Lasting Impressions

What makes a place to stay a home? Is it a terrace with a dramatic view or a kitchen that’s absolutely perfect for entertaining. Or how about an ultra-modern layout, stately architecture or discreet rooms that lend historical charm? You & I has seen plenty of spectacular, pin-worthy residences and other spaces over the last 10 years.

You’ll find: a magnificent palace rich in heritage and historical opulence in Hyderabad; a sleek minimalist house in Mumbai; a cosy Balinese house in the capital city; a majestic beach house in California, and much more. There’s something here for everyone, whether you prefer low-key penthouses or deluxe palaces. But one thing is certain: Each of these spaces is enough to inspire an endless number of ideas for reinventing, redecorating or simply enjoying your very own space!                          – Anisha

TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE, HYDERABAD (2011)

There are palaces, and then there is the Taj Falaknuma. Built by then-Prime Minister of the Nizam, Sir Vikarul-Umra, the palace was designed by a European architect named William Mariet in the shape of a scorpion. Over the years, the Taj Falaknuma became a popular place to stay, and today its Italian and Tudor architecture, gardens and restaurants are a central part of life in Hyderabad —one that offers a unique snapshot of the city’s past and present.

The palace has three main wings: Mardana Mahal, Gol Bangla, and Zenana Mahal. The fourth part of the palace was constructed later. The entrance is from the Mardana Falaknuma, which combines the European world of Corinthian columns, Osler, Bohemian and Venetian chandeliers, stained-glass doors and windows, and lavishly painted murals. Gol Bangla Palace features an open terrace shaped like a huge scorpion stinger covered with stained-glass at the extreme ends. And then there is the Zenana Mahal; Mughal in character and style, it is the epitome of a luxurious world. It comprises three courtyards and the characteristically Deccan Tara Houz.

A stay at this 60-room and 22-hall palace, perched majestically atop the 2,000-foot-high Koh-i-Tur Hill, is no doubt a splurge. But you’ll get a famous 101-seater dining hall, a ballroom, a men’s saloon, and a Coronation Hall, in exchange. What really sings, though, is the beauty of the palace: frescos in the fountain area that covers the walls and the ceilings; a magnificent collection of paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts and books; and the geometric designs adorning the ceilings, walls and floors.If you ever wanted to know how the royals lived, this is where you find out.      

THE FAIRMONT JAIPUR, JAIPUR (2016)

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This country is filled with spectacular hotels that reflect the extraordinary landscape of India and dig into the rich history and heritage of each individual state. From traditional style to sharp modern edges, each exclusive accommodation has a story to tell. One such stunning hotel is the Fairmont Jaipur in Rajasthan.  Located on the outskirts of the Pink City, the hotel gracefully combines the glories of the past with modern-day comforts. Every aspect of the property, right from the architecture, layout, and decor to the warm hospitality, has been inspired by the aesthetic and lifestyle of the Mughal and Rajputs of yore.

And the royal fondness for beauty and refinement is on full display at the stunning hotel; intricate frescos in hues of blue, gold and red adorn the walls. These masterpieces were meticulously crafted by local artisans and craftsmen. Warm low lighting throughout the hotel lends a welcoming feel, as treasures like vintage Shekhawati furniture, carved silver antiques, the large velvet pankha in the lobby, and the rich upholstery make you feel like you’ve been transported into a past known for its dynastic glory.

The picturesque property boasts 255 rooms and suites that are elegantly appointed to reflect a perfect blend of modern amenities and traditional Rajasthani décor. This space features a main building, a seven-storey tower containing the original rambling sets of rooms of the men’s quarters known as the mardana. An adjacent lobby is a lavishly decorated area where formal and informal meetings were held, that was once the diwan-i-aam or durbar hall. Then there are guest rooms, a fully equipped gym and spa, where guests can take part in a wide range of activities and outings the hotel offers its guests, including hot-air ballooning, mountaineering, elephant rides, picnics, strolls through nearby villages, and guided city tours. The Fairmont Gold Floor – the brand’s exclusive ‘hotel within a hotel’ features access to the Fairmont Gold Lounge with personalised services. These include an intimate area that serves afternoon tea, evening canapés and a wide choice of beverages that only add to this lap-of-luxury experience.     

