A Homage To The Zulu Tribe Of Africa
A native of South Africa, the Zulu tribe belongs to the Bantu ethnic group. Shaka Zulu, a renowned warrior and ruler who reigned from 1816 to 1828, established the tribe, which rose to prominence for its military ability and territorial expansion. Throughout Southern Africa, the Zulu army’s strategies were feared. With an estimated 12 million people, they are the largest ethnic group in South Africa as of right now. They also have a rich cultural past that includes their traditional attire, music, dance, and cuisine.
Isikhethele – A Tale Of Stripes
The Amabutho was a special form of social organization used by the Zulu people. Based on their social standing and age, this system classified men into groups and gave them corresponding tasks and duties within the community. The highest position in this system belonged to warriors, who were revered. Isikhethele stripes, which marked the warriors’ path, were embroidered on their armor and carved into their shields. The Zulu tribe has a wide variety of additional ideas regarding the symbolism of stripes. Others thought the stripes were a strategy to terrify foes and make the warriors stand out on the battlefield, while some said they symbolized the warriors’ valor and might in combat. Some people also think that the stripes have spiritual significance and are linked to the ancestors’ spirits.
Zulu clothes and shields often include a combination of black, white, and occasionally red stripes. The most prevalent stripes are black and white, which are positioned either diagonally or horizontally. Depending on the design and the desired meaning, the precise amount of stripes and their placement can change. A ceremonial dress or an article of daily wear could have a different pattern than a warrior’s shield. The placement and repetition of the stripes might also serve as a clue as to the warrior’s rank or the importance of the situation. The highest ranking warriors frequently wear shields with two black stripes on a white backdrop, which are said to offer spiritual protection. Young warrior initiation rituals frequently involve a shield with many black and white stripes arranged in a zigzag or checkerboard pattern. Zulu warriors occasionally add additional patterns or symbols to their clothes and shields, including geometric shapes or animal themes. These extra components could potentially have further unique cultural or spiritual significance.
Zulu By VLiving
VLiving takes inspiration from the dynamic culture of the Zulu tribe. The iconic Isikhethele stripes are at the heart of this collection whereas the usage of an earthy and natural color scheme, like the off-white and beige tones in this assortment of home furnishings pay homage to the group’s strong connection to nature and the environment. It reflects the colors of the terrain and gives off feelings of coziness, warmth, and rootedness while creating a sense of harmony by bringing the outside into the home. The collection also exhibits the dramatic and detailed tribal design while putting the Zulu-inspired stripes front and center.
A textured and layered look is created through the use of tufted off-white stripes on beige slub cotton fabric, adding depth and intricacy to the design. The cushion covers come in a range of sizes, making them easy to mix and combine to create a distinctive and customized look.
The couch throws are generously proportioned to provide both flair and comfort by elegantly draping over the back of your preferred couch or armchair. The entire collection is produced with the best components and skilled craftsmanship, guaranteeing that it will survive for many years.
In today’s globalized society where people are exposed to a wide variety of cultures and aesthetics, integrating foreign design aspects such as Zulu tribal elements into home decor can make for a more diverse and eclectic living space. Such visual inspirations in the home not only add a sense of adventure and transport you away from the routine of daily life, but are truly the epitome of having a global home, serving as a means to promote and honor the rich legacy of indigenous cultures.
International Design Day: In Conversation with VLiving Founder Vaishali Sinha
Vaishali Sinha, the creator of VLiving defines the company as ‘a design-focused’ label offering innovative yet practical home furnishings and decor. Upon conversing with her, one discovers that Vaishali acquired a knowledge and appreciation of other cultures from a young age since she grew up in a family that valued and enjoyed diverse forms of art and music. VLiving’s collections, which are often inspired by Indian as well as international arts and crafts, reflect this deep awareness.
Tracing Back Our Roots
Vaishali’s journey to becoming a successful designer began with her enrolment in the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID), a move that was encouraged by open minded parents. Her specialization in textile design paved the way for her career in home decor and furnishings. After working for a few years in the industry, in 1997 she established her own design studio, which serviced some of the biggest names in the market, like SKumars and Jo-ann(USA) amongst others. She developed a strong team of professionals and over the years the studio powered many clients’ launches behind the scenes.
From Vaishali Design Studio To VLiving
Despite being successful and producing quality work so far, Vaishali observed that clients frequently chose not to share the studio with their network in order to preserve exclusivity. Even though the company saw a lot of success, it also saw some rejections when it came to ideas that were ‘too modern’ or ‘untraditional’ for the market. Not willing to remain in the background any longer, Vaishali created VLiving in 2012, which would go on to reflect her own vision and creativity. In order to further promote the brand in its early days, Vaishali also used her network of international clients and experience with client servicing. This allowed VLiving to create custom designs for interior designers with offices in the UK and the USA for their respective clients.
