DIYs To Do … in India!

If you are new here, you might not know, I do DIYs on two continents! We live near Chicago but we also have an apartment in Chennai, a city in South India. I’m planning decorating supplies for the next trip in 2016. Careful planning is needed — everything has to fit in suitcases! So I gotta be careful to not exceed weight limits for checked and carry-on luggage. On our last trip we found things that don’t fit in suitcases (like long pipes for exposed pipe shower systems yeah we took those with us) can be shipped cargo with us on our flight, but there are still height/width/depth and weight limits. It’s a logistical challenge, beyond the fun creative ideas.

Right now, most apartment rooms are big white empty boxes. That can be intimidating, or a blast to dream of what to do with them! I’m in the second camp – having fun planning ideas! Today I’ll share the plan for the entry area:

DIYS to do in India

Yes, when I’m done this moodboard should come alive! It’s a mix of rustic and elegant, for some tension. It’s neutral obviously, but with lots of subtle pattern to keep it interesting. India is so super colorful, you’re probably wondering, why not a ton of color? I’ve written previously about why the apartment will be so neutral.

Here’s the entry space right now:

India Apartment Entry Area

Here’s a breakdown of what will go here …

The Door 

That door may look silly small on the moodboard. But it is a short door. I’m only 5-feet tall and I have to duck to step through it! There are previous posts about the awesome antique door here and here and here (such as, it’s so heavy it took seven men to carry it up the stairs).

India Apartment Main Door

The Walls

I envisioned creating old looking crumbly mottled walls in beige tones. But that will take lots of time to paint. And, the walls are plaster and sucking up paint like crazy! So thirsty! During our September 2015 trip, a crew of guys primed and painted the walls again, but I’m finding the walls behave really unpredictably. So they’re going to be white. I will paint the Persian Garden Damask Wall Stencil from Royal Design Studio randomly on the walls:

Persian Garden Damask Wall Stencil from Royal Design Studio

I like this stencil because it’s big — the large size is about 3-feet tall. And I could see it painted like the mud hut wall paintings in Gujarat, or Kutch. This is from FabIndia’s Flickr, showing the raised patterns:

Mudhut Wall Painting in India via FabIndia Flickr

From DesignFlute:

DesignFlute Kutch Mud Hut Walls

I’m playing with different painting techniques with the stencil. I want the stencil pattern to look old. Maybe partial patterns, like part of it faded away or broke off the wall. I’m considering doing raised stencils. But the apartment gets dusty while we’re away. I don’t want to be cleaning dust off raised wall stencils! So we’ll see. I will likely use some silver metallic paint as a nod to the mirrorwork of the Rabari mud “Bhunga” hut paintings.

Vineeta of ArtnLight blog shared a great post with more information about these homes and their paintings, if you’d like to learn more.

The Rug

That’s the actual rug we’re hauling over to India. I got it 70% off at RugsUSA. It’s the Beaumont Adileh VII2 Talisman Rug in gray, size 7’8″ x 9″6″ because the entry area is big:

RugsUSA Beaumont Talisman Rug

Why buy a rug and haul it over, when India is awash with rugs? Well, I’m looking for decent quality in a bargain rug. That’s why I struck at RugUSA’s famous 70% off sale. We’re at this apartment only a few weeks a year. So I don’t want to spend much on a rug. It’s also possible it could flood while we’re gone. So honestly cheap machine-made synthetic may be better for our needs, than a fantastic handknotted wool rug. I love great quality rugs and I fall for expensive rugs, but those are better for where you can enjoy them every day.

This rug is also thin, which gave it lower ratings on the retailer’s site, but my fingers are crossed that’s good — it should be malleable and bendable so we can squish a big rug into a small size for the flight to India.

The Chaise

Why a chaise or sofa right inside the front door, in the entry area? Many people will stop by your house. Labor is cheap in India so you hire people to do lots of things instead of DIY. It’s customary — at least among my husband’s family — to have an area to sit just inside the door for all these non-family visitors.

