The India pied-à-terre and its Hardware

Those following along here for awhile may see I took a break from blogging about completing the Chennai, India apartment. There has been no progress since mid-December, honestly, when we returned to the States from the last trip. We’ve found it’s difficult — really difficult — to get quality work when we’re not there supervising in person. We’d rather stop the work than rip out and re-do.

The apartment is stuck in a pergatory state between finished enough to be nearly habitable, but still uninhabitable. For example, we got to the point of installing a copper farmhouse sink in the kitchen. The whole kitchen is nearly done. But we had to leave before essentials like hooking up faucets, toilets, etc.

There are stories to tell about why we’re stuck at this stage — stories of trust issues, disappointment, even dismay. I’ve hesitated to speak those stories, but will soon because they’re part of the process, and good to know for anyone else who dares tread where we’ve now been.

One part that makes me happy is simple: hardware! We’re choosing unique hardware. I think of it as jewelry for the place.

It starts with the hardware on the antique main door. The doorknocker:

The lock and the skeleton key. Yes this really is the key, and it’s a big thing to haul around; you’re looking at only about a third of it sticking out here:

Here’s the whole door. Pardon our dust there, it’s still a construction zone:

Here’s the back of the main door. I admit I was shocked at first to see this. It’s so … rustic country. But I grew to really like it, and as it’s very prominent visually, it will drive the look of the foyer/visitor’s room area. This door is over 100 years old and those shiny silver bolts are new and quite incongruent, yeah? On our next trip, I’ll give those shiny bolts the antiquing treatment:

There’s a cabinet set into the wall by this door where we can store shoes. I found camelbone pulls in Cochin for the cabinet doors, but forgot to photograph them.

Elsewhere in the apartment, there are cabinet doors to hide the clothes washer/dryer. We found these Buddha hand door pulls at Crafter’s in Cochin for those cabinet doors:

I can’t wait to install them!

Tahir Hardware in Chennai is hardware heaven! We found handles for the four interior doors there. But it almost wasn’t to be.  A current running through all our shopping in India was this:  What we like, others don’t like. What others like, we don’t like. And there are a lot more “others” than there are the two of us. So guess what, we shopped in a sea of shiny silver chrome, all spanking new looking. But what we want looks old. We got some odd looks. Why would we want old? Maybe it’s because in the U.S. we’ve always had access to the “new” — it’s nothing new to us. What’s new to us is the old stuff. We’re just on different design trajectories here.

Naturally, smart retailers — even all the small single-shop guys all over India — stock what the market wants. Thus what we wanted was rarely available in stock (we heard “discontinued” A LOT) and it seemed to be a bother to order it.

At Tahir, after manhandling all the handles, I fell for this curvy beauty:

These handles look good and they feel wonderful in your hands.  The sales guys went to place the order. Then they came back. Everyone was speaking intense Tamil, then I got updated. My husband said they’re not in stock. “That’s not funny,” I said, positive he was joking. “No, really, they’re not in stock.” “Then why are they on the wall,” I said, reeling and thunderstruck. The salespeople tried to sway me toward another style, another color. Including the shiny silver chrome. But it just wouldn’t do. I had already found The One. It was too late. There is no Substitute. I looked for more floor samples. “Can we take floor samples?” If we could find enough, sure, they said. We could not. Ugh.

They saw my disappointment. They probably overheard me saying I’d look up the source and find somewhere else to get the brass color handles. They kindly talked to the owner. They arranged to special order four of these handles. Happiness! Otherwise happiness would have ensued anyway, as I would have researched the manufacturer and tracked them down myself.

But the story doesn’t stop there. My husband rightfully decided it’s a good idea to check with the architect that these handles would work with the doors. The architect said “Oh no no no, you don’t want those handles.” Oh, yes yes yes I do! Why wouldn’t I want them? The architect said they’re way too expensive. We should be able to get handles for $8. This, the architect who told us he works with wealthy people and our project is “small” but he likes us so he will spend time on our place. Surely he has clients who spend more than $8 on doorknobs? Further, the price of these handles is reasonable considering our benchmark is United States prices.

Finally, this is our India pied-à-terre. The $8 doorknobs that look just like those on the doors of our Chicago home do not belong here:

When we’re in India, I want to know I’m somewhere else in the world. I’m not interested in the oak kitchen cabinets and five panel doors and other style reminders of the midwestern United States. I want to be in India. And so, it shall be.

Here’s more hardware admired at Tahir. These are intended for main doors, I believe, and so they’re wild-crazy-big for wardrobe handles. But I really like the idea of these for wardrobe door handles:

Our apartment will be spare. There won’t be many furnishings because we’ll visit only a few weeks a year. So it makes sense to dress her up with hardware jewelry, right? When you wear a simple Little Black Dress, you complement it with special jewelry.

So the hardware story will go on. Tahir will see me again sometime. There will be odd looks. And questions. “Why would you want such big handles for wardrobes? Those are not wardrobe handles. It will not look right. Here, let me show you …”  and I’ll oblige and go and look and nod. But I’ll still steer back to the handles I want. Because you know what, when you have a vision, you just gotta stand your ground.

9 Replies to “The India pied-à-terre and its Hardware”

  1. We had beautiful patina Apsara dancing girls in our old home in Madras. I heard they are still available. How about the block printing wood blocks as door handles? Though I know practically all those crevices might turn into a dusting horror in madras. You get lovely dokhra door handles in India for really cheap now- Rs 300 such like. No where near $8 :) Btw tried to reach you, and I think I emailed into a vacuum!

  2. where can I order a set of buddha hands door/cabinet hardware? I need old copper or bronze or rust color

    1. Hi Scott, We got them at Crafters in Cochin, India. http://www.crafters.in/ You are welcome to share this Buddha hand picture with them and I’m sure they can ship them to you. Here’s their contact info: http://www.crafters.in/contact.htm Sunny is great – he’s one of the owners and showed us around all their warehouses. Or you can search “Buddha hand mudra hardware” on Ebay and you’ll find some there. Be sure to add “mudra” otherwise you pull up lots of junk in the search results like handbags! I hope this helps! Deb

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