The Telegraph
Saturday , February 4 , 2012
TT Photogallery
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary

Timeless appeal


It’s mahogany country at Ebony, Michael Bain’s trendy new lifestyle store in central Calcutta. Bain, who worked in key positions in lifestyle stores, Cocoon and Jute, before this, is focusing on designing minimalistic home furniture, sleek lights, gift items and eye-catching wall décor. Antiques too add to the glam quotient at Ebony, whether it’s an old piece of Belgian glass, a quaint bar cabinet or an ivory brooch attached to a solid mahogany photo-frame.

Step into this natty, three-room store, and you’ll notice a pair of wood-and-iron bar counters right away. These are eye-catching, with a mahogany top and base, the central portion made of antique iron grills.

Bain, who has just taken on the assignment of doing the bar counter of a plush club in Calcutta, proudly shows off the polished bar stools as well. He says that designing comes to him naturally. “I never received a formal training in designing. I was always into sports and somehow liked doing things with my hands. I’ve crafted several pieces of my furniture myself though I also get karigars from Bengal to give shape to my designs,” he says with a glint of pride in his voice.

Bain was born in Calcutta but finished his college and schooling in Chennai. He played cricket for South Zone and also travelled to Australia, London and Moscow post-college. During his travels, he developed an eye for antiques. In Moscow (during ’93-’96) he worked for a trading house but in Australia, he played club cricket (between ’86-’87). In London, he mostly travelled — and shopped — as a free-wheeling tourist (between ’93 and ’99). But by 1996 he had joined the East India Natural Goods Company in Calcutta that manufactures jute bags.

He joined the lifestyle store, Cocoon, in 2004, owned by Ajay Rawla of the East India Natural Goods Company. After Cocoon, Bain set up the store Basil in 2009 for Prakash Mehrotra. He then decided to launch his own store Ebony, which is now four months old.

During his stint at the East India Natural Goods Company, Bain had tried his hand at designing, a fact that is reflected in most of the self-styled gift items at Ebony.

His father, Roland Sidney Bain, was an interior designer and also inspired Bain’s style. “Besides, I love walking around India’s bylanes, shopping for antiques. I have picked up priceless, abandoned chest of drawers, dining tables, discarded lamps, even brooches and restored them in order to fashion new designs. With some the antiques, I have often added a new dimension by using wood to embellish them,” he said.


Bain, 54, feels that antique furniture is attractive even in a minimalist home. “Antiques stand out like nothing else. A corner looks delightful when you place an antique lamp there,” he says.

Bain uses a lot of mahogany and teak in his designs as these make for a classier look. “I get good quality mahogany from my regular suppliers in the city,” he says.


At Ebony, you are spoilt for choice as far as mirrors go. Square or round frames are in mahogany. The carvings on the frame can go from gold-painted leaf to silver motifs. The pocket pinch for one of these mirrors range between Rs 10,500 and Rs 22,500.

If you are setting up a small bar at home, one of the readymade bar counters will fit the bill. The counter top is made from a single piece of mahogany and so is the base. The top is placed on an antique grill (a 100-year-old piece), which Michael picked up on one of his trips to Central Calcutta. While the bar counter is priced at Rs 26,500, the tree-trunk stools come for Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,500, depending on their size.

The mahogany coffee tables are low and can team with minimalist furniture if that’s what your décor demands. These can double up as centre tables too and range between Rs 8,500 and Rs 24,000.

Then there are nice mahogany photo-frames that make for great gifts. Antique brooches made from ivory and bone embellish the frames and are priced at Rs 1,800 apiece. Bain also stocks some revamped antique furniture — a 130-year-old chest of drawers and an oval Burma teak dining table are eyecatchers.

Old brass vases embedded in carved mahogany blocks are priced at a modest Rs 1,500, while wall-lights made from brass and sleeperwood or mahogany range from Rs 1,750 for one to Rs 6,200 for a set of three. Looking for a candle-stand which can double up as a tea coaster? A slim mahogany one will cost you just Rs 150.

Lamps like quaint Aladdin lamps, floor lamps or table lamps in wood and brass dominate the space at Ebony. They’re available in several sizes and cost from Rs 1,650 to Rs 3,500.

Photographs by Rashbehari Das