Folk is the new Chic – How to Style your Home the Indic Way

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This article by Manisha Sarade

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Folk is the new Chic – How to Style your Home the Indic Way 

India has a long history of varied cultures, traditions, languages, rulers and religions. This has resulted in a multitude of architectural ideas, influences and styles (most of them centuries old) that have evolved from different parts of the country. Traditional Indian design is essentially forged in the crucible of multiple regional cultures. It’s diverse, multi-faceted, but full of colours. Using Indian decor ideas to add ethnic touches to your home is pretty workable, affordable and doable. Here are some common intersections of a few of those diverse ideas, and how they have found a space and are making an impact even in modern homes.

Richly carved wooden furniture

Wooden furniture, painstakingly and profusely carved with exquisite artistry, shouts vernacular Indian style. Intricate carvings in wood and marble were symbolic of prosperity in the olden days. As these were mainly seen in the palaces and forts of kings and queens, others aspired to display this ‘royal’ design element in their homes. It is not uncommon to find many traditional homes with beautifully carved window- and door-frames even today.

Large Traditional Decorated Chowki with Ghunghroos at the Edge

A traditional Indian living room setup typically has a long cushioned diwan (day bed) with bolsters on the sides surrounded by several cushions in colourful Indian fabrics. Teamed with beautifully carved stone or wooden furniture, this can be in the form of a low seating with or without a backrest. A diwan is a sturdy piece of furniture and can easily last upto 15 to 20 years. This is often used with an Indian or a Persian carpet.


Most Indian houses in towns and villages had a jhoola (swing) in their front or backyards, and this can be seen even today in many Indian rural homes. Traditionally, a swing was just a slab of wood suspended by ropes from the bough of a tree but times have changed, and now they come in different designs with different finishes to suit modern homes. Typically seen in living rooms and balconies as a part of a seating setup, they are a much loved and used in shared common spaces.

Swinging Lord Ganesha With Fine Inlay Stone Work

Indic Décor Pieces

The most oft repeated theme in India is the use of brassware. Whether it is statues, urns or lamps, we love to display our brassware. And why not? It’s very Indian and even a single piece can make an entire vignette. Then, Diyas, again, are very ethnic. Though candles make gorgeous vignettes, it’s diyas and ethnic tea-light holders which make them look very elegant. Indian decor is incomplete without the use of ethnic weaves and embroideries, especially because we have such a wide variety to choose from. Use block printed bedcovers, kantha cushions, silk runners or bandhani throws.

Large Standing Tribal Peacock Couple Decorated with Ghungroos

Vases & Pots

Vases are one of the best ethnic decorative elements you can add to your home, regardless of which part of the house you’re trying to decorate, may it be the garden area or your living room. There is an abundance of options available, in different sizes, and shapes. From earthen pots to terracotta vases, the range of options is huge. The tradition of handmade pottery is prevailing in India since the time of the Indus Valley Civilization, clay craft or pottery is said to be one of the most primitive forms of handicrafts in India. Artists engaged in pottery are called Kumhaars.  Besides its world famous Terracotta form, pottery has got different forms like red ware, grey ware and black ware.

The Marvellous Marble Pot with Lid

Heritage driven Paintings

India’s rich art forms and heritage cannot be conveyed more perfectly than through paintings. Paintings depict India’s rich culture, natural sceneries, and sometimes even significant historic events. It’s an elegant way of adding some ethnic touch to your interiors.

Mother Elephant and Her Baby On A Jungle Walk

Ethnic Indian patchwork quilts and wall hangings

There are plenty of spaces on the wall which need to be decorated in any home. Coming to walls, many decorative items can be used to add a traditional Indian vibe. The walls can be beautifully decorated with wall clocks, mirror, photo frames, lamps, complete wall painting, etc. Wall hangings can be used for your walls, a table cover, or even a single bed sheet. Traditional Warli canvas art oil painting, Madhubani Paintings and paisley stencils are quite a popular choice. Then there are block printed bedspreads and table runners of course. If you want to decorate your house with items that have meaning and at the same time create a relaxing environment, Mandalas could be an option for you. Mandalas have become popular over the last few years. These drawings originate in India and are much more than just a decorative item. One can also look for traditional wooden craft items in dark wood as wall hangings.

