Heritage twist for ambience edge
Shop for gold jewellery in a Bengali mansion or savour ilish machher paturi ensconced in 100-year-old environs. Retailers and restaurateurs hoping to provide customers with that extra something are turning back the clock to take up old, often dilapidated houses to convert them into boutiques and restaurants.
“The retro look is definitely in. While many a time it shows in the use of a few old artefacts, at times, especially in stores and restaurants, the aim is to recreate a whole era,” explained Ajay Issar, interior designer.
Whether its genuine retro or a recreation, soak up the atmosphere at the five following addresses:
DoB: June 2006
Address: Opposite the Sovabazar Metro station
Look and feel: From the outside, the Anjali Jewellers Showroom opposite the Shovabazar metro station looks like an old zamindar bari, complete with rafters, blinds, columns and dalan. “This house was in shambles; we had to completely reinvent the look. But it was very well situated. Plus it had a lot of space which we could turn into a parking lot,” said Anargha Choudhury, proprietor, Anjali Jewellers.
Lions on the gate greet visitors. The lamps bear resemblance to the gaslights of yore. Strings of lemon and chilli hung over the door cast off the evil eye. Niches have been decorated as temples. The flooring is tiled resembling classic black and white marble. Old chandeliers, marble corner tables adorned with busts and framed paintings carry on the illusion of this being a vintage address. One room even has faux animal heads peering down at shoppers. A small dalan has been decorated with wrought-iron park seats and carriage lights.
Sound bite: “This was a very old house, with spacious rooms, so we thought of the heritage look. The decor is reminiscent of any zamindar bari of the era, especially in north Calcutta. The lions on the gates are modelled on the Sovabazar Rajbari. Some of the tiles, chandeliers and other things had to be made to order,” said Debkumar Ghosh, decorator behind the store.
DoB: April 2006
Address: 85 Sarat Bose Road
Look and feel: As much can be said about the mansion that houses 85 Lansdowne and its decor as the boutique’s collection. The sprawling old bangali bari oozes history through its ivory walls, solid wooden doors and windows, open balconies and stark red cement floors covered here and there with coir rugs.
It is hard to tell from the outside that this address hosts a boutique, with only a few glimpses from the shop front visible from the street. A big gate opens from the road onto a garden and open space. The furniture is also in keeping with the theme. For instance, in one room, clothes are exhibited on a huge old bed.
“We wanted a space we could have shop-in-shops to do justice to the designs. When we got this mansion, we were immediately ready to open the boutique. The desire to renovate an old Bengali home to the way it used to be was an added incentive. So many of these mansions and bungalows are being replaced by multi-storeyed buildings,” observed Pooja Goenka, who runs the boutique with friend Shalini Nopani.
Sound bite: “When Pooja and Shalini got the place, it was not in very good condition. So we thought that instead of pulling it down, we could restore it to what it must have looked like. We haven’t made any changes to the interiors either. We have put in the kind of double doors that many old Calcutta houses had. It is a very Colonial look,” said Ajay Arya, who has designed the boutique.
6 Ballygunge Place
DoB: Pujas 2004
Address: 6 Ballygunge Place
Look and feel: If you were to walk by this address without seeing the sign, you could mistake it for a well-maintained old home. The gate opens into a cemented patch, set with old wrought-iron benches. The gas-lamp look can be spotted here too. Trees and flowerbeds complete the homely picture. The restaurant, which serves up Calcutta cuisine, is on the ground floor. The doors and windows are stained glass, the main door has a dokra doorknob that’s vintage stuff. Inside are wood and marble floors and wall cupboards decorated with dolls and artefacts. There are also paintings of old Calcutta. One room even has an old gramophone. Chiks on the windows and carriage lamps complete the look.
Sound bite: “The house is over 100-years-old and belonged to the family of one of the partners. We changed very little. We retained the homely Bengali ambience and it has gone down very well with the character of the place, because we specialise in Bengali cuisine,” said S. Ramani, one of the partners.
Address: 244A Purna Das Road
Look and feel: This tiny south Calcutta eatery has made its home in a not-so-old house, with an attempt at creating a Continental feel. Spread over a portion of the ground and mezzanine floor, The Bistro has a very quaint ambience.
“The decor of the restaurant is modelled on bistros, or small cafes across the continent (Europe). These places have a very warm, informal air and I have tried to recreate that here,” said Binoo Chaddha, proprietor. The interiors are a lesson in space management. The nook beneath the stairs has been transformed into a kitchen. Patrons have to walk up two tiny stairs and climb through the window to get to the bathroom. The walls have been papered with a warm red brick style, with prints and photographs of street-side cafes in Europe embellishing them. Wooden seats, moras, small glass-topped tables, wood doors, stairs and counter-tops lend charm to the place.
Sound bite: “The wood is all Burma teak. I had inherited some of my grandfather’s furniture and I used the wood to do the interiors of The Bistro,” explained Binoo.
Tangerine and Anamika Khanna
DoB: 2001 (Tangerine) February 2005 (Anamika’s studio)
Address: 2/1 Outram Street
Look and feel: This house —apparently at least half a century old — just around the corner from St Xavier’s hosts two destinations: Tangerine restaurant and designer Anamika Khanna’s boutique.
The house is more French than English, with the shape of its arches and structure, felt Anamika. “And we have kept the ambience like that, the high-beamed ceilings, the arches have all been kept as they were. We have just highlighted the space to make the inside more contemporary,” added the designer.
While Anamika inhabits the ground-floor space, a walk up a wooden staircase — with a deceptive quietness — will make you feel as though you are really entering someone’s home.
But what you find at the head of the stairs is the bright Tangerine, the first to transform this house into a city hotspot. Exposed brick and warm shades of orange and brown add domestic charm to this restaurant with a view.
Sound bite: “We weren’t looking for this kind of property, but when we chanced upon it, we decided to keep the look as much as possible, for it gave it a very unique appeal,” explained Gautam Kapoor, director, Tangerine. The outside has been kept much the same, though the interiors have been modified.
“I was very lucky. You don’t always get the property you want, but this space was available. It is away from the congestion, yet in the heart of the city,” said Anamika.