the second floor, than the domestic helper opened the front door. He led us indoors into an enormous space dotted with enticing stuff from around the world. The living room painted in a white backdrop embraced eclectic accents that revealed the fine taste of an artist who values tradition and culture. 

The wall adjacent to the door featured a full-of-life abstract art depicting intriguing phases of power struggle between a man and a woman. The L-shaped beige sofa adorned with colorful cushions lay against the wall featuring the painting.

_MG_6212 copy.jpg The Living Room Couch 

The opposite wall housed the fireplace that was beautifully crowned with an enormous wrought iron wall accent with intricate detailing. While standing at the center of the room, I could glance sideways to get a vivid picture of the balcony.

_MG_6103 copy.jpg The Glass Partition 

And the wall facing the enormous window was the most exotic thing I had seen - A glass case partition that detached the living room from the dining room. The glass partition was no ordinary. Encased in it was a mixed family of decorative plants dotted all along the case.

It hadn't been five minutes since I had started soaking in my surroundings, that the vivacious artist arrived. Dressed in red jumper and black trousers with an ethnic shawl clad around, Sunayana looked down-to-earth, yet extremely gorgeous. There was an air of liveliness about her that was apparent in the way she talked. 

_MG_6105-001.jpg Sunayana on her couch

When asked about what inspired her as an artist, she gleefully said she had admired art from the childhood and loved to make sketches even back then. But the dormant artist in her finally found expression once her children had grown up. She began painting and with the passage of time, women became her central theme and she began weaving most of her paintings around them. Few years later, she organized her first art exhibition in Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi and got rave reviews even from the international community.

When provided the option to choose between contemporary, modern and traditional decor styles, Sunayana prefers contemporary decor with an Indian accent. She loves mixing and matching things which was quite evident from her decor - the paintings from South India, wall accents from Turkey, artworks from New York and some ethnic art pieces from Delhi. 

According to Sunayana, the initial consideration was to build a contemporary home. But soon, the space became more of an eclectic as she and her husband picked up stuff from around the world that expressed their persona, interests and passion. Sunayana is a great believer of preserving old furniture which, she says, can be creatively used to compliment new decor styles.

_MG_6077 copy.jpg The red wall 

Every home design has a thought process associated with it. Sunayana Malhotra envisaged a warm and friendly home where she would invite friends over. She firmly believes that the interior ambience must be good enough to uplift the moods of guests as well as family members. 

Not one to go by rules set by others, she thinks there can be no thumb rule for interior decor and that we shouldn't follow trends blindly unless we personally identify with them. She feels since people are going overboard about modern decor theme, it's time now we inculcate the traditional theme in our decor.  

Sunayana graciously offered to show us around the home and that gave us an opportunity to check out the other side of her creativity in interior design. Every space in her home has an identity of its own. Every room took up a theme as per the functionality. She led us into her bedroom via a narrow hallway that was flanked by the glass casing (similar to that of the living room) on one side and the kitchen on the other side. 

_MG_6074 copy.jpg The glass casing

Looking into the glass case from the avenue, one could catch a glimpse of a small bar with a warm seating arrangement- a perfect place to catch up with friends. 

We walked through the door that opened into the bar area. The space, though compact was meticulously maneuvered into a classy bar. Right behind the bar counter, on the opposite wall there was a series of liquor bottles, lined exquisitely on the rafters. When asked about the story behind these rafters, Sunayana retorted thoughtfully "It was due to spatial challenge here that we preferred opting for rafters rather than going for cabinets." And the best part I liked about the space was that its ceiling was lined with similar rafters. Glancing upwards at the ceiling, an exquisite lighting fixture caught my eyes - A couple of wine glasses were fastened together so as to form a lighting fixture that dangled  over the bar counter. The side wall featured a couple of beautifully framed family portraits. 

_MG_6159 copy.jpg The cozy bar area

The door on the left of the liquor racks opened into the master suite. Donned in neutral tones of brown and beige, the bedroom was spacious and serene; Contrary to the living room that was full of art, the bedroom struck more of a contemporary picture. Right on the front, there stretched a king sized bed featuring a swanky gold headboard bordered with a white patterned frame. The sheets and cushions took up the darker brown hue so as to strike a balance with the lighter tone on the walls. Also, two flashy gold cushions seated on the front of the bed to establish the symmetry in the decor.

_MG_6060-001 copy.jpg The master suite 

Sunayana loves the concept of subdued lighting which was induced in the bedroom to create a mood. 