Traditional Style Niches

If you ever notice in the village homes there is always the use of niches that is a dug into the wall where you can keep your extra stuff, or decorative items, family pictures and what not. So, if you can make a niche in your wall, make it in the form of an ogee arch, or get inspired from Rajasthani forts, or any arch or traditional form. This will not only give you that vibe but also some extra storage. You can make them anywhere from the back wall in the bedroom. or in the living room beside the TV unit the choice is yours.

Use of Traditional Fabrics

We know India is rich in their fabric and textile production. Fabrics like jute and Khadi and even a lot of cotton is made in India. So, you can choose fabrics of any region you like from Rajasthani folk style, Maharashtra’s Warli style, Chikankari of UP to even Punjab’s Pulkhari and many more as you like. India is historically famous for its beautifully made fabrics. Moreover, these fabrics can be used in a number of creative ways in our homes – long, flowing drapes for windows, simple sheets thrown over a divan, to carpets and dhurries. As a part of using Indian interior design, use fine fabrics with Dabu or Ikat prints for upholstering your centre  pieces or for your cushions. Cotton and Khadi can be used for side chairs while simpler fabrics like jute can be used for smaller foot stools. Use these fabrics in and around your house, for instance on the curtains, sofa and couch covers, dining table or cloths in kitchen to even bedsheets in the bedroom. You can also frame any artwork of fabrics, frame it and hang on the wall. All of these will add those extra colours, culture and will always preserve your favourite art forms.

Radiant-Yellow Pure Cotton Hand-Embroidered Kantha Sari from Kolkata

Inlays and Carvings

Traditional Indian cabinets are a great combination of functionality and aesthetics. Brightly painted and embellished with inlay work using mirrors, stones, ivory, or metal, they can serve as storage units too. Use them as accents alongside solid wood pieces to lighten the mood of your spaces. If you have heirloom furniture pieces, hold on to them and put them to good use.

Wood carving is a common but an elegant art in all parts of India. Each region in India has its own style of structures and carving styles. Listed below are some of the regions where this art is practiced:

Karnataka: This region of India pays attention in sandalwood carving. Several sandalwood idols have had a carved image. Now, sandalwood boxes are also one of the specialties of Karnataka. Sandalwood possesses a unique smell that makes it stand out from other class of wood. The boxes created are mostly covered with mythological scenarios. These are essential items of Mysore, Sagar and Kumta.

Kashmir: This Indian region is lined with wood. The ceiling is quite show off of lattice and geometrical styles and pattern. In this region, several woods carved are produced like bowls, furniture and boxes. The Kashmir has a lot of walnut wood, The carvers here decorate wooden panels which are utilized for pillars and ceiling.

Kerala: The region of Kerala has the richest traditions in terms of woodcarving.  One can witness beams and carved pillars in each house. Wood Carvers over the region of Kerala perform wonders on sandalwood and rosewood.

Assam: This place of India has wide array of forests and is also rich in terms of culture and tradition pertaining to wood works. The worship centers here includes big carvings of mythical creatures such as garuda, lions with Simhasan and hanuman.

Tamil Nadu: This Region in India has a good developed tradition of wood carving. This is practically utilized for decorating temples and houses. The wooden Tanjore dolls as well as the Punki wood dolls are popular in this region.

Sankheda: This place is located in Gujarat and is one of the most essential centers of wood carving.

Ideas for Bathing Space

One can go ethnic for the bathroom design with some Indian printed tiles. Mixing and matching different patterns and shapes of tiles is also a good idea. To provide a good contrast, pick one bold tone and make sure the other is a relatively muted tile colour. Hand painted tiles are also easily available in the market. Additionally, you can add a traditional wooden vanity with cabriole legs to store your bath essentials.