Although friends and her vast industry network started to pay attention to the label, she believes that VLiving’s decision to further open store on Etsy.com in 2013 truly changed the game.The platform allowed them to connect with new consumer groups in the UK, USA, Europe and Japan among other places, enabling her to visualize more ideas and possibilities on the brand’s horizon. By 2018, the brand had officially taken off and by 2020, VLiving was among the top 1% of Etsy sellers as per international rankings. Today, VLiving is sold on Amazon.com, Amazon.in, Jypore, World Art Community, Discovered.us, Etsy.com, and VLiving.com in well over 30 countries.
Making The Thought Process Count
According to Vaishali, VLiving is distinguished by its unique approach to design. She uses her intuition and expertise to develop collections that are culturally relevant and convey a story, as opposed to many other creative enterprises that are motivated by social media trends. She often draws inspiration from timeless international arts and crafts but clarifies that the brand’s goal is not to compete with artists or the original art form. Instead, art is used as motivation to modernize, modify, and produce something original. There is utmost emphasis on research, development, creating themes and color palettes that contribute towards making the products functional and one of their kind.
Cultural Influences Meet Artistic Techniques
The collections also offer a fantastic opportunity for customers to learn about numerous international cultures and art forms. For instance, VLiving’s Zulu line combines tufting techniques to make rare home furnishing items that depict a rich cultural history while drawing influence from the shield designs of the African tribe. Another example is the brand’s Dominoterie collection which is also influenced by the French craft of creating block-printed wall coverings. The collection stands out because it features European designs as opposed to the customary Indian block designs, while employing the same block printing technique.
VLiving serves as an inspiration and reminder of the influence that design has on the globe as we observe International Design Day. The brand’s success fuelled by Vaishali’s passion to create familiar and fresh products, is proof that there is an ever growing desirability for distinctive, cutting-edge, and high-quality designs.
Dominoterie: The History, Design, and Rebirth of a Traditional Craft
A Tale Of Commingling Influences
Domino paper, also known as “Papier Dominoté” or ‘Dominoterie’ in French, was a popular hand-printed style of wallpaper during 18th century France. The patterns of this wallpaper are thought to have been named “domino” because they looked similar to the dots on dominoes.
The art of Dominoterie is rooted in the 16th Century Chinese tradition of making beautiful block printed papers. It was during the 17th century that Dutch traders brought the method to Europe, leading to the creation of the first French Domino Paper. The local French aristocracy and affluent merchants were Dominoterie’s main early adopters and the wall papers were later sold to other countries in Europe and America and were also said to have been very well-liked in England and Germany.
An Obscure Craft
Domino paper was frequently printed with recurring designs that included tiny motifs composed of flowers, birds, and geometric forms. Rouleau or “roller printing,” which included transferring ink to a cylindrical roller and pressing it into the paper, was used to create the Dominoterie. The method later evolved to hand-carving wooden blocks with the patterns and using those for printing outline designs onto the paper. Watercolor paints were then used to fill in the shapes and motifs, giving the designs their depth and beauty.
However, towards the end of the 18th century other decorating methods like hand-painted murals started to gain popularity, overtaking the appeal of Dominoterie, which was once considered a novelty just a few decades prior. Eventually, the manufacturing of Domino paper also came to an end, leading to the craft being virtually forgotten altogether.
Revival & Resurgence
Today, a resurgence of interest can be observed towards the art of Dominoterie, especially owing to the Paris-based studio A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson which is championing the revival of this craft by using historical allusions and methods. They are recognised as one of the most prominent studios developing fresh Dominoterie designs utilizing conventional block-printing methods which are later applied to a variety of goods ranging from stationery to home decor.
Dominoterie Home Decor Beyond Wallpapers
What makes Dominoterie the perfect home turning is its ability to blend into small spaces or to be used as an accent in a bigger room due to its small motifs and repeating patterns. In light of this, the Dominoterie collection by VLiving also takes design cues from the traditional composition of this craft. A line of home décor products including placemats, table runners, kitchen towels, tote bags, quilts, and cushion covers have been crafted in a variety of subdued yet rich hues like maroon/plum, green, and indigo blue. The pillow covers embroidered with roses especially evoke a reminiscence towards the French Florals whereas placemats feature scalloped borders for a soft and rounded finish. This collection is an ideal illustration of how conventional crafts and methods can be modernized to suit contemporary aesthetics and domino paper continues to influence designers today.
With its delicate patterns and soft hues, Domino paper is still highly valued today for its fine workmanship and classic beauty. It is a stunning addition to any house and a celebration of the enduring allure of traditional crafts, whether it is used on walls, furniture, or other decorative items. The revival of domino paper is a testament to the enduring appeal of traditional crafts and techniques and homes continue to incorporate the beauty and uniqueness of handmade objects by preserving and reviving these crafts methods.
