History in the Home

Designer Ritu Kumar’s debut homeware collection is inspired by traditional Indian textiles, says Ishita Goel

As I enter design doyen Ritu Kumar’s plush store in New Delhi, for the launch of her latest textileinspired homeware collection, I feel as if I have stepped back in time. From one corner of the room beckons a powder blue wallpaper minted with peach floral motifs, transporting me to the Rajput era of Jaipur city, while the other draws my attention with its laid out jewel-toned meenakari crockery, taking me to the bustling lanes of Varanasi.

“This collection is an attempt to bring to light the warmth of Indian textiles, whose heritage has been buried for a long time,” says Kumar, sitting against the backdrop of a vibrant wallpaper strewn with motifs depicting the bagh (tiger), which, she explains, has been inspired by a design that’s almost 300 years old. “I started dabbling in homeware almost 40 years ago when I began my work with hand block printing. I used to make small cushions, but it was only a hobby then. Over a period of time, I felt that Indian textiles are best suited for home furnishings,” she says.

A huge dining table with Awadhi-inspired crockery that takes pride of place at the centre of the store, is reminiscent of Lucknow, the city of nawabs. It immediately invites one to dig into a lavish spread served in glasses, cups and trays fringed with jaali motifs that have been inspired from Bada Imambara, an iconic landmark of the city. The giant lanterns and lamps next to the table are embellished with the same pattern and hark back to the days of the Mughal rule.

As the soulful tunes of a mouth-organ play in the background, Kumar shares the adventurous tales of choosing the textiles she has used in her homeware collection. “During my travels, whether I was in a tent in the hinterlands of the country or in a museum – what mesmerised me most were hand-printed textiles. Inspired by the natural colours of these traditional fabrics, I’ve kept the colour palette of my collection subtle and made prominent use of vegetable hues,” she says.

“To pick one textile over another was a challenge, but we will be changing them over the months for diversity,” she tells me, pointing towards the Jalmahal bed, inspired by the eponymous opulent floating palace in Jaipur. “The striking yellow bedcovers take their hue from sunny days, while the contrasting blue is a call-out to clear skies you are likely to find in Jaipur,” she explains.

Kumar’s collection has undertones of nostalgia, which are best reflected in her luxe bronze crockery collection titled ‘Kansa’. Made using age-old expertise of holistic well-being, Kansa takes you back to childhood days, when ceramic pickle jars, bronze tiffin boxes and other such utensils were commonplace. “I tweaked the collection around present-day usage as what was relevant at that time, like heavy velvet drapes with gold embroidery, are not so important now,” Kumar says, adding, “The best thing about Indian textiles is that they can be suited to blend with the contemporary.” Around me, from vibrant upholstery and cosy bolsters to intricate wall hangings, almost every creation seems to be woven into dreamy stories of times gone by, reflecting the rich flavour of Indian heritage.

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