Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Terraces & Balconies

I think that outdoor areas like terraces, balconies and patios should be an extension of indoor living spaces. They are especially important in the context of urban living. However small, these spaces provide us with a green escape, an opportunity to recharge our batteries, and they are a much needed breathing space away from the concrete jungle just beyond our doors. In addition to all this, they are a great space to entertain.

Obviously there are more options available to you if you are lucky enough to have a large outdoor space at your disposal. However, no matter how big or small, you can transform your balcony into a little green oasis.

Whether you are aiming for a complete over haul, or just want to oomph up an existing balcony, here are some ideas when designing these spaces.

Deside on a Style

To achieve this look, neutral colors have been combined with simple and understated design elements.

This terrace is comparatively less structured, and the use of wood and colorful plants add a touch of warmth to the area.

Even small balconies can be made into green retreats through the use of plants, some simple outdoor furniture and sculptures.

Flooring Ideas

The key words when it comes to flooring are- anti-slip, wear resistant and easy to maintain. Materials like anti-slip tiles, rough stone, rustic tiles and wooden decking are great options for an outdoor area.

Use a single flooring material, or play with a combination of materials.

Lighting Ideas

Use low intensity yellow lights that create a sense of relaxation. They also create an intimate atmosphere great when entertaining. Use low intensity lights to illuminate a few plants. Hang fairy lights or tea light holders in plants to add a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

Use lighting to highlight features like a water body or sculptures.

Furniture Ideas

If your balcony is large enough for furniture, you can go the fixed route and have your seating built in. This can be in the form of ledges or platforms. Or if you prefer to keep things flexible, then loose furniture is your best bet. Whatever the furniture, make sure that it is weatherproof.

Seating in the form of a fixed platform that running along a planter bed can be used to create an interesting feature.

In this tiny balcony the carefully selected accessories lift the space from what would have otherwise been a rather boring and uninviting space.

Those Little Extra Touches

Small accessories like decorative planters, lanterns and candle holders add a personal touch to an outdoor space. These often neglected elements take a well thought out space and transform it into a something really special.

Photo sources courtesy

Monday, 28 November 2011

A weekend in Kasauli

Longing for a weekend getaway, my husband and I settled on Kasauli, a small cantonment and hillside town set in the backdrop of the Dhauladhar Ranges. We boarded the Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi at 7.40 am on Friday and we were off on our adventure in the hills. After a comfortable four and a half hour journey we rolled into Kalka Station, a quaint and surprisingly clean station about 40 kilometers from Kasauli.

An hour later we arrived at Kasauli. After settling in and placating our complaining stomachs we decided to explore. I had come armed with a list of places I wanted to see, and after a quick chat with the hotel staff we were pleased to know that most were within walking distance.

View from a house close to our hotel

1st on our list was The Anglican Church. The church was about a half hour walk over steep and narrow lanes. And although the walk was quite tiring, the scenic views of the snow capped mountain peaks in the distance and the quaint little cottages with their gabled roofs, more than made up for this. The church itself is surrounded by pine trees and is a beautiful mix of Gothic and Indian style architecture. On seeing it, I felt like I had been transported back in time to a small village in the Scottish highlands.  

The Anglican Church constructed in 1884

A stroll down Mall Road was also a treat. The narrow streets dotted with small shops, even narrower cobbled lanes where store owners greeted customers and asked them to join them for a cup of tea- so different from the fast-pace of city living. This slow laid back atmosphere provides the perfect balm for frayed nerves.

A narrow lane just off Mall Road

After a good night’s rest we went off in search of Kasauli Distillery also known as Mohan Meakin brewery. Set up in the 1820’s, it is one of the oldest operating distilleries in Asia. Although, disappointingly, we were not allowed inside, the quaint building, it’s beautiful surroundings and the great sights that we came across on the way there, more than made up for it.