HARDESH AND MONICA CHAWLA, DELHI (2015)

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Beyond its opulent architecture, public spaces, nightlife, good food and cultural institutions, the factor that lends any city distinction is its people. For Delhi, ace interior designers and principals of Essentia Environments, Hardesh and Monica Chawla are one such couple. The duo’s handsome home – situated in a plush area of Gurgaon – is a mix of old and new architecture, meshing perfectly together to form a layered, complex urban identity.

Measuring some 20,000 square feet of indoor space and 3,500 outdoors, the distinctly contemporary house with clean lines includes a basement level and three floors above. The basement and ground floor are both designated as living and entertainment areas, and fitted with a multi-level gym, office and an extremely comfortable home theatre. The other two floors consist four bedrooms each, but the most striking feature of the house is the 40-foot high entry foyer with a central courtyard, built around a lifelike tree.

The overall feel of the palatial house is minimal, tactile and warm, and equally precious. “Although the overall theme is minimalistic, we have softened the entire space by using of a number of other elements, like earthy tones of mocha and coffee, textured stones, laser-cut metal panels in more traditional styles, and an abundance of art,” Monica said. She adds, “We designed this to be a clutter-free zone that is very kid-friendly with versatile areas to entertain, making it an easy and enjoyable home to maintain.”

The couple call their home “a quintessential traditional thought interpreted and brought to life in an unapologetic, modern way.”Absolutely grand in aesthetics and comforting in feel, the home features white Italian marble and natural wooden flooring throughout. Most of the furniture is straight-line, with emphasis on a clean look and ease of maintenance. The couches are all finished in leather, and the palette is neutral. But splashes of colour are present in the form of cushions, art and accessories, which are sourced from around the world.

INDANA PALACE HOTEL, JODHPUR (2014)

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The city in the Thar Desert is known for its many modern architectural wonders. But the iconic Indana Palace Hotel’s spacious rooms with sweeping views remain the gold standard of luxury travel accommodations. Conceptualised by Poonam Gundecha, Director – Indana Hotels and Resorts, Indana Palace Jodhpur is the perfect blend of modern comfort and old palatial charisma. Sharing the concept of the property, Poonam says, “The conceptual design of the hotel reflects the Rajasthani architecture from the 16th century. It is distinguished by the use of intricate column designs and arches, domes, carvings and jalli work, massive spans with open courtyards and elemental chattries.” She adds, “The basic idea was to reflect the essence of Marwar in the architecture of the building, and to create an astonishing structure that looks like a heritage hotel.”

Situated three kilometres from the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum and 10 kilometres from Mehrangarh Fort, this five-star luxury hotel includes a modern fitness centre, a massage parlour, a spa and wellness centre. They also have a spacious boardroom, three restaurants and a bar, a billiards room, 80 well-equipped guest rooms, eight special suites including a Grand Presidential suite, a banquet hall, and landscaped lawns.  

The most striking aspect of the Palace’s interiors is how intensely alive they feel. The indoor courtyard is designed to be a calm and soothing environment within the building. On the other hand, the passages around it are meant to guide and lure guests into the beautifully landscaped areas, where time indeed flies as you take in the lovely surroundings. The passages on the upper levels are also designed with the same concept. Every bedroom has a small sit-out that lets guests relish the beauty of the building and the land on which it so proudly sits. However, the dome here plays a very important role, not only in being architecturally sound, but also in reinforcing and completing the feel of the entire structure.

LAXMI VILAS PALACE, BARODA (2017)

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Laxmi Vilas Palace, located in Baroda, was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890 at a cost of GBP 180,000 and constructed by Major Charles Mant. Today, boasting modern amenities such as elevators and an interior that is reminiscent of a large European country house, the palace is the home of the Gaekwad royal family: Rajmata Shubhaginiraje Gaekwad, Maharaja Samarjitsinh Gaekwad, Maharani Radhikaraje Gaekwad, and their two beautiful daughters.