Home Decor Trends – 2023 Forecast by VLiving
The importance of sustainability in our daily lives has grown as we approach the year ahead. In light of this, the home decor space is also moving forward with creative living solutions that are circular, inspired by the ideas of ‘make-and-reuse’, ‘nature-engineered’, ‘earth-sourced’, and ‘zero waste’. Designing things that can be used, reused, and recycled is central to the sustainability movement, along with creating products inspired by the coexistence of nature and technology. Such is the spirit of home decor and design in 2023.
Make and Remake
This trend encourages consumers to take an active role in the life cycle of their home decor products. Rather than simply discarding an item, make and remake inspires consumers to upcycle and redesign their existing decor. From painting and reupholstering to adding few but bold new touches, this trend allows for a personalized element to be added to your home, making it unique and sustainable. As a result, makers are encouraged to use creative, unexpected processes and applications to repurpose a plethora of materials already available. Such creations usually witness techniques like overprinting, overdyeing, bricolage, collage, and patchwork featuring a maximalist, joyful mix of colors, prints, patterns, and textures.
The theme of make and remake also features heightened use of embellishments to boost tactility in the finished products. As a result, techniques such as appliqué, textured weaving, knotting, and fringing are incorporated to add dimension and breathe new life into the repurposed materials.
The zero waste trend entails using sustainable materials and creating products that can be disassembled and recycled along with making sure that the manufacturing process is as environmentally friendly as possible in order to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact. In 2023 we can anticipate seeing more businesses dedicate efforts to minimizing waste and providing zero waste design solutions. Zero-waste or closed-loop production usually features continuous design. This practice entails repeatedly turning waste materials into new goods, by using methods that help achieve a high-end look while preserving the materials. As single materials can be recycled more easily than mixed materials, ‘mono-materiality’ is a crucial feature of continuous design.
Modern developments in fabric regeneration like cellulose yarns enable zero-waste production to thrive, whereas use of timeless and essentialist color schemes like bright white, warm greys, sage, elegant blues, and black promote longevity and extended life.
This trend emphasizes raw and earthy finishes with a focus on textures. Unpolished, rough surfaces are highlighted, and flaws are seen as adding character and appeal. In order to create a familiar and welcoming environment, materials like clay, terracotta, and unbleached textiles are heavily used. In 2023 brands will constantly be taking cues from nature when it comes to patterns and themes, using floral and botanical motifs as well as geometric shapes which exist in natural forms like honeycomb and rock formations.
Use of organic color palette of warm, soft, and muted botanical hues that range from complex shades of olive and lime to warm beige and pink, and bold indigo will also be observed. Handcrafted techniques such as shibori will also be used to create unique designs inspired by nature.
Nature Engineering focuses on the latest technological developments that can enhance the home decor and design experience by combining natural materials and biophilic design with cutting edge technology.The application of engineering and regenerative farming techniques is meant to enhance the performance of natural materials, reduce waste and encourage the harmonious coexistence between humans and the environment. This movement steers clear of the ‘industrial appearance’ of past years and leans into warmer, more natural color palettes that harmoniously blend with the surroundings. The movement features the best qualities of both the natural and human worlds by using contemporary neutrals that have a clean and refined quality.
The “Nature Engineered” movement has the potential to significantly affect a variety of businesses in a positive manner, by presenting a more optimistic and cooperative approach to design and placing a higher priority on sustainability, human well-being, and nature’s capacity for regeneration.
The home decor trends of 2023 are all about sustainability and environmental responsibility. From circularity to zero waste, there are many ways to incorporate sustainable practices into your home decor choices. Whether you want to upcycle and remake your existing decor, or invest in furniture made from natural and sustainable materials, there are many options available that align with these trends. By making sustainable choices in your home decor, you can create a space that is not only beautiful but also environmentally responsible.
Part II Of Influence Of Indian Crafts On Global Home Decor
Much like the floral motifs discussed in the first part of this series, Indian embroideries have also significantly impacted home decor trends observed globally. The second part of our Indian Crafts series brings to light the conception, evolution and world wide proliferation of embroideries which not only originated but also continue to be practiced in India today.
History & Relevance: Believed to be one of India’s most ancient embroidery techniques dating back to 1500 BC, Kantha is a humble running stitch born in the rural regions of Bengal during Vedic times which later permeated into various stratas of society across Orissa, Bengal and present day Bangladesh. A traditional Kantha piece would typically feature patchwork held together by a simple running stitch as a means to salvage used fabrics or old garments. Due to the numerous lines of running stitches, finished kantha typically had a slightly wrinkled and wavy appearance.
Additionally, the original kantha was double-faced, with the design appearing identical on both sides. Overtime, the running stitch evolved into a means of regional storytelling, giving way to Nakshi Kantha, whereby fabrics would feature artistic motifs like flowers, birds, instruments, religious idols and other elements pertaining to the lives of local women creating the embroidery.