A winding path cutting through the hillside on the way to Kasauli Distillery

Outside and around Kasauli Distillery

 On our final day, we decided to walk up to Lawrence School Sanawar. It took us about 45 minutes, up winding roads with steep inclines. We continued to walk past the school and just took in the fantastic views of the valley that were on offer. I was captivated by the blue skies and the clean air that smelled almost sweet- so different from the smog that hangs over Gurgaon.

On the way up to the Lawrence School

Road that goes past Lawrence School

View of the Valley

Although visible in the image, the snow capped Himalayan peaks can be seen in the distance from this point.

Walking allowed us to get a real feel of life in the hills by observing people go about their daily business- carrying firewood, tending to livestock, selling their wares. One of my favorite scenes was watching a group of elders sitting on the porch enjoying a game of cards. We rarely see these scenes in the city and it was very endearing.

If you plan a weekend getaway to Kasauli, please don’t confine yourself to your hotel room. Go out! Explore the town with its tiny, winding lanes, quaint cottages with pretty little gardens. Breathe in the sweet, clean air and enjoy the old world charm this little hill station has to offer.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Color Inspirations

Continuing with the theme of color, I thought I would share what inspires me when it comes to color choices. Color manuals and guides are terrific, but as a designer I look for inspiration in the things I see around me. While there are some basic rules one needs to be mindful of, for me, color selection is an instinctual process that is guided by what we see in the world around us.
What inspires me?
Nature  a beautiful sunset, flowers in a garden that seem to burst with life and color, the infinite shades of greens, oranges, purples we see in plants around us, the colors on the wings of a butterfly as it flits from flower to flower or the pattern and colors of a bird’s plumage.

Travel and Culture… strolling through the streets of a quaint village, we may pass upon quaint little houses painted in interesting combinations of color that can inspire an entire design concept. Traditional handicrafts, the bright colors, patterns and textures of textiles, brightly colored silk saris and the way they have been combined with sometimes even brighter choli blouses. The dazzling colors of festivals like Holi, Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan) and Diwali, or the way temples and idols have been embellished with color.

Art… Kandinsky, Matisse and Indian artists like M.F Hussain, F.N  Souza - their exuberant sense of color and patterns, as well as their sense of balance and their ability to understand and effortlessly capture light and emotion… traditional art like the Gond paintings of Madhya Pradesh or the Madhubani paintings of Northern India that depict folk stories and legends in vivid color.

Everyday Life… a mundane trip to the vegetable market leads to the discovery of a riot of color with fruits and vegetables piled high. A passing truck decked out in regal splendor and embellished with paintings of Gods and Goddesses, movie stars and traditional motifs. The kaleidoscope of colors we see when light reflects off a pool of water or the still, brooding depths of a lake at sunrise. The colors on a plate of food at a fine dining restaurant or the vivid colors of ice-creams we see at an ice-cream parlor.

Inspiration is everywhere and is infinite in its abundance- whatever we see and experience leaves a lasting impression on us. By using these visual impressions the process of color selection becomes so much more satisfying.

(The images shown in this post have been compiled by me over time from various web searches. I don’t remember all the sources- those that I do, I have credited below.)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Chocolate for the Soul

I love chocolate! It truly is comfort food for the soul. Chocolate in any form- a bar of chocolate, a silky smooth chocolate mousse or a rich chocolate cake- they all work for me. There is nothing better to soothe frayed nerves or to cheer you up when you’re feeling blue.

A while back my mum gave me a 3 minute chocolate cake recipe and I was intrigued, especially since it was made in a microwave. When I tried it however, it was a bit of a disaster! Undeterred by this minor setback, I decided to tweak a few things, and a couple of tries later I came up with what I like to call ‘Magic 3 min Chocolate Pudding’.

This recipe is perfect to serve as a dessert if a few friends come over unexpectedly, or simply if you’re in the mood for a quick chocolate treat, I mean you don’t need an excuse when it comes to chocolate!

Since this pudding is served warm, it is especially good with winter setting in. What could possibly be better on a cold night than the delicious, gooey warmth of this pudding?

So here it is… my ‘Magic 3 min Chocolate Pudding’.

