Design blogger Bhavna Bhatnagar, the lady behind 'An Indian Summer', one of the most popular Indian décor blogs today, talks to Lakshmi Krupa about how the approach to home styling is changing quickly in India
How did your interest in Indian design begin?
I have always been enamoured by interior aesthetics, with Inside Outside, the lone home décor magazine in the 90s being my monthly staple. While I chose corporate strategy and L&D (learning and development) as my profession, the interest remained, and I kept helping close friends and family do up their spaces.
I finally started this blog, as an online space for curating all that inspires me. The popularity of the blog, and the fact that I enjoyed doing this so much, made me take the decision to quit my corporate job and split time between freelance consulting and the blog.
Over the years have you seen any difference in people's approach to design, when it comes to doing up interiors?
I started 'An Indian Summer' in 2007, and since then, there has been an exponential increase in the readership of the blog. While initially, I had more readers from countries other than India, now the split is almost equal. I have definitely seen a change in people’s approach to interior design and styling homes. When I started the blog there was an on-going surge towards contemporary interiors, which sometimes translated into cold cookie-cutter designs, replicated from one apartment to the other.
People took one of the following routes: what was termed ‘ethnic’, meaning very traditional, then there was the ‘heavy on Indian elements’ look; and finally the ‘contemporary’, meaning straight line furniture, material like steel and plastic variants, new-age art and so on. Over the last five years though, I have seen a marked awareness and confidence in people, in trying to create spaces that have a good blend of elements, and also a stamp of their own personality.
Tell us about your readers…
My readers from India are more aware of aesthetics that are global in nature, know and appreciate different design styles and influences like the French cottage chic, Bohemian, Scandinavian – and are not afraid to mix them up with Indian design elements.
There has also been a resurgence of appreciation for Indian art, craft and kitsch. Metal and wood trunks, tiffin boxes, grandmother’s utensils, old textiles, black and white portraits of family ancestors – home owners now proudly use them as décor pieces and personal style statement.
My readers from North America and Europe are becoming more and more aware of ‘good’ design from India. India and other countries with a similar vibrant design culture (like Morocco, Spain, South East Asian countries) have an increasingly significant influence on global design trends, which also explains the popularity of a blog like 'An Indian Summer' among western design enthusiasts.
Which Indian décor elements and designers have had a big impact in recent years?
Kantha in textiles: It has taken the décor world by storm over the last couple of years and has become almost ubiquitous in furnishing. Hammered metal: A traditional metal technique from India, this is now used for creating a variety of décor items – lamps, platters, tables, pendants, vases.
Bone inlay: Another Indian craft form that has gained worldwide appreciation, it is largely seen in furniture.
Indian kitsch: Bollywood memorabilia, street art, household objects for everyday use, chai glass holders, chai kettles and more are being used as is or have been re-purposed as high-end décor products.
Fashion and décor have close links when it comes to inspiration and influence, and well-known designers like Manish Arora, Ritu Kumar, Abraham and Thakore and the younger lot are helping the world sit up and notice design excellence and choices from India.
What are some of your favourite haunts in India for décor products?
I love scouring through the local bazaar, craft clusters and fairs, museum shops, export houses and flea markets! I am always on the lookout for the pretty and the unique, and am apparently blessed with ‘the eye’ to spot such things. Being in Delhi has its advantages – it’s a shopping Mecca and if you search hard enough, you can find décor products from any corner of India in the local community markets or the craft fairs that regularly take place in the city. Rajasthan is another favourite when it comes to finding antiques or reproductions. I have recently started travelling South too, and have so far loved Kochi, Pondicherry and Goa. Stores like Good Earth, Bunglow 8, Kilol’s home section andThe Shop in Delhi are other favourites for the well-designed home.