Cultural Crossovers: During the Mughal rule in India, another branch of Kantha known as Par Tola also emerged which featured geometrical patterns influenced by Islamic art. With this, the definition of ‘Kantha’ became much broader and that’s why, today it refers to both the original running stitch as well as finished fabrics featuring various styles of Kantha inspired embroideries. The uses of Kantha fabric ranged from making prayer mats and purses to pillow covers and light blankets to shield against the mild winter in Bengal. As opposed to other luxurious fabrics such as silk or wool, cotton has been the go to fabric for Kantha artisans as it can be easily cut, layered and stitched together to make the final product.
Besides Mughal influence, adaptations of Kantha were also swayed by Colonial rule and Portuguese trade. The Portuguese created the very first Kantha with silk threads and these adaptations featured motifs like ships and arms. Kantha developed in the nineteenth century during British Raj in India featured motifs like playing cards, English Lords and Ladies, European chandeliers and Queen Victoria’s Medallions.
Revival & Global Popularity: It is said that Kantha was a neglected craft during Colonial rule in India and conscious efforts had to be made to revive it, starting from the early twentieth century and again after the partition of India which saw many Kantha artisans migrate from India to Bangladesh. Many notable individuals such as Pratima Devi ( daughter in law of Bengali nobel prize winner Rabindra Nath Tagore), Stella Kramrisch in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, Srilata Sarkar in collaboration with the Crafts Museum of West Bengal, Shamlu Devi ( founder of non profit organization SHE ) are said to be responsible for initiating the slow yet significant resurrection of Kantha whereby groups of women were trained to replicate the traditional Kantha art form preserved in museums.
This enabled a new generation of artisans and entrepreneurs to practice the artwork and recreate the embroidery on modern, daily objects for fashion and lifestyle segments to make a living. Today, thousands of Kantha Artisans are at work in rural Bengal, under the guidance of local and international entrepreneurs to produce high quality and authentic home decor pieces, being sold in exhibitions across Europe, UK, Japan, US and Australia
Rooted In Uprootedness: Banjara, India’s nomadic tribal embroidery is said to have traveled to the country through Afghanistan in the twelfth century during the rule of Rajput king PrithviRaj Chauhan, subsequently making its way through to Rajasthan first. The nomadic caravans known as Banjaras later traveled to South Of India during the seventeenth century to help Mughal rulers export goods to the region via train, respectively settling in the area for the very first time. Over the centuries, these tribes and their cultural influences spread to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa and Telangana, adding regional diversity to the adaptation of their art form.
Because the Banjaras were nomadic, they created beautiful patchworks out of old clothing. For themselves, they made ghagra cholis, quilts, and batwas (or “wallets”), among many other practical items early on. These items are known for their distinct liveliness owing to use of bright colored threadwork, mirrors, bells and cowrie shell embellishments.
Revival & Recognition: During the British Colonial Era in India, The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 forbade the movement of Banjaras within the country, confining the tribes to remote, unpopulated areas, thus preventing the distribution and popularity of this art form both inside and outside India. The law was repealed in 1952 following Indian Independence, which gave the Tribes freedom to travel and settle in various parts of the country once again. Since then, just like kantha, several initiatives are in place by both the government of India as well as passionate individuals to fairly incentivise Banjara artisans in order to keep the practice of learning trading and popularizing Banjara alive.
Organizations like the Crafts Council of India are dedicated towards reviving and curating these handicrafts from Telangana, Kutch and Rajasthan which further enables brands to source and sell Banjara based collections at a Global Scale.
Current Global Influence:
Although pioneers of the boho movement such as The Beatles are often credited with inculcating an interest for Indian clothing, music and art to the west in the late 1960s, the survival and international success of both Kantha and Banjara embroideries is the result of consistent efforts made by Indian organizations, craft enthusiasts and businesses. Moreover, with modern day exposure to international trends, Banjara and Kantha inspired items are always sought after as part of the Indo-global confluence in fashion and home decor.
Above: Isabel Marant’s Spring Summer 2016 runway show featured elements borrowed from Banjara Embroidery. Below: Dior’s Iconic Saddle Bag featuring Banjara Applique work seen on the Autumn Winter 2018 runway. Images via: Architectural Digest
The West’s fascination with the East’s colors, cultures and exotic art forms often manifests itself on fashion runways and in renowned artists’ works, eventually inspiring the masses to adopt these elements into their homes and wardrobes. From Wall Tapestries and decorative cushions to functional items such as quilts and table runners, these art forms are used to infuse the home with vibrant colors and unique textures. Additionally, growing interest in sustainability also makes these crafts a subject of intrigue as both Kantha and Banjara were rooted in upcycing and salvaging old fabrics.