For the Cake
4 tbsp flour (maida)
½  tsp baking powder
3 heaped tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp coke

For Sauce
1/3 cup dark chocolate cut
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp whiskey or rum
2 tbsp milk

For the sauce heat the chocolate, butter, honey, whiskey and milk in a microwave till the chocolate melts (about 2 mins). Stir till all ingredients are combined and set aside to cool.

For the cake combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. In a microwave proof bowl combine milk and butter and heat in the microwave till butter melts. Set aside to cool. Add the egg and vanilla to the dry ingredients.  Slowly add melted butter mixture while simultaneously beating slowly. Once ingredients have combined beat mixture till smooth. Finally add coke and beat slowly till combined.

Pour the mixture into a microwave proof bowl. The bowl should be about 7” to 9” in diameter and approximately 5” to 6” deep. Pour sauce over the cake mixture and heat in microwave (high heat) for 3 minutes. Serve instantly and ENJOY!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cereei Candles

About a year ago, my friend, Charmi Shah, got into the candle making business. She created the brand ‘Cereei Candles’. Her candles are so amazing that I just had to share her handiwork.

Cereei’s story…
Having always been interested in design, Charmi believes her exposure to high-end design and décor at the interior design firm of DGA, led to her fascination with home décor products, especially, candles.

Starting small, Charmi initially gifted her creations to friends. She got her big break when DGA commissioned her to come up with a range of candles specifically for a residence the firm had designed. The positive responses she received gave her the confidence to expand.

Charmi’s candles are no ordinary, run-of-the-mill candles- they are works of art. The candles come in different designs, sizes, textures as well as fragrances. Her work reflects her love of color and texture.

Charmi even designs her own metal molds for the candles. She always uses aluminum or M.S, never tin, which she gets fabricated through a vendor.

She hand crafts each candle. On an average it takes 5 to 8 hours to complete one.

Charmi now retails her candles through The Bath World, Baroda and she is also looking to approach other lifestyle stores to retail her creations.

Because of an increased awareness of environmental issues, Charmi plans to launch an eco-friendly range of candles using natural wax like soy wax, palm wax and bees wax.

Soon she also hopes to expand to include her other love, fabrics. She is planning a range of cushion covers and bags and at a later stage she hopes to foray into handmade soaps.

I wish her every success!

You can check out Cereei’s Facebook Page.

Contact Charmi at cereeicandle@gmail.com

All images courtesy Charmi Shah.

Color it Up!

While reading the book ‘Tricia Guild in town’ which talks about contemporary design for urban living, I came across a statement that really resonated with me.

“Interior design today is moving towards something softer and more soulful. Making a home is not a matter of what you hang on your walls and how you hang your curtains. It’s an emotional response to your surroundings and how you live.”

And what can elicit a bigger emotional response than color? I love nothing more than to step into a space that is vibrant and alive with color. As a designer I find color both inspiring and comforting.

It’s easy to bring color into your home. Splash your wall with a color that you really identify with and notice an immediate difference. A bright green, a cheerful yellow, a vibrant orange or a soothing blue can make a world of difference to a room. Colors in a space speak to us at an emotional level. They are a representation of who we are. They capture our imagination; they reflect our personalities and give us comfort.

The above two images show an apartment where color has been introduced through accessories like cushion covers, fresh flowers and interesting knick knacks, creating a space that contemporary and refreshingly playful. (Both images courtesy Kanak Patel.)

But it’s not just about painting your walls. Color can be brought into a space in a myriad of ways- a colorful painting, multicolored cushion covers, a vase of colorful flowers, a colorful rug, small or large knick knacks- the list goes on and on.

Color can even be used in spaces with a minimal design, as seen above. The use of a few brightly colored cushion covers and a colorful abstract painting add a touch of boldness. (Image courtesy Tanvi Gala of Elan Designs.)

Here richly colored red drapes make all the difference to this covered porch of a rooftop deck. (Image courtesy Tanvi Gala of Elan Designs.)

Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors and don’t be tied down by what the color manuals and articles on color psychology say. Do what feels right for you. After all it’s your house!

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