Kalyani Saha Chawla’s work in fashion has given her razor-sharp insights into the world of style—her love of art, a strong sense of aesthetic. Her New Delhi home, a mix of edgy and eclectic, mirrors this
Towards the end of a narrow road in south-west Delhi’s Mehrauli neighbourhood, a pristine, white, double-storeyed structure encloses within it vibrant art, and its even more colourful owner, Kalyani Saha Chawla. Kalyani is a fashion entrepreneur, a luxury consultant, and a lover of art. Growing up in Kolkata, the daughter of an idealistic, passionate, and intense family, she spent her most impressionable years in a rambling, joint-family mansion on Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road. She has memories of black-and-white chequered marble floors, patterned and trellised glass doors, and art everywhere
Her New Delhi house has, in a manner, carried the story forward. The floors may not be chequered, but the doors are glass, and there is art everywhere. The granddaughter of legendary style maven Reba Rani Saha (“She took her middle name very seriously,” says Kalyani, eyes rolling) and daughter of noted gallery owner, Alaknanda Saha (she of the impeccable coiffure and elegant Tangail saris), Kalyani, simply put, loves art. It is neither societal affliction for her, nor mere subscription to fad. She has had the most stunning art around her ever since she was a child, and the essence of it pervades her home.
A sharp businesswoman, and a woman-about-town in New Delhi, Mumbai and Paris, amongst others, Kalyani likes to entertain and maintains a spiffy, eclectic salon. The Mehrauli house, naturally, is made just for that.
Marry the art, a smart home and a great hostess, and what you get is a particular kind of magic. “Kalyani is a thoroughly modern Indian woman and yet she is also very, very rooted in tradition, in Bengali culture, art and history. She also works in fashion and she likes to entertain,” says Vikram Goyal of Viya Home, who designed her previous house.
Kalyani moved into this house last year, just in time for Diwali, and made sure all her art was in place. Now, along with furniture from Viya Home, there are stunning artworks by stalwarts like Rabindranath Tagore (“My parents gave it to me on my 40th birthday”), Jamini Roy (“He was a very close friend of the family”), FN Souza and lithographs by MF Husain, one of which is surprisingly titled Kalyani in Green. Books on wildly varying subjects—Gandhi, Picasso, and fashion—are scattered through the space on coffee tables, consoles and even the velvet-upholstered chaise longues.
The living room’s pale-green walls create the perfect background for the paintings. Works by patuas (artists who paint on cloth in the famed 19th-century Kalighat style of Bengal) share the wall with a Jamini Roy. Roy, after all, had an abiding interest in patua painters and had, at one stage, even learnt from them. On the wall adjacent to the Roy is a haunting, ethereal, almost ghostly drawing of 10 women by Rabindranath Tagore. And as if to offset this crepuscular beauty, the other side of the living room features two early Bengal School works, with their rich, deep reds and greens. Their dull gold frames ensure that you pay attention.
The counterpoint to all this art had to be something incomparably distinctive and different. The answer was a contemporary seven-foot-wide metallic sconce by Viya Home—not unlike a glamorous city skyline—that would hold its own in a New York loft, or a Paris atelier. Mounted on the wall separating the entrance from the dining room, it makes a great conversation starter.
In the dining room, the walls are lacquered in a glossy black with bands of moulding in a dull gold, crisscrossing the walls, evoking a fabulous laser show. The effect is drop-dead gorgeous. Paired with a seductive antler-leg table from Viya Home, what you have is one of the smartest dining rooms in the capital.
Since Kalyani entertains so much, she has reserved the two rooms upstairs as the private quarters, with one room for her, and the second for her daughter, Tahira Tara. The space she refers to as “the den” has one of Kalyani’s favourite purchases—a Riyas Komu painting of a youth’s face juxtaposed with a red star. It is a delightful, light-filled room, with an ancient Persian carpet on the floor, and books everywhere. A guest would be beguiled.
Surrounded by the things she loves, gifts accepted with deep appreciation, objects collected with care, Kalyani is at peace. “I really love this house. Once here, I don’t feel like leaving. When my daughter Tahira is here, it resonates with her energy, her laughter and the voices of her friends. When she is away, the art does the same. And that gives me great joy.” Meanwhile, the doorbell is ringing; guests are waiting to pour in.