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Friday, August 19, 2022

The Fairest of Them All

Luxury today is not just about lighting or a piece of furniture or a faucet. It’s about telling a story and selling a concept

Luxury today is not just about lighting or a piece of furniture or a faucet. It’s about telling a story and selling a concept

In a south Delhi farmhouse,the owner wakes up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom,let’s say. He doesn’t turn on the lights,but when his feet touch the floor,the 2ftx2ft tile lights up. Each step allows another tile to light up while the previous one “switches off”. Proximity sensors with LEDs incorporated into tiles are just one of the ingenious,expensive technologies available in India. A hi-tech lighting system linked to ultra-sensitive pressure pads is now one of the many such systems adding lustre to the lights in your house,never mind the cost. Today’s demand,and its not just restricted to the billionaire club,is to do with individuality and exclusivity.

“Technology has given luxury a new spin. You have sensors to turn on the lights and the exhaust in your bathroom,to the precision of the light going off 30 seconds after you leave and the exhaust,a minute later. I have clients who are movie buffs and you can extract the movie of choice from the 200-odd movies stored in your computer and play them across the five TV screens in your house. Each room has the luxury of watching a different film. LEDs too are being used in a huge way,not for wall lights just yet but for ceiling lights so that you task light more than provide ambient light. And all this is possible because you have support systems in place,” says Suniil Philip,design director,PSP Architects,Chennai.

So while crystal-dripping chandeliers grace homes,and red hot international designers like Tom Dixon and Karim Rashid lend their finesse to interior products,one sees an amoebic growth of specialised luxury stores opening up in cities other than Chennai,Hyderabad,Bangalore,Mumbai or Delhi. Luxury,despite the downturn,is finding a niche from Ludhiana to Chandigarh and Indore to Kochi. vis a vis,a Delhi-based lighting boutique has introduced international design trends and products designed by world renowned professionals,costing over a lakh. Says Amit Gupta,managing director,“Luxury is not only restricted to what you flaunt,with the best of fashion,watches,jewellery and cars,but it’s what you live with. Self actualisation is the name of the game and what better place to start than your own house. The Indian audience is well travelled,design discerning,well read and well exposed. Therefore,lighting has become aspirational,adding another layer to the luxury interior design world.”

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It’s not just lighting,but a piece of furniture,a kitchen fitting,even a faucet. It’s all about telling a story and selling a concept. Today’s modern kitchens have become a social space,where “human-centric” technology is at work. The marriage between marquee brand Porsche and one of the world’s oldest kitchen furniture makers,Poggenpohl,gave birth to a modular kitchen unit that is priced at a crore upwards. The linear lines of the units mimic the smooth glide of a Porsche. An integral part of the design are individual modules which can fit into any chosen position,removing the straightjacket arrangement of rows in regular modular kitchens. It’s largely an open canvas,accentuated with back panels in either satinised or polished glass,changing the very dynamics of space,and taking away from the heaviness of a regular design. It also comes with an audio-video system that adds a touch of class to the kitchen or dining room.

“Entertainment in the kitchen is a growing trend,” says Dhananjay Chaturvedi,managing director,Miele India. “The modular kitchen industry in India is growing at 40 per cent a year. It is directly linked to real estate and construction,one of India’s fastest developing sectors.” Miele itself is an example of extravagance meeting function. One of Miele’s cooker hoods comes with a canopy that opens automatically when the unit is switched on. It costs close to Rs 4 lakh and equipped with grease filters and light dimmers,creates the right ambience when you have visitors. As Sanjeev Wadhwa,country manager,Fisher & Paykel says,“The kitchen has not only evolved but it has also gradually moved forward from the back of the house.” Fisher & Paykel appliances include CoolDrawer,quite literally a refrigerator in a drawer,that retails at Rs 2.25 lakh. Then there are faucets both for kitchens and bathrooms that start at Rs 3,000 all the way to Rs 88,000.

Companies raise the bar when it comes to service too. Miele celebrates a special anniversary with its clients when they purchase a product and their service staff is professionally trained in Germany. Porcelain curio company,Lladro has an insurance cover for its Gold Club members,covering 100 per cent of the price of any Lladro sculpture,for the first year. They offer cleaning services,and assist clients who move homes with transfer,packaging and transportation.