I’m still seeking the right chaise. That’s the fun shopping hunt in India! When I find it, I will likely stencil designs on fabric to make it personalized and one-of-a-kind.

Or, maybe a deconstructed sofa like this one from Restoration Hardware, loaded with elegant Indian silk patterned and mirrored pillows:

Restoration Hardware Deconstructed Sofa

An old sofa frame could be made to look this way with burlap and natural linen and cotton duck fabrics, exposed upholstery tacks and big stitches and staples. I can just imagine what my husband’s cousins would say though: “You can’t afford a new sofa?” There are so many things that are the opposite in India than they are from the U.S. Isn’t it funny how old-looking things can often cost more and take more work!

The Metallic Table

I am DIY’ing a table made of a tall candlestick and wood discs. I’ve done this before — see my little stenciled table shared at Paint+Pattern magazine:

DIY Side Table

This table is super easy to make! My husband already took a large gold/silver leaf metallic candlestick to India last week. I’ll take wood discs and paint them metallic, glue and screw the table together, and stencil the top. So easy, big impact! But yes, my vacation packing for India includes drill, drill bits and wood glue!

The Mirrored Pillows

I’ve always loved the look of John Robshaw Sheesha pillows:

John Robshaw Sheesha Mirror Pillows

The sheesha mirror embroidery technique is from India. But these pillows are not in the budget for a place where we spend only a few weeks a year. I found packages of Darice glass mirrors at JoAnn and instructions on how to sew sheesha mirrors onto fabric. I’m not going to copy! I don’t know yet exactly what I’ll do, but I’ll make the look my own. Maybe instead of random, I’ll arrange mirrors more orderly on stripes. Or embroider them on a stenciled pattern. We’ll see.

The Row of Men Pillow

That pillow with the little orange shapes in the middle, here it is closer and I’ve written about it before:

Good Earth Pillow

We got it many years ago at Good Earth in Chennai. It’s been waiting in storage in India for years! Little pillow, you will soon see the light of day …

The Mirror

The mirror! I love this mirror! But it is HUGE. I got it from One Kings Lane many years when they first launched, when you had to stalk the website and pounce to buy. I scored it. It’s too big even for cargo, so we’re still trying to figure out how to get it to India economically. It can’t be dismantled. I love it because it’s huge and rustic:

Mirror for India Apartment

Well, small picture, but believe me it’s big and heavy. It has peeling bark, chipping paint, and rusting  metal. I think it’s the perfect contrast against more elegant things in the space.

At this point my husband may want me to let go of this mirror idea and sell it on Craigslist, but I’m determined to get it to India.

The Water Jugs

I want to put huge impractical things in the apartment. Things with no use whatsoever other than to just sit there and take up lots of space. Because that seems fitting to me when you’re on vacation! I loved the water jugs we saw at Crafters in Kochi years ago:

India Water Jugs at Crafters

Must go back and get some. I’d love to visit Kochi during the Biennale.

The Lanterns

The glass lanterns are called hundi lanterns. If you buy them old, they can be pricey. We found one for the kitchen at a price we could do for one, but I’m not buying three at that price. I’m not hauling glass to India. So far I haven’t found a reasonable price source in India for large traditional hundi lanterns. Everyone nowadays wants contemporary lighting. For now I have stenciled some fabric pendant lanterns, and although in my mind I’m still stuck on the idea of glass hundis, these fabric lights I DIY’d are growing on me:

Nomadic Decorator India Apartment

And that there is our empty entryway!

Hopefully on my next trip to India, it will look more like the moodboard!


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2 Replies to “DIYs To Do … in India!”

  1. I am so jealous! I’ve been going to Chennai every year for the past 8 years and I dream of owing an apartment there and doing it up indian style! This is the next best thing, thanks for sharing :)

    1. Hi Melanie! We were lucky — my in-laws built a building and set aside a place for us in it. I hope you follow along vicariously! I wish to get to India more often but I don’t have such flexible schedule. Maybe someday! Deb

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