The easiest way to incorporate Indian motifs is through accessories i.e. fabric, cushions, paintings and carpets. Indian fabrics be it in upholstery or cushions are popular worldwide – motifs like paisley, ikat…big florals and woven tribal prints are very in. Again, Indian rugs, durries and carpets have always been popular. A brightly upholstered chair in your favourite Indian fabric always acts as a pop. Another interesting way to add motifs is by bringing in an Indian inspired wallpaper on an accent wall. You can even use fabric or an old sari as wall hanging.

Chettinad Furniture – An unexplored arena

An amalgamation of traditional Indian architecture and a touch of European influence resulted in Chettinad house interiors, which we are huge admirers of. However, the thought behind the design of 19th century interiors runs deeper than that. Originally, Chettinad furniture is made of teak and the chairs are intricately woven with cane. Teak wood has high durability and is ideal for humid climatic conditions. For this reason, teak wood is reused from old mansions as furniture. What accentuates this furniture even more is the addition of brass accents such as the handles of the swing, brass floor lamps and hanging lamps.

In Chettinad furnished mansions, the furniture is also embellished mainly using marble. The furnishing and decorative items are imported from Europe and East Asian countries. Italian marble along with Burma teak wood comprises the perfect Chettinad style furniture. In order to make the furniture more elegant, wall to wall mirrors and crystals imported from Belgium and Europe are blended along with the raw materials.  The colourful designs, unique feature of Chettinad furniture surely brings the aroma of South Indian culture and tradition to your living room. Those grid and floral patterns which is very rare and splendid is an extra asset for your luxurious mansion.  A blend of tradition with contemporary architecture keeps Chettinad furniture distinct from others.

Rajasthani Woodwork – The Imperial Touch

The desert state of Rajasthan is well known for its woodwork. The art of woodwork has been prevalent here for quite a long time and has survived mainly due to the royal patronage. The art found its way into the religious life as well since it was used in making ornaments, ceremonial arches, pillars and other things related to religion and ceremonies.

Furniture making formed an integral part of woodwork, and found its pride of place in the havelis and palaces in the medieval period. Even today, the furniture made in the state is quite popular throughout the country. Rajasthan is the only state where the latticework on wood is done. At Jodhpur and Kishangarh, one comes across the painted furniture that consists of screens, doors, caskets and chairs. Again, from the regions of Ramgarh and Shekhawati come the ornamental wooden furniture with floral designs that adorn the projected niches and balconies of the houses.

Group of Rajasthani Musician Men (Set of Six Statues)

They are a conglomerate of elements of their traditional handicraft and beautiful decor and can be rightfully said to be artful and glamorous. If you pay a visit to the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, you will realise how colours are a very integral part of the Rajasthani lifestyle. This same colourful canvas is brought to lif in a traditional Rajasthani house, which has splashes of vibrant and royal colours on almost every element of the interiors. Oranges and pinks are the predominant colours, while emerald greens and peacock blues are a regal affair. Bright yellows and sky blue are also crucial for the interiors. Furnishing your room with elements draped in these colours such as through wall paints, wall hangings, furnishings and home decor, will lend a special Rajasthani touch to your home. Brick red colour is an option that can be explored in as many ways as possible – in different shades and tones and on different elements. Other element of beauty would be swings and armchairs, be it of metal or wood, but they all should be very intricately embellished in traditional motifs and patterns.

Kashmiri Décor – Intricate and Suttle

Made and designed by hand, these handicrafts are a result of the Kashmiri heritage and can often be traced back to Budgam, Srinagar, and Ganderbal. You can expect your Kashmiri items to be intricate and highly detailed. Since Kashmir has been a melting pot of cultures, the mix of heritage is still reflected in its art form and crafts that have been perfected over the years. Some of the most popular Kashmiri home designs can entail the famous carpets, copper & silverware and Kashida – the local embroidery style that adorns the homes of many across the world.