Nagina Waters takes it a step further. Their luxury bath fittings must be accompanied with special water softeners to maintain the expensive faucets and other bathroom accessories. Bathrooms interiors specialist,Jean Noel Edouard at Nagina Waters says,“People’s fascination for gold led us to India four years ago. The top five per cent of the population want the best in the market and our clientèle is only growing by the day.” FCML,a leading interiors lifestyle luxury store that retails the top designers brands in the world,displays high-back chairs poised next to bathtubs and tear-drop shower heads as part of the luxe opera that unfolds at their showrooms. “Bathrooms today are not just bathrooms,they are designed to be enjoyed and experienced,” says Abhinav Khandelwal,managing partner,FCML Projects. They retail bath fittings worth lakhs and customised preferences can take the price several notches higher.

Bedrooms and living rooms too have added flashes of opulence with flooring,tiles,wallpaper and furniture. German furniture company,Rolf-Benz’s entry into the Indian market has given a new concept to sofas and lounges. Their anthem,“you don’t sit on a sofa,but sit into a sofa”. They offer high levels of customisation,from over 180 fabric and 120 leather upholstery options,a multitude of possible seat widths and foot variants — they have solutions for any floor plan. Their Plura line,priced at over Rs 3.6 lakh,can be transformed from a classic sofa into a multifunctional lounge,with just a few adjustments. The side piece can be folded down and the entire seat tilted too,or the back folded upwards to offer more head support.

Nitin Bahl,country manager,Natuzzi India believes the real estate boom especially in the luxury category has given an impetus to premium interior fittings. Natuzzi’s natural Italian leather sofas and recliners priced over Rs 8 lakh,are a happy marriage between aesthetics and function,between craftsmanship manufacturing and technology. Visionnaire by Italian manufacturer,Ipe Cavalli is retailed by the International Furniture Brand in India. Its high-end furniture,lighting and upholstery is lavished with marble,smoked and tempered glass,chrome and the finest wood and veneers.


Interior trends have always picked up cues from fashion,and it’s apparent even in upholstery designs. Missoni Home known for its fashion forward abstract prints,sees signature chevron stripes in vibrant tones and bursts of colour in their wide range of home decor products. Maizon de Muslin who retails the collection,prices the range at Rs 13,000 per metre and above. “We,as consumers,want comfort wrapped in with luxury on the side. We are creating quirky spaces that indulge our moods and mood swings,” says Deepi Singh,director,Maizon de Muslin India. Until recently,wallpaper was what people abroad did. But the arrival of de Gournay in India has changed that. The designs have been created after studying historical specimens from old English homes to museums such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. English homes of yore,were richly decorated with luxurious wall covering in the chinoiserie style,this stems from a love for everything Chinese that took over the English interiors in the late 17th century and was accented by regency furniture. These are now reinterpreted on metallic paper in colours of gold and silver,done on real silk that is paper backed. Each pattern on the wallpaper is hand painted. Retailed more as pieces of art,individual panels are sold at Rs 58,000 upwards. So while imported materials anchor the notional concept of luxury,“Quality of space also makes a difference. Some houses are quite sparse in the choice of materials,may be just an oxide flooring,but it’s labour intensive. Craft has come into homes in a big way. There are specialised craftsmen who work with architects full time and give that exclusive touch to a home through the detailing and technique involved,” says Philip.

“Luxury has to do with space and are dictated often by the kind of lifestyles people lead,” says Sonali Rastogi,senior partner,Morphogenesis,a Delhi-based design firm. “We’ve done a residence for a family of five brothers. Each family has their own living unit but they wanted a large basement space for family get togethers,for parties,jaagrans,weddings,and naming ceremonies. Nuclear families have other needs,they may want to have sit-down dinners for 15 people so they need a larger space for that.” Companies that dress up these basements and floors don’t shy away from gilt-edged tiles or ruby-studded floors,either.

So while our fabled potholed roads may not make the ride home easy,may be a mosaic-swathed bathtub and a good night’s sleep tucked under a Versace quilt may just make the ride smoother.

First published on: 17-06-2012 at 01:53:26 am
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