The lavish palace on the 700-acre property is part golf course, part cricket club, and part monuments and memorials. The grounds were landscaped by William Goldring – a specialist from Kew Gardens – and are as green as can be, especially when washed in the monsoon downpour.The art and accessories are similarly unique and sophisticated, ranging from Ravi Varma’s marble and terracotta by Fellici amongst other rare Indian and European art. A particular favourite is a fully functional toy train engine. It runs on a miniature railway track to bring the children from school to the main Laxmi Vilas Palace, flanking the entrance to the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum at one end of the palace.

With its minarets, arches and sumptuous Italianate courtyards, the royal home is divided into four parts including a ceremonial durbar hall. Belgian stained glass windows with Indian apsaras posing as angels take your breath away. Intricate mosaic decorations in lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones fill the floors. This is clearly one of the country’s best examples of a Maharaja palace.

SANJAY AND NINA PURI (2013)

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Let’s admit it: penthouses are luxurious. Perched on the top floor, they inevitably offer a panoramic view and feature other exclusive amenities, like rooftop gardens, sky-high pools, or private elevators. And if that’s not grand enough, you can add a few swanky elements into the mix, such as luminous ceilings, wooden flooring, custom-designed furniture, and glass curtain walls, and you have a lavish palace in the sky. Sanjay and Nina Puri’s beautifully appointed residence in a typical Mumbai skyliner on Pedder Road, is one such example.

Following a contemporary theme, Sanjay’s design firm Sanjay Puri Architects designed this South Mumbai penthouse to maximise the available space. “When we got the house, we broke it down almost completely and reconstructed the whole place,” Sanjay states. “We relocated the bedroom and living room, and made sure to highlight the terrace, which is the essence of the house. Now it almost feels like a tiny bungalow thanks to the open, airy feel.”

With no particular colour scheme, the house employs neutral shades by and large, with various niche walls in blue and understated gold. Italian marble flooring runs throughout the house except in the bedrooms, which have wooden flooring. “We reduced the original brickwork by 50% and used a lot of glass instead. This brings more openness to the house and allows you to see well inside,” adds Sanjay. “Every room has a brilliant view, but the best is the one from the terrace. It faces the sea and affords a 360-degree view of Mumbai; not many houses in this city have such a terrific view.”

KAMINI WAHI, MUMBAI (2011)

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There are several ways in which a beautiful house resembles an old novel. How, you ask? To begin with, both are rambling and capacious. They capture moments in time with their style, organization and intentions. They vividly convey human personality; just like an ambitious novel, which reveals the writer, an ambitious house discloses a good deal about the architect, interior designer and owner behind them. Architect and designer Kamini Wahi’s sea-facing house in Bandra divulges all that and much more. “My house is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the city. And this is where I relax with my thoughts at the end of the day. The sea, for me, is a comfort factor. And that’s why I decided to make it a part of my home, and in fact, designed my home to suit it,” said Kamini.

After taking in the view, the eye moves to the interiors, which create an equally admirable effect. Built in the French Provencal style, the interiors that combine the vintage with contemporary dashes, had surprisingly little to do with colour. However, Kamini’s attention to detail can be clearly seen in the thought that has gone into every part of the house. From the vintage furniture to wispy drapes and trinkets collected during her travels, all evoke serenity, and fit in with the white theme.

A designer by profession and a romantic at heart, Kamini has brought in all her experience to create her beautiful home. Blending the beautiful outdoors with her interiors, this home is exactly what she had in mind – a serene beauty!   

MANISH MEHTA AND PAYAL JAIN, DELHI (2014)

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One of the great luxuries of life is a stunning home that keeps chaos at bay. Fashion designer Payal Jain’s live/work space in Chattarpur – a luxurious property with greenery on all sides along with beautiful, cascading water bodies—appears to be just that. “We wanted to live with nature. That’s why you’ll find a lot of greenery and water bodies in the house,” Payal explains. Devised by architect Rajesh Dongre, the L-shaped mansion is spread over two and a half acres.