Royal-Blue Handmade Pure Silk on Silk Superfine Carpet from Kashmir

Perhaps the most famous artform Kashmir has given to the world and the Papier-mâché artwork can be traced back to the Mughal period, where rulers like Akbar were the patrons of this art. A process spanning across weeks is a painstakingly meticulous art form that today adorns gardens and heritage mosques in Kashmir. You, too, can add these beautiful pieces to your home in the form of wall hangings, lanterns, decorative bells, and goodie boxes, to name a few. You can liven up your threshold with these decorative bells while your passageway can be home to your wall hangings. You can also put figurines on your cabinet or the small goodie boxes to your dining table to bring some colour to the otherwise empty tables. However, it is vital to make sure that you don’t overdo it since the bright colours can be overwhelming. Apart from Pashmina shawls, Kashmiri carpets have been on the checklist of every home interior enthusiast. An authentic carpet from the region is marked by its intricate work, purely handmade approach, and knotted tufted weaving instead. Based on your requirements, you can choose a silk or wool carpet. Then there is The Kashida embroidery is the epitome of the exquisite Kashmiri needlework, reflecting the beauty that is inherent to this beautiful state. Such embroidery involves a single long design stitch which makes it one of the most distinguished forms of needlework. Since this technique is one-of-a-kind, not many artisans are equipped with this artform which makes it an expensive decor for your home. However, if you seek to add this extraordinary embroidery to your home, you can do so in the form of tablecloths and table runners. If you are lucky and get your hands on the Kashida curtains, savour them for your lively living room.

Pinjara Kari of Kashmir

The designs of the Pinjara-Kari are famous and originated in Kashmir. Pinjara-Kari is the craft of making screens of interwoven wooden laths forming intricate geometric patterns. They do not differ from the mathematical designs of the Arabs or limited form with the most popular being those of the rising sun and cobwebs.

Kashmiri craftsmen added mastery to the craft and helped revive its form and its survival showcasing figures from the folklore of Kashmir. These are used in elements like windows, partitions and balconies. A pinjara-maker needs to have a good knowledge of geometry and understanding of tools and construction methods. Over time this craft because of its high value and time consumption started declining. Later modern materials like metal grills, glass and mesh replaced traditional Pinjra. Some artisans and walnut woodcarvers have picked up the art of making it while restoring old Pinjra forms and techniques.

Choktses - Handcrafted Wooden Tables

A craft originated in Ladakh, Choktses - handcrafted wooden tables are deeply ingrained with the old nomadic lifestyle. The tables are foldable and low height and are an indispensable part of the local households. From simple designs to elaborate ones, the emboss on the tables involves mineral pigmenting to create motifs of snow lions, dragons, clouds and lotus. Depending on the complexity of the design, these carving and embossing take up to two months to be completed.

Decorated Side Table

Woodcraft in Nagina

Centers of wood carving in Uttar Pradesh include Aligarh, Azamgarh, Nagina, Lucknow and Saharanpur. The wood used here is Shisham and Sal for carvings. Nagina exhibits a graceful style of carving in ebony on many articles like tables, chairs, boxes, beds, etc. The motifs are mostly floral and sometimes geometrical. The place, Nagina always had a problem of transportation due to which the craftsmen made small decorative pieces as they became easier to carry. Nagina’s craft dates back to the Mughal times and this craft but with the shift in consumer base, the range of these finely carved pieces started changing towards items of contemporary use, ex. Windows, doors, boxes, pen stands, etc.

Decorative Peacock Box

Sankheda Furniture, Gujarat

This form of wooden craft is incorporated in furniture making. Sankheda furniture is colorful, painted wood, made in the Sankheda village of Gujarat. It is treated with lacquer and is painted with traditional bright shades of maroon and gold. The colour innovation has been adopted with black, blue, green, ivory, copper, gold, silver and burgundy shades. Apart from being used as traditional furniture, a wide range of products like wall-hangings, pedestal lamps and vases brought about innovation in this form.

The Glamour Of The Bodhi Tree (Supersized Wall-Hanging)
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