When I was eighteen I asked my mother if I could study interior design, she said that I was ‘too smart to be wasting my brains on a frivolous thing like that’. Like with most things my mother says to me, I was confused by her refusal to let me pursue this line of work and at the same time gratified that she thought I was smart. So I studied english literature, sat for the UPSC exam, cleared and became an IRS Officer. But I never gave up on the idea that I would and could do more things with my life apart from my day job.
I stayed a year and a half in a rental flat and then shifted to a government allocated one in Powai. The flat was in a bad shape when I was handed over the keys and first stepped in. The floors were encrusted with years of dirt and grime, the bathrooms were a mess and a cabinet that hung in the kitchen served as a hideaway for termites and other creepy crawlies. In the corridor that lead to the master bedroom there was a large sink in various stages of decay. The rooms in the house were all painted in ghastly unsettling tones of pink and green. I wanted to run off and renew my lease with my old landlady. But I knew I would be saving money by living in this government provided housing as opposed to the nice flat with its yearly increasing rates. So I had to make do and I started by trying to clean the muck off the floor. I don’t really know what kind of stone or tiles were originally there and through the film of dirt I think the floor was a strange dark green colour with flecks of red. Anyway, suffice to say I was unable to clean the floors and decided that I would quite literally hide it under a rug. So I decided to get some guys to paste some sort of faux parquetry over it. It took less than a day (the apartment is quite small). The man who pasted it did not specify if it was vinyl flooring or linoleum, he only called it a ‘fibre carpet’. He told me that I was to be careful not to drag any furniture over it lest it tear the flooring. I was quite broke then and picked the cheapest kind of flooring there was but I would recommend, to anyone interested in amping up their apartment, picking a better kind of flooring. Vinyl is durable, low maintenance and easy on the budget. It comes in a variety of colours and can be made to look like wooden or stone floors. It is different from linoleum in that linoleum is made from natural ingredients while vinyl is synthetic. Therefore linoleum may be the more environment friendly and healthier option while vinyl can be toxic.
The contractor will show you numerous swatches. Pick something you feel will go with furniture you already have or what you are likely to buy. The warmer, woody tones make a house look mellow and comfy, while the lighter cooler tones will give your apartment the appearance of space. Pick wisely. Take your time.
Next thing I did was pick a colour for my walls. The painter showed me an assortment of colours but I asked him to show me white. I wanted a white with an almost creamy hue rather than a blue tone. I thought that was what I was picking until I went over to the house one evening to see how they were progressing. When the evening light fell on the walls it revealed that I had picked a white with a lilac undertone and the orange light gave the room a soft pink glow. I was sad that I had picked a wrong shade of white (and yes, there are many many shades of white). But I’ve since grown to love it.
These two forms of renovation and the removal of the obtrusive sink and termite infested cabinet was enough to change the look of the flat. It looked cleaner and was starting to shape up. I brought whatever furniture I had from my previous flat and had some new things made. The sofa I picked up from Bhiwandi and the Wingback chair came from Urban Ladder. The rest of the furniture I had made at the second hand market at Oshiwara.
The flat is oddly shaped with beams jutting out into the wall making the space smaller. This is why I measured all the spaces in my house and made the furniture according to these measurements. I made sure that the furniture fit in between the beams and everything looked snug and in its rightful place. I looked at Pinterest for days and weeks picking up designs and ideas. When I went to Oshiwara I asked around, checked to see who could execute the kind of designs I wanted and then picked a carpenter. It’s all about exploring the market to see a style that fits your aesthetic. On finding the right one, I showed the carpenter the designs and he was able to mimic them quite well within my very limited budget. Mid century modern is a design style I prefer. The understated look and clean lines appeal to me. What I didn’t have made I bought and had polished or painted myself with matte finish paint. You can get matte finish paint at any of the larger paint stores.
Turning my apartment into a home took months and I am still adding new things to it. It took several trips to the furniture market. I also went to check on the renovations several times a week. I scrolled for hours on the internet to get ideas. One day I added a bookshelf, a week later the credenza and so on and so forth. If things didn’t match that was ok too. All that mattered was that I could come home and plop down with a cup of tea and feel comfortable and at ease in my own home and I think I achieved that. I may not have studied home interior design but I was able to make it into some kind of hobby when designing my own.