The best part about the bedroom was its inbound extension featuring a magical ceiling that rekindled the charm of a night sky beaming with a cluster of stars. According to Sunayana, the space beneath the ceiling was reserved for bed initially. However, due to compact space therein, the bed was pulled out later. Currently, the space serves as a mini study area.

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After the master bedroom, it was the turn of her son's room which could be seen straight from the bedroom's door through the bar area. According to Sunayana her kids' rooms were designed as per their own tastes and liking. The room exuded a peaceful air, yet it was a typical youngster's room. A bed ran through the center and the white walls were adorned by Hollywood movie posters in black and white- one featuring Marlon Brando and the other featuring a vintage collage of Marilyn Monroe. Also, there was a small study area clubbed with the cabinet. 

Our next stop was her daughter's bedroom which featured a small Pooja Ghar established on an elevated platform. As per Sunayana, the bedroom, initially was her own ( the reason why there was a Pooja Mandir within) but then, it was revamped into her daughter's bedroom. Coral pink tone was applied on the wall behind the bed and a small Justin Beiber portrait was pinned down on the center. Also, the space facing the bed was carved out for the study. Just a little tweak here and there and the room was perfectly customized as the way her daughter wanted. Nevertheless, the Pooja Mandir still remains there. 

_MG_6145 copy.jpg Her daughter's bedroom 

It was then that we made our way to the dining room via the hallway. We stopped by the hallway to check out the kitchen. The kitchen was modern, spacious and was meticulously designed to make the best use of space. 

The other end of the hallway opened into a space that was decked with richly inlaid Turkish wall accent. We made our way to the dining room and were mesmerized by the artistic space. Though the area was compact, yet the decor was out-of-the-box. 

_MG_6196 copy.jpg The Turkish accent 

The dining table ran through the center and the walls were flanked by the elements of art - The one facing the entry gate was spruced up with an enormous Tanjore painting from South India. The adjacent side featured the exotic glass case which was a window to the living room; And the side facing the glass case displayed the real element a one of her masterpieces on a large canvas. The artwork was abstract and was painted in psychedelic colors that lift up the soul. Sunayana never plans colors beforehand; The color that expresses her mood at the moment is often the basic color for the painting. 

_MG_6095 copy.jpg

_MG_6095 copy.jpg The Dining Room 

Lastly, we were led into a seating room that partly served as a library. A polished trunk of what would have been a large tree served as a coffee table which was spread in the center. Featuring a monochrome splash artwork by Jackson Pollock ( Sunayana herself is an admirer of the artist), the room casts a sophisticated air.  

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Finally she showed us the way to her balcony and gestured towards the ceiling. Before we could look up, we sensed the cool  December breeze that set forth chimes jingling with the tunes of Nirvana; The entire balcony was lined with a series of wind chimes, some brought all the way from Bhutan, some from the local vendors.The wall on the extreme left of narrow balcony was decorated with fancy vintage mirrors.


When asked about the challenges associated with home decor, she replied that the initial process is not as overwhelming as the incessant home maintenance is. It's not easy to look after things very often. Home decor is an ongoing process. She would anytime replace a decor piece with a better one if she is bored of the old one. 

I thought of taking some tips from the artist on the type of artwork she would recommend for homeowners. According to her, a living room artwork must be anything which is lively and vibrant, especially if you have children. She recommends an artwork that is soothing to the eyes. However, she strongly disapproves of dull colors as they are depressing, even according to Vastu. 

When talking about colors, she refreshed a memory when she was asked to paint a canvas featuring a leaf; Instead of using the proposed white and gray, she added sprinkles of gold and beige to make it more vivacious and appealing. For offices she recommends sculptures and abstract art.

Sunayana prefers neutral colors for interiors and strongly believes that the choice of colors reflects the personality of an individual. She wouldn't go for jarring red or orange which have been brought in the limelight recently. However, she adds " We must know how to play with colors." She strongly holds a view that art has a strong role in interior design. She believes that art reflects the person you are. In fact, she recommends parents to introduce art to their children early on in life to enable them to imbibe it perfectly. 

With the gentle tinkle of the wind chimes still playing in my head, as I walked back I couldn't help feeling the striking similarities between Sunayana, the artist's work and her home decor. The play of colors, the blend of contemporary with the traditional, the moods of a woman, all reflect in the canvas that her home is. We left with a though-provoking note that art must form the basis of interior decor. 

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Photo Credits: Riku Sharma

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