Caricatures smiling on dabba lids hung in your dining room. Anna smiling on your library’s wall. Slices of history sketched with a black marker. Wall designers tell Kareena N Gianani how each wall can tell your story
Earlier this year, when it was time to design her Prabhadevi home in central Mumbai, Shilpa Daga knew exactly what she wanted. Or so she thought.
“I am a Ganesha bhakt and have collected Ganesha idols in all shapes and sizes. I wanted to place them on this large wall in the living room,” says the 35-year-old architect.
Daga roped in Rahul Gaikwad of the wall design studio, Giant Walls. Gaikwad, however, thought Daga’s wall deserved better than a simplistic arrangement of Ganesha idols.
He used the wall to depict the eight forms of Ganesha (ashtavinayak) through symbols and calligraphy. For instance, Ganesha’s Moreshwar avatar is signified by the letter ‘M’ written in Devnagiri script. The space beside each form is designed with a fitting stotra (hymn), yantra (symbol) and sets of dolls to depict gods and goddesses.
Walls are canvas
For most of us, designing a home has long meant flipping through home decor magazines (preferably international), or hiring an interior designer who makes our home look like the one in the magazine. Our four walls usually end up being painted, textured, or, when we are at our creative peak, decorated with murals or paintings.
But thanks to a select few, walls aren’t just bare spaces in a home. Gaikwad, for instance, thinks of walls as a canvas that can be used to express the resident’s individuality, personal style or even the quirkiest whim. “In Daga’s case, all I knew was that she was a Ganesha devotee. Most people who are religious fill up their homes with idols — what’s new about that?”
Daga’s dining room was another challenge for Gaikwad. Three generations (nine members) live in the Daga home. It was a challenge for Daga to incorporate the tastes of a 70-year-old and a pre-teen. The result: Inspired by the city’s dabbawallas, Daga chose to put up 21 dabba lids, each depicting different expressions on people’s faces as they eat. “My mother-in-law loves them, and my nephews love the one where a man is greedily trying to slurp a noodle,” says Daga. Both wall designs cost Daga around Rs2.5 lakh.
In another home, in the cinema room, Gaikwad has designed a large popcorn tub and soda made of 3D pixel cubes. Each cube has Bollywood personalities like Dharmendra and Shah Rukh Khan printed on them.
The Anna effect
Dr Surendra Patil, 36, however, had no such philosophy that he wanted to depict on his walls at his Pune home. “But I knew I didn’t want blank walls either,” he says. Two months ago, Dr Patil contacted Amit, founder of Krazywalls who designs customised wall decals made of vinyl. “We got talking about corruption and Dr Patil lamented on the state of affairs. He then mentioned how he admires Anna Hazare,” says Amit. Dr Patil had treated Hazare at his hospital. “Amit asked me if I felt deeply enough to put Anna’s wall decal in my home. I said, why not? I find his aura very reassuring, so I chose the Anna decal for my library,” says Dr Patil.
Priya Pangaonkar, co-founder of Mockingbird Decals, says she has seen a 60 per cent rise in the demand of decals over the last six months. “Wall decals are a cheaper option for those who don’t want plants, or a lot of furniture, but aspire for a minimalist, classy look,” says the 27-year-old designer. Decals start from Rs1500. Pangaonkar is working on a home with decals of Rajasthani motifs and Warli art. “Your walls have to mean something to you…” says Pangaonkar.
On your marks
Ayaz Basrai agrees — your walls tell so much about you if you let them. The co-founder of The Bus Ride, a design studio, designed the walls and interiors for Prithvi Cafe and The Elbo Room in Mumbai and the Smoke House Deli in Delhi and Chandigarh (he is currently working on Smoke House Deli at Phoenix Mills, Mumbai).
“Your walls are about you — how much time do you spend at home, how often do friends come over, what do you want this space to stand for?” Basrai asks many questions before designing walls, but keeps it simple and adorably whimsical. At the Smoke House Deli at Phoenix Mills, which will open shortly, Basrai’s tools are history, trivia and a black marker. Since Phoenix Mills was a cotton mill before the mall was built, Basrai has drawn the sketch of The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, the legendary zoophyte of central Asia, believed to grow sheep as its fruit — a medieval belief explaining the existence of cotton. Other sketches represent the history of Bombay, as the city was known then, like the first electric railway, and a poster of an opera performed at the Opera House. Theirs is also a sketch of umbrellas that is rather intriguing.
“Subhash Chandra Bose gave a lecture outside Big Bazaar here,” he says pointing outside the deli. “It started raining and people brought out their umbrellas. Bose, however, asked them to shut them because he couldn’t see their faces,” he explains, clearly fascinated. Apart from sketches with a marker, Basrai advices using LED screens in your room and doing a bit of animation. “Imagine an animated Mona Lisa projected on your wall, who sneezes every 30 minutes,” he grins.
Gaikwad rues that, in India, design is mainly used to prove to others that you’re cool and can spend money.
“The Chinese, for instance, have their culture imprinted even on their ceramic plates and coffee mugs. And we borrow disco balls and laser lights. We can do better, really,” he smiles.