Three months ago,while travelling through Thailand,veteran fashion designer JJ Valaya stumbled upon an antique dealer in the quaint town of Chiang Mai. Apart from some quirky knick-knacks at his shop,what really caught the designers eye was a majestic,antique wooden throne with gold leafing. Little did Valaya know that getting the dealer to part with it would be the toughest job. Today,the throne rests on the second floor of Valayas week-old maiden luxury concept store,called The Home of the Traveller (THT),in Sultanpur,Delhi. Its numerous stories like this that have found a home in the five-storey store.
After a year of travelling,styling and curating,Valaya seems a bit at peace,though with a child-like excitement about venturing outside fashion. Every time I wanted to buy something for my home or gift something to a friend,I felt a void of an interesting piece or concept in the market here. The store has been in my head for a year now. Plus,globally most fashion brands get into the home sphere eventually,from Fendi to Ralph Lauren, says Valaya. The Delhi-based designer has divided the store into six zones from the understated Art Deco to the gold-themed Glamour,from the exotic India zone to the fusion of cultures in World,and from the nostalgia-evoking Vintage to the non-fuss Organic.
The spacious store has every imaginable article that comes under the home decor category vintage leather beds to wooden wine-glass holders,Belgian linen to couches and sofa chairs,ceramic showpieces,cutlery,metal horses,Pichuai paintings,Buddha footprint wall hangings,outdoor furniture and wall hangings,murals and bird cages. Even an exorbitant temple made of silver is on offer.
Me and my brother travelled extensively for this,going to Vietnam,Philippines,Thailand,Indonesia,Turkey and,of course,various cities in India. Our main aim was to avoid the touristy spots,and we managed to pick up some wonderful pieces from small stores and antique shops. This store is like our playground, says Valaya. For the next segment,he is busy making up an itinerary comprising Morocco,Spain,Portugal and Italy.
Each segment in the store has been styled like a room that exudes warmth and spells out home,and every piece has a story and history attached to it. The Valaya stamp of bringing the old and new together is also visible. Homes,these days,are either too modern and hence have a cold vibe,or are too old-fashioned and can feel suffocating. I am trying to balance the two, he says. Our favourites are the termite home a table that was initially home to termites and after they left impressions on it,the table was waxed and prepared and a big chessboard made of bone with wooden pawns. The price range is between Rs 500 and Rs 11.66 lakh,providing options for every pocket.
While all segments are equally close to Valaya,one that he feels a bit out of his genre is Organic. My design philosophy,overall,is all about grandeur and opulence but with Organic,I found minimal textures. I am enjoying it, he says. Interestingly,the basement is a gallery and Valaya will host soirees and art and craft exhibitions every month. For now,it houses centuries-old Persian carpets.
Probe him if its been difficult to balance his old relationship with fashion and his new affair with home decor,and pat comes the reply,If I look at it as work,I will dread it. For me,its passion and thats why it never seems difficult. Tiring,it is. In four months,Valayas gallery at MG store in Delhi will also have the maiden Valaya Homes,for which he is designing everything. There are two spheres where people never stop spending clothes and home. We already have a strong fashion base. With this store,we are invading the home sphere, he says.