Royally yours

Let Amrita Gandhi show you how to transform your living room to look and feel magnificently regal

There are as many styles to the royal living room as there are palaces. And those that stand out do so because they are not only beautiful but are also most suitable to their unique location, context and the lifestyle of the family.

For most of us, space is at a premium, so incorporating Rajput jharokhas or marble staircases into our interiors could be out of the question, as would mounting hunting trophies on our walls. But there is a lot you can do to give your living space the royal touch because you are, after all, the king or queen of your castle, no matter what its dimensions.

Here are my five big ideas to add a royal touch to your living room.

~Artistic art deco~

If there is one theme that you can carry through an entire room without the risk of overdoing things, it’s art deco. With neat curves and attractive lines, art deco is at once modern and vintage, timeless and period, royal and yet personal. Using this style will put your home in the company of the likes of Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur. Follow these art deco basics and you won’t go wrong.

  • Source your pieces from an antique store. Original art deco is always better than replicas because of the quality of the wood. Invest in an art deco console table or cabinet.
  • Choose upholstery fabric in solid, warm colours, such as coral pink, teal blue or ivory with a medium to heavy texture, like a blended silk.
  • Combine this with coordinated throw pillows that pick up the same colour scheme. Try introducing new textures. Keep in mind that you want geometric patterns rather than anything too floral.
  • Pillows should be neat and small so that they don’t detract from the inherent shape of the sofa.
  • If you have space, your sofa can be modular or a two-or three-seater. If not, accent it with upholstered art deco armchairs.
  • Coffee tables look best with glass tops on a strong wooden or metal base.

~Breezy Rajasthani~

This look works best if you have an airy living room with seamless access to a veranda or a sit-out. Inspired by the pavilions of Raghavendra Rathore’s palace hotel, Rawla Narlai, this style is a delight in the sultry evenings of an Indian summer.

  • A carved wooden swing or a cosy wooden divan can take centre stage in your living room.
  • Use upholstery and cushion covers in luxurious light cottons for the divan, ideally in muslin.
  • You can use a four-poster daybed in the veranda from which you can hang light, white muslin drapes that sway in the breeze. The daybed is a cocoon in the outdoors, perfect for curling up on with a book or taking a nap, or enjoying a cosy cup of tea and some gossip.
  • Keep the windows and doors that lead outdoors open when possible. Draw the visitor’s eye towards the daybed and encourage stepping out.
  • Instead of the daybed, you can use a carved palanquin. It has the same cocooning effect and allows in light while giving you privacy.

~Traditional Gujarati ornate~

This look is inspired by the living rooms of Gondal’s many palaces run by Maharani Kumud Kumari. Traditional Gujarati furniture is ornately carved and lends your room a royal look that is both powerful and ornamental. Here’s how you can do it in your home:

  • Low seating is the distinguishing mark of these traditionally furnished drawing rooms.
  • Hence, delineate your space to have more than one seating area. In one portion, select a scattering of carved yet light furniture with round or oval backrests.
  • On the other side, create a space for floor seating with a comfortable mattress and oversized oval-shaped bolsters that look best in thick white or cream cotton.
  • Complete your room with a massive carved chest or cabinet with brass knobs.
  • Mount photographs on the wall with carved wooden frames.
  • For a contemporary touch, mount glass shelves on carved wooden brackets on the walls.

~South Indian minimal~

Inspired by the gleaming black-and-white floors of the Travancore family’s Kowdiar Palace in Trivandrum and the endless courtyards of Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar’s palace in Chettinad, south Indian concepts are no longer bound by geography. Bring Chettinad chic to your home with these tips:

  • Pick out a few pieces of tiled Chettinad furniture, like a bench or a swing, and use it to accessorise your living space. Keep plenty of floor space around it.
  • Place a trunk in the centre of a room like a coffee table or better yet, open it up against a wall to display its hidden mirrors. Look for unique pieces that can be used and displayed at the same time.
  • Procure, if you can, a couple of original Tanjore paintings, which traditionally have religious themes. Hang them all on a single wall, or choose one beautifully framed painting to stand alone.

~Hill station elegance~

Tripura Castle in Shillong is the summer home of the Tripura royal family. At ease with its royal lineage, embracing local Khasi tribal traditions and indulging a passion for fiery hot northeastern food, this royal home will show you how to have it all.

  • If you have a place in the hills, comfort and elegance need not be mutually exclusive. Choose cushy European sofas and upholster them in silk pastels. Pastels will bring lightness to a space which, in the hills, can get dark even during the day, while silk adds warmth and elegance.
  • Some of your wooden furniture, like console tables, can be painted in pale colours such as off-white to add brightness and provide relief from wooden panels.
  • In Tripura, Ming vases and hand-painted Chinese screens are common design elements. Use hand-painted silk tapestries, jade urns or traditional blue-and-white pottery in your home.
  • Be sure to show off local craft traditions. Northeastern basket-making is unparalleled for its detailing and fine weaving. Invest in large baskets or cane footstools that tell the world that you are in touch with your ‘kingdom’.
  • Mount a row of your family photos starting with your ancestors and ending with your babies to add a sense of history to your home.
  • If you collect it, display it—whether it is your stamps or your coins. The royal family of Tripura collected an eccentric variety of chairs, while Jubbal royals collected miniatures. All of these are lovingly displayed in their living rooms and make for great conversation starters.

Adapted with permission from Live Like a Maharaja by Amrita Gandhi, published by Penguin Books.

Make an entrance

The entrance to your home is usually the place where you burst through the door, throw your handbag, fling your keys and kick off your shoes. It is also a place that transforms for guests on special occasions.

To me, homes with a nice entrance seem to signify that the owners have lived there a while. I find that in houses where people have just moved in, the entrance seems to take a backseat. That’s probably why in palaces built centuries ago and lived in by the same families for 200 years or more, you are often greeted by not just a nice entrance but also a royal welcome.

In Rajpipla in Gujarat, I was met by the prince himself who, in his own modern way, having appeared on both Oprah and the BBC, greets his guests at the doorstep by doing a quick tilak ritual before pressing a pretty bunch of garden flowers into their hands.

Amrita Gandhi’s encounters with princely India, have given her more tales than she can possibly ever recount. She has written and presented the TV show Royal Reservation and is the author of Live Like a Maharaja.

This was first published in the May 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.