"The soul of India lives in its villages"~ so said Mahatma Gandhi at the begining of the 20th centuy!
India is made of thousands of villages connected to one another by a dense and well travelled network of roads. More than anything the variations in the climate and geography have affected the highly individual architecture of India's rural dwellings. In Kutch for example, the houses are made of mud brick and cow dung, in the tropical south houses made from woven palm fronds offer shelter from frequent rainstorms as well as the hot sun! But no matter how humble these rural dwellings are, there is a shared pride, in which the mundane elements of everyday life - medicine bottles, tin cans, cooking utensils - are all proudly and artfully arranged to become essential components of a colorful and decorative environment! More than anything else, with the threat of global warming looming large and heavy, these homes are earth and environment friendly. While the rest of the educated world (myself included) is building homes in steel and cement and concrete, these simple folks use whatever local resource is available and cheap and eco friendly, to create some really beautifully simple homes. Interior design is not just about thousand plus square foot spaces and expensive materials; it is about good space planning and organisation and an effective synthesis of form and function; and to me these places are perfect examples of good design, maybe even more so, because they so effectively combine all these elements with a limited skill and on a limited budget!
A stone and mud house in Sonamarg, 11,500 ft above sea level, built using centuries old local traditions. The front room is enlivened by a vibrant blue green paint.
The kitchen with its low ceiling. The smoke blackened wood beams and the shelf are decorated with green dots
A stone and clay house in Leh. Alfalfa, dried and stored on the flat roof of the house, also provides insulation.
The immaculate kitchen where old brass and copper pots are displayed on shelves. Turned wood columns support the beamed ceiling. Wood or dung is burned in the cast iron stove decorated with brass openwork.
An organic shaped stone dwelling in Jaisalmer. The exterior is painted every year in orange and white. The interior is a multi colored collage of folk art and mementos
Family photos and religious images dispalyed behind glass and embedded in the plaster wall. How ingenious!!
The double niche in the kitchen includes a tiny window, a small brazier for cooking, ad a sparkling collection of polished brass vessels.
Bungas, or round huts, in the Kutch area of the Thar desert in Gujarat. the roofs are lined with plastic sheeting and thatched.
The traditional wall decorations were painted by craftsmen from the Wadha community.
On the inside of the roof, bamboo slats have been bound together and painted in a decorative geometric pattern. Below, dowry bedsheets are stacked on stools and concealed behind printed textiles. Painted tin trunks are used for storage.
A house of woven palm in Cochin, Kerela. A fence encloses the house.
Raligious objects on a small wooden shelf; below - cooking utemsils hang in the area for making meals.
A few miles from Jaisalmer, near the Pakistan border, in the village of Baramsar, is a strikingly decorated house. This is the local traditional decoration - distinctive white freehand designs on ochre colored walls.
A facade dispalying the flat, geometric, stylized design, often with bird and camel motifs.
The main room features a spectacular floor to ceiling array of shelves made from papier mache and clay. Both mundane and special objects are carefully grouped in separate niches and arranged around a deity in the central compartment.
Images via Indian Style by Suzanne Slesin and Stafford Cliff