|Meera (right) and Disha Bansal
When Meera Bansal unveiled HOME&US in 1996, she wasnt armed with any degrees but just with a long-standing passion for interior design. Having lost her husband and having been a long-time stay-at-home mother, she decided to set up a furniture store retailing one-off pieces — most of them custom-made.
I always enjoyed doing up peoples homes, but it was always the custom-made pieces that interested me the most, says the 52-year-old Meera. HOME&US became one of the first designer furniture stores to open in Calcutta.
Her daughter, Disha, joined her seven years ago, after studying journalism in London and Italy. Since she had no background in designing either, she resisted the idea of joining the business. But I soon realised that I liked interacting with customers, says the 29-year-old.
The design sensibility of HOME&US also sets it apart from the other designer stores in the city. In the past when the entire market was flooded with modern and straight lines, they chose to be different.
Meera, a passionate traveller, is inspired by the Elizabethan, Queen Anne and Chesterfield styles. Disha, on the other hand, likes Roman and Greek styles.
The mother-daughter team believes in keeping the designs personalised. They interact with the customers themselves — from discussing room blueprints to choosing upholstery and handling sales and accounts. No surprises then that their store has no sales people. We want to know what each customer wants and are not in the business just to push sales, says Disha. The two dont just design one-off pieces of furniture but also take on turnkey projects which go from conceptualising the interiors of their clients homes to manufacturing the furniture in their workshop in Picnic Garden in Calcutta.
Besides bespoke furniture, the two are all for home accessories too. So, Disha also takes up turnkey projects to decorate homes working with accessories including wallpaper, blinds and lighting. They go from designing to manufacturing in their workshop in Picnic Garden in Calcutta.
Disha is not a straight lines/ minimalist interiors person. I love doing carvings and am delighted that ornate elements in interiors are on their way back, she says.
This translates into ornate mahogany furniture, winged chairs, carved Ottomans, benches, high-back chairs and lavish gold polish finishes.
Both are happy that people have become bold in home interiors and are willing to experiment. People no longer want to play safe with furniture. Now they ask for bright colours in upholstery, carvings, gold leaf and contrasting cushions to brighten interiors, says Disha.
Disha suggests that the upholstery in summer should include plenty of whites, beiges, creams and floral prints. Shes also rooting for wallpaper. The right wallpaper makes the room look more spacious according to her. The right kind of wallpaper will even do well on the ceiling, says Disha.
At HOME&US youll find a pair of ornate high-back chairs in red velvet with black and gold embellishments. You will also find ornate winged chairs that are a throwback to the Queen Anne era. A standalone bench is done in velvet and is one of the rare pieces to be carved out of a single piece of mahogany.
A white and gold ottoman is polished with gold lacquer and upholstered in white chenille with gold embossed flowers. Its displayed as part of a set that has a matching table and couch.
An exquisite Belgian mirror takes pride of place in the store. The embellishments are also made with pieces of glass. Prepare to pay Rs 30,000 for this one. Disha is poised to open an extension to the store that will house mirrors designed by her. And theres more: table lamps, candle-stands and vases. Prices at the store go from Rs 800 to Rs 55,000. Every piece we design has a different story to tell and a separate purpose, says Meera.
Photographs by Rashbehari Das