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Splashing out

What does Anuja Chauhan, the executive creative director and vice president of advertising agency J Walter Thompson, do when she is not conjuring up punch lines for advertisements? She’s probably at home, wearing her interior designer cap, and assessing the scope for some home improvements.

Home is a four-bedroom, fifth-floor apartment in Ambience Lagoon, a cluster of high-rise luxury flats set in the vicinity of Delhi’s largest mall, Ambience. Anuja and her husband, Niret Alva, president of production house Miditech, decided they’d rather live in this flat just off the Delhi-Gurgaon border than build an independent house. They felt that their three children — Niharika 13, Tara 10 and son Daivik, 7 — could do with the company of the other children in neighbouring flats.

The Alvas moved in 2002 and Anuja let her imagination run riot as she transformed it into a warm and eclectic space. “It’s all thanks to the carpenters in my life,” chuckles Anuja who has also made her debut as an author with the bestselling novel, The Zoya Factor.

The apartment is spacious and every nook makes an interesting statement — with Anuja having painted some parts herself. A room on the left of the entrance is a minimalistically done guest room.

The kitchen, on the right of the entrance, is roomy and all-white. Anuja says that she had a sink removed to make the entrance bigger and fit in a round dining table. The latest addition to the kitchen is a crockery cabinet which she says was a steal at a 60 per cent discount from a shop in Kirti Nagar, Delhi’s famous furniture market.

You hit the first of the living rooms on the right of the kitchen and can’t help but notice the lived-in appeal of the room. A comfortable look is added to by the jhoola (swing) that hangs right in the middle of the room.

One of the many quirky touches in the room comes by way of the bar with its LPG cylinders that have been converted into bar stools. Painted in bright pink, red and green and topped by wooden seats, they offset the semi-circular counter that has ‘The Tispy Toad Tea Shop’ stencilled on it. “The toad was so tipsy that he couldn’t pronounce ‘tipsy’,” says Anuja with a mischievous grin. The toad in question was painted by her.

The bar actually stands on what was originally one of the apartment’s bathrooms. Anuja had it broken down to give the room more space. And the door that came off was suspended flat on chains and transformed into the jhoola.

You simply can’t ignore the colours in this part of the house as two of the walls are painted a vivid turquoise blue. “Niret gave me the go ahead but asked me to ensure that the house didn’t look too girlie or childish,’’ she says.

So to offset the blue, she painted two walls beige, while the sofas were upholstered with a cream fabric with pale pink and green floral patterns.

The room opens into a balcony through floor-to-ceiling glass windows and door. “The idea was to allow lot of natural light in,” says Anuja. A sturdy wooden bench — with four paintings on its back-support — that sits in front of the glass windows, is also special. While the bench has been made from a bed from Anuja’s parents’ house, the paintings were done specially for Anuja by a friend’s mother.

The bench is complemented by an old round table with scooped out insides gifted by her mother-in-law, the politician Margaret Alva. Anuja has given the table a facelift by putting colourful glass bangles in it and covering it with a glass top. “My girls and I bought them from Hanuman Mandir that’s so famous for its bangles,” says Anuja.

Step out of this room and enter the second living room with its flat screen television and an old piano that Anuja used to play (when it worked, that is). Occasionally this drawing room is transformed into a stage and children from neighbouring apartments get together to perform skits.

More like a den, the room has a big brown couch placed opposite the television that’s hooked to the wall.

The room is clutter-free but with just the right arty touches. A bright red and blue cabinet below the television lends lots of colour to the room. And just above the piano hangs a ‘railway clock’ (the kind you will see installed in railway stations) which Niret handpicked.

At the other end are a no-fuss rectangular dining table and a tall wooden cabinet that holds crockery.

Beyond the two living rooms, are the private areas of the house — the children’s room, and beyond it a T-point which is in fact a very brightly painted wall with a crucifix and images of Christ and Mary. The kids’ room is complete with three beds (one four-poster) as well as drawings of bees and dolls painted by Anuja and the children.

This T-point is flanked by two rooms — Niret’s relaxing space and the couple’s own bedroom. Niret wanted his own relaxing area to be warm and not brightly lit. “The room should be dark and warm like a womb,” were Niret’s specifications and Anuja followed the brief. So for a macho touch, Anuja gave colours a rest and covered the wall with classified sections of newspapers and treated them with lacquer so that they looked pale and old. She gave the room thick and dark curtains so that little light penetrated room.

Since this is also Niret’s workout zone, she placed the gym equipment here and gave the walls a number of posters and family pictures for a personal touch.

The home is poised to celebrate Christmas and even as Anuja is busy writing her second novel (she’s on a one-month break from work), she’s looking forward to dressing the house in Xmas cheer.     

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