Following the Balinese theme, the sprawling mansion is also home to Payal’s husband Manish Mehta, their twin boys Jai and Yash, and Payal’s mother-in-law. The two-storey house has two wings connected by an open corridor with a wooden roof. The main wing includes a basement with a den and Payal’s design studio. While the ground floor features two drawing rooms, a dining area and a kitchen, the first floor houses four bedrooms. The other wing has Payal’s master bedroom on the first floor, along with a gym and spa on the ground floor.

The designer has made this charming corner of the city her own, and her artistic touch is visible throughout the home. Set in rustic and earthy tones, it makes good use of brick stone, slate rock, Dholpur stone and Udaipur green stone. The colour palette used in the house is natural and warm, reflecting the designer’s creativity. A great collection of vintage carpets, textiles and artefacts can be found throughout the house. The driveway has an open porch that overlooks a blue-tiled water body, designed like an infinity pool with a leaping brass sculpture of a dancing lady by K.S. Radhakrishnan.

RAM AND INDIRA REDDY, CALIFORNIA(2012)

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The Reddys California house melds rich detailing with streamlined modernist forms. “Planning the architectural layout and getting the designs in place took us almost three years – much longer than we expected. The entire family was full of ideas. Once ready, our home was not just a place that looked beautiful, but also combined comfort with aesthetics. It was a place we looked forward to returning to at the end of the day,” Indira recalls.

Eminently chic and contemporary, the Mediterranean décor runs throughout the home, giving visitors an insight into the Reddys’ taste for the finer things. “With Greek architecture and a Mediterranean theme, we decided to give the final finishing in antiquated faux using a lot of gold foil, and antique gold and silver crown moulding, medallions and wainscots among other elements,” Indira says. And to enhance the mansion’s airiness, the Reddys have used an ancient Italian art form called pietra dura for the flooring – copper and antique gold inserts adorn the marble floor.

The Reddys often find inspiration in antiques. In this case, there are faux antique paintings that are the work of a German artist who taught old-world faux painting before he changed professions and started painting custom homes.And the furnishings are special pieces, including antique replicas in the living room and some Versace originals. However, the highlights are the statement-making chandeliers light up every corner of the house. Found in various shapes and sizes, the bespoke light sculptures range from carved wooden, Schonbeck with Strauss crystal, Bohemian and Moorish.
The family’s favourite part is what they like to call the party extension area – a two-level addition built for entertaining. “We love to have people over,” says Ram, “so we’ve created a personal space where we can unwind in complete privacy.”

RENU AND SIRAJ HASAN, HYDERABAD (2008)

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It’s the first home we covered in our magazine and one that’s lingered on in our minds ever since. The acclaimed architect-cum-interior designer duo of Renu and Siraj Hasan are all about enriching modernist forms with a sense of poetry, and their Hyderabad home is evidence of this. Their work has many facets, but curious minds mostly want to know about all their eye-catching details. What’s the secret behind pairing marble floors and marble chowkis so artfully? How can their traditional furniture look so modern? These tastemakers are synonymous with sophisticated colour palettes, incredible textures and clean finishes.

From the very first moment, as they welcomed us into their home, we were speechless. Standing like a sentinel in Banjara Hills, this modern marvel is as remarkable as it is breathtaking. The imposing columns and canopied front door were only a precursor to what we were about to behold. Inside, the two-storey living space is spectacular. We could easily recall how an unmistakable sense of luxury greeted us as we surveyed the house with its marble floors, elegant fabric sofas, silk cushions, brass chandeliers, marble chowkis and antique wooden cabinets, all coming together in a harmonious blend of shades and textures.

Still, despite the fancy pedigrees of the furniture and art, the vibe at the Hasan home remains distinctly free-spirited. Exhibiting a sense of grandeur and spaciousness, this home is one we hold close to our hearts for obvious reasons.