Global Home Decor Styles Of the Past And Present, Informed By Indian Crafts
India’s vibrant arts and crafts landscape is a globally acclaimed treasure, the subject of endless interpretations and adaptations especially when it comes to the home decor and lifestyle space. From textiles and embroideries to dyeing and weaving techniques, India’s artisanship is most valued for its supreme intricacy and storytelling. And yet, there are some arts and crafts which have survived years of evolution and have played a more significant role than others in shaping global interior design and decor trends.
In our series titled ‘Global Home Decor Styles Of the Past And Present, Informed By Indian Crafts’, we dedicate this first chapter to decoding the history and evolution of Indian Florals, namely Mughal, Kalamkari and Paisley over the centuries.
A History Of Intertwined Cultural Roots
- Rajasthani Block Prints: Looking back at the history and evolution of floral prints, particularly in India, one comes to realize that both the east and the west have had an intrinsic dependency on each other for inspiration. The design language of Indian florals, which consisted of lotus motifs, later transformed into an elaborate representation of the Mughal gardens and Jahangir’s love for nature, especially the Kashmiri landscape. The Indian floral motifs with their leaves, stems and buds as we know them today came to be during the 17th century. Their development is also partly attributed to Nur Jahan’s Persian roots.
Defining the true heritage of Indian Florals becomes even more complex when one takes into consideration that European imports during the seventeenth century, especially English Crewel and French embroidery greatly inspired Indian Floral motifs and soon their composition became more stylish and imaginative than realistic. This new format was not only featured on fabrics being exported to the West and to Asia but also became popular among rural artisan communities of Rajasthan and Gujrat. What is known as modern day Rajasthani Bagru, Sanganeri and Dabu was once known as the Mughal Floral Print originating from India.
- The Art Of Kalamkari or Indian Calico: While Rajasthani floral prints were born under Mughal rule, Kalamkari originated centuries ago in Andhra Pradesh, before the Mughals or the English came to India. However, the different design languages of Kalamkari tell their own unique tales of cultural influence. For instance, Srikalahasti style usually depicts tales of Hindu deities, their hobbies, their holy abodes and musical instruments. On the other hand, Machilipatnam style has the strongest Islamic influence due to its development in the Golconda Sultanate in Hyderabad during the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
Upon their arrival in India, the British fascination with all things Indian also extended to Kalamkari and soon, it became a popular commodity to be traded. Not only was the East India Company sending these goods to England, but also extending it to countries across Asia and other parts of Europe in exchange for spices and other goods. The popularity of Indian Kalamkari Florals was especially evident in France and England and this was attributed to the middle class’s ability to afford vibrant and long lasting textiles without paying hefty prices of silk. It is said that French elites such as Madame de Pompadour adopted Kalamkari fabrics for home furnishing and dresses in the eighteenth century. Following the approval of the upper class, the European and English industrialists soon attempted to recreate the colorful dyes and designs of Kalamkari, so much so that France’s printed textiles Toile de Jouy are said to have been born as an influence of Indian Kalamkari Florals.
3) The Journey from Buta to Paisley: The motif known to the world today as Paisley is said to have originated in Persia and is said to be the portrayal of a bird sitting on the tip of a cypress, causing it to bend. This pretty Persian motif is believed to have entered Indian during the fifteenth century and was first incorporated into Kashmiri Shawls, a favorite of the Mughal royalty. Kashmiri Shawls bearing the Paisley motif became part of Akbar’s court as a symbol to bestow honor on his most trusted men by gifting these opulent ‘robes’ to them. Some texts also note that the buta bore a resemblance to the royal jewel used to pin a feather to turbans of members of the royal Mughal court. Soon, the buta motif traveled from Kashmir to the textile weaving town of Varanasi where it got the name ‘ambi’ meaning raw mango.
Like other craft forms which gained popularity in India during the Mughal rule, by the eighteenth century the buta traveled to Europe enroute the East Indian company where it became the desire of anyone with social prominence. Napoleon’s wife, Empress Josephine and other prominent members of European society are said to have an extensive collection of Kashmiri Shawls and robes bearing the Paisley motif. Its heightened popularity made this motif a subject of mass production, especially in the town of Paisley, Scotland. It was here that the buta motif got its widespread name ‘Paisley’.
Modern Day Adaptation of Indian Florals
Many wonder how Indian crafts, especially Indian floral motifs have retained their popularity over the centuries but a deep dive into the history of these motifs indicates why their relevance all over the world remains as strong as ever. Owing to shared cultural roots and intermingling of influences which peaked during the Mughal and British rule, Indian florals evolved to represent a confluence of eastern and western tastes.
In more recent times, the Paisley motif was a landmark of the 60s and 70s psychedelics fuelled the hippie movement, with popular artists like Janis Joplin and The Beatles embracing this shape through their fashion and art choices. This made the Paisley motif reminiscent of all things bohemian, so much so that home decor of the time period began to feature the Indian Paisley or buta on carpets, wall tapestry and more. Indian Florals have an effortless way of fitting into most styles of home decor and the resurgence of nostalgia driven trends like 80s Shabby Chic, French Countryside and 2021’s Cottage Core affirm that Indian Floral motifs have been an inherent part of Western lifestyle and will always remain an intrinsic part of home decor as long as we keep looking into the past to define trends of future.
VLiving x Anita Mackenzie
Anita Mackenzie has always been ahead of the curve. In a time when having ‘side hustles’ was far from being a mainstream idea, she not only cultivated a multifaceted career but also built a fulfilling life for herself and her beautiful family. In conversation with her, Team VLiving unpacks Anita’s transition from brand marketeer to home stylist, a journey spanning over ten years and three countries.
Plum Chutney In The Making
Born and raised in India, Anita moved to the UK in 2005 for work but found herself putting down roots in the place upon meeting her husband. Having worked in brand management and marketing for 11 years thus far, personal circumstances steered Anita towards her passion for home interiors and by 2010 she got a diploma in interior design from Nottingham, UK. Plum Chutney, Anita’s online Interiors Boutique was born later that year. According to Anita, the name represented a confluence of styles and a sense of humor, both aspects core to how she would go on to design and curate her collections for the label.
Image credit @sundaybedding
“As it happens Plum Chutney’s original avatar was as an Online Interiors Boutique. While studying interior design I had spotted a unique opportunity in the retail sector for home decor products that borrowed global inspiration but were presented with a contemporary aesthetic that could work in any British home. I decided to showcase my love for the chaos and colors of India and create PlumChutney, a beautifully crafted yet quirky home wares brand.”
VLiving x Plum Chutney
Running Plum Chutney Dot Com out of Britain for 8 years gave Anita insight into the shifting landscape of home decor. Contemporary design that borrowed inspiration from movements like mid century modern and a confluence of other aesthetics from around the world greatly informed the collections she designed for her brand. During this time, VLiving served as Anita’s main design partner for all textile oriented products which she developed exclusively for Plum Chutney, in addition to sourcing selectively from VLiving’s own collection. Over the years, together VLiving and Anita developed multiple collections of cushion covers, throws, lampshades, baskets, table linen, and bags. According to Anita, these collections went on to be a raging success with her customers and even garnered national media attention in the UK.
“VLiving was my largest, most versatile design partner from the beginning to the end of PlumChutney’s journey as an online retail store in Britain.The V Living team led by Vaishali was responsive, inventive and always up for a challenge. But most importantly it’s their expertise in design, embroidery and textile printing which made the collaboration such a fruitful one.”
From Interior Retailing To Home Styling
Few years spent working at the helm of Plum Chutney and it was not long before Anita started to showcase the brand on her Instagram page. The products combined with visuals of her own home piqued the interest of her friends and acquaintances who began reaching out for help with styling or designing their own living spaces. In 2019, when she and her family were contemplating moving to Singapore for her husband’s work, Anita decided to take the plunge and shifted focus from designing to home styling full time. Today, her client base in Singapore is made up of young couples expecting their first baby to empty nesters looking to remodel their home after the children have moved out. However Anita has taken a particular interest in renters, a category overlooked by most interior designers according to her. She challenges the belief that rental spaces are limiting for a home stylist and has continued to build her business by working with a truly diverse group of clients for the past three and half years.
Besides home styling, Anita’s work projects also entail room makeovers, space planning and sourcing. “Room makeovers is what I get asked to do most often. Clients approach me because a room in their home has started feeling dated or just doesn’t work for their current needs. Based on detailed discussions I work up mood boards and I use both 2D and 3D tools for space planning and to help clients define the best layouts for a space which can then be transformed with a new color palette, furniture or accessories”
Anita’s approach is just as logical as it is intuitive. While she agrees that she is effortlessly able to visualize the elements a space needs in order to elevate it from nice to extraordinary, the magic ingredient lies in sourcing inventively and knowing where to source key pieces at accessible prices. She attributes the success of her projects to achieving a balance of all sorts, be it between bespoke and off the shelf, or between modern and vintage or even outsourced and DIY.
Over the past three and a half years, VLiving has continued to be Anita’s trusted one stop shop for cushions and bedspreads which she has utilized for various projects. She prizes VLiving’s internationally savvy design radar and vast ability to execute even the most complex textile projects above all else. “The more exciting opportunity I believe lies in creating exclusive collections together. Exactly as we did when I ran a retail business but this time for my growing home styling client base in Singapore and the UK. I believe we can create magic together – ONCE AGAIN”, says Anita as she looks forward to creating an exclusive range with VLiving once again.
V’Living’s Guide For A Wholesome Bed
The saying often goes that those who make their beds well have earned a heavenly slumber.
The need for utmost comfort and tranquility in modern homes is often realized through integration of functional and plush items and the bed is no exception. A guide like this one brings to light key components of a bed and how making the right choices when it comes to bedding can greatly improve your quality of sleep.
The Elements Of Bedding:
Mattress: Placed directly above the bed frame, a good mattress is akin to establishing the base for any comfortable bedding. Mattresses come in a variety of materials such as foam, polyfoam, gel infused, latex and innerspring. However it is the firmness of a mattress which can determine the quality of sleep. While a firm mattress may not be the top pick for a restless sleeper, it provides excellent support against back and neck pain. On the other hand, semi foam or soft mattresses may be the best fit for restless sleepers while also providing joint relief to those suffering from old age.
Mattress Protector or Mattress Pad: A quality mattress is usually priced high and should be treated as a long term investment. Therefore it must be safeguarded from dirt, spills, wear and tear with a mattress protector or mattress pad. This additional layer keeps the bed warmer and also helps keep the bed sheets in place. Mattress Protectors are usually made with cotton or wool and most also have a liquid resistant finish and are removable so can be washed whenever required.
Flat sheet OR Bottom Sheet: When it comes to bed sheets, it is recommended to maintain 2 separate layers; namely bottom and top/flat sheet. A bottom sheet is meant to add another protective layer between the mattress cover and the top sheet. The bottom sheet comes in either a fitted finish which features elastic edges to grip the mattress, or it can feature flat edges which require to be tucked under the mattress manually.
In tropical regions – the flat/top sheet functions as cover/protector to the fitted sheet and also as a bedcover. It thus could be colorful & printed to add to the decor. It is the layer on which one may lay down or lounge directly, hence making it most supsestiple to spills and spoilage. Therefore the top sheet is changed or replaced most often and is made of comfortable yet durable materials like pima cotton.
In colder regions the flat sheet is a layer below the Duvet or quilt where it is in muted/soothing solid colors with a cuff area which folds over the duvet.
Duvet or Comforter: The terms duvet or comforter are often used interchangeably and rightly so because they serve the same function. The notable feature which may set them apart is a cover. A comforter is complete on its own, not needing an additional layer of protection, compared to a duvet which usually requires a cover. A comforter is polyfilled whereas a duvet shell is often made with tightly woven high thread count and is traditionally filled with goose down or feathers to provide utmost warmth. A duvet is ideal to cover up for colder months and is used in combination with another blanket, and placed directly after the top/flat sheet on the bed.
Quilt: A quilt refers to the style of sewing used to bind various layers together, in order to form a thicker and warmer layer. These individual layers include sheets of fabric with a batting of cotton between them. Instead of a blanket or duvet, a quilt is used through light winters or air conditioned rooms. It’s a multipurpose product which can work as a bedspread or as an additional layer over a duvet for extra warmth.
Blanket: Rather than being stuffed or sewn together with layers, a blanket usually features a single layer, woven together using wool, silk or polyester. Due to their high density weave or brushed finish the blankets are ideal for the cold months of the year and may also be used in combination with duvets and comforters for the up to most warmth.
Bed Skirt: A bed skirt or dust ruffle is added to the edge of the mattress, by tucking directly on top of the bed frame in order to hide the exposed bed frame. It is not only decorative but also functional, keeping dust from settling through the nooks and crannies of the bedding folds. A decorative bed skirt may be matched to other elements in the bedroom such as the curtains, wall colors or even the bedding itself.
Bed Runner: Just like the bed skirt, a runner is both functional and ornamental. A vibrant or colorful bed runner can help bring various elements of the bedding together, and works beautifully against plain solid color bed linens. Bed runners are usually a corporate fixture in hotels, placed strategically near the edge of the footboard of the bed to keep any dirt from guests’ shoes to land directly on the bedding but recently it is becoming very popular as a decorative element at homes too.
Pillows and cushions: Pillows come in a variety of sizes, such as king, standard, euro, decorative and neck rolls. King size pillows are used for king size beds but standard is used for both Queen and twin size beds. Euros which are big square pillows usually form the back most layer or function as a headboard, This can be followed by 2 king size pillows or 2 standard pillows This is followed by decorative square pillows and oblong neck roll cushion which are added as the top most decorative layer. Just like mattresses, pillows also come in a variety of materials and firmness. Materials range from foam, polyfill, gell and cotton.
While opting in and out of the various bedding elements may be a personal preference, each of these components ensures comfort and an understated luxury of a good sleep, night after night. Which is why it is worthwhile to explore a guide like this one before investing in any aspect of your bed.
The Art Of Optical Illusion & Home Decor
It takes a keen eye and curious mind to celebrate art, especially when it comes to Optical Art. Weaving a labyrinth of patterns, lines and shapes which are crafted to trick the eye, optical illusion relies heavily on the viewer’s ability to perceive patterns and flashes of movement as the visuals seem to magically swell and warp within the boundaries of its canvas. It is famously non-subjective and abstract in nature.
An Ever Evolving Art Form
The term ‘op-art’ was first used in 1964 by Time Magazine in context to artist Julian Stanczak’s Optical paintings which were being displayed at a New York Gallery. However, works produced by artists like Victor Vasaerly and John Mc-hale as early as the 1930s are classified as Op Art today.
Before Op Artists came into their own during the 1960s and 1970s, preceding art movements like Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism are said to have served as inspiration for the canvas. Such is the story of famous Op Artist Bridget Riley who credits French Artist Georges Seurat, responsible for devising a painting technique called Pointillism, where a collective of dots were used to create an entire work. In the same spirit, Bridget Riley describes her optical pieces as collectives of lines, circles, squares, triangles and other singular elements which come together to form mind bending visuals under her precise and systematic application.
Modern Day Revival And Home Decor
While Op Art saw its heyday during the 60s and 70s, with the current comeback of mid century modern design, a revived interest in op art inspired pieces is being observed across fashion, lifestyle and home decor spaces once again. Its popularity is heigned due to its abstract, minimal and non subjective nature, lending it a timeless and modern charm. Its focus on creating surface tension using basic geometric shapes resonates with the modern ideology of curating an experience for the viewer. Modern op artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vasaerly have been able to thrive by continuing to keep this essence alive.
The mid century era witnessed the use of op art inspired designs in home decor as well. Abstract geometric designs were especially popular as wallpapers and carpets and often featured contrasting bright colors which created a psychedelic illusion. However, the modern day adaptation is much more subdued and sophisticated in order to bring out the minimal and simplistic brilliance of the art form. This approach is also more fitting for urban dwellers who may prefer subtle pieces for everyday use. Today, this understated approach has fueled the creation of art inspired soft furnishings such as cushion covers, curtains, kitchen staples such as oven mitts and so much more.
Incorporating these pieces into the home is a chance for any homeowner to dip their toes into mid century modern design which opens up an avenue for curating a highly tasteful and evergreen living space.
Kibbes Essence Types & Home Decor
In 1987, stylist David Kibbe introduced the world to 5 style essences in his book titled Metamorphosis: Discover Your Image Identity and Dazzle as Only You Can. Though the premise of the book revolved around dressing for different body shapes, Kibbe defined each style essence by focusing on components like colors, prints, structure, textures and aesthetics. The five variations proposed by Kibbe at the time included Classic, Dramatic, Gamine, Natural and Romantic essences. Later, this system developed further to include two more essences known as Angelic and Ingenue and this ideology is still widely used to identify dressing styles of individuals.
Today, the Style essence theory has evolved into a lifestyle movement, not confined to just dressing principles for different body shapes but also other lifestyle preferences that are aesthetically driven. Kibbe’s style essence theory effortlessly translates to the spectrum of home decor and interior design, forming the basis of this guide by VLiving.
Kibbe attributes traits such as elegance, formality and timelessness to the classic essence, alluding to a sense of ancestry and conservatism. At its heart is a mostly neutral color palette which can stand the test of time and can surpass any trend. The aesthetic is known for incorporating symmetrical clean lines and avoiding elements that may appear either too sharp and angular or too soft and rounded. High-quality materials further accentuate the look and eliminate the need for any ornamental or exaggerated details in order to make for an understated yet luxurious appearance. In home decor, this translates to a space which does not require constant upgrades or a ‘makeover’. Pieces deemed perpetually ageless, especially those borrowed from styles like Coastal English, Modern Minimal and Mid Century Modern can be combined together to create a balanced and classic-looking space.
On the other hand, an alternative approach to classic essence which allows for incorporation of aristocratic elements with European roots, broadens the scope for realism and achievability. Parisian and Gustavian inspired pieces crafted in neutral color pallets may be great additions to a classic space, bringing the right amount of vintage charm needed to retain the timeless appeal and understated opulence of a classic home.
As its name gives away, the dramatic essence represents boldness and creativity. The style is associated with possessing a keen sense of self-expression and celebrates unapologetic theatrics, placing importance on individuality and dignity above all else. In his breakdown of the dramatic essence, Kibbe characterizes it through elements like sharp and exaggerated angles and bold color schemes which may often include contrasting hues. Asymmetrical drapes and oversized prints bring out this style’s excessive and maximalist characteristics. Shiny textures and glamorous finishes featuring tints of gold and silver are also commonplace throughout the visual embodiment of dramatic essence.
Known for its emphasis on ornamentation and bold geometric patterns, furnishings inspired by the Art Deco movement could certainly be classified as ‘dramatic’. Its vibrant use of bold and even kitschy colors combined with stylised floral patterns, obvious curves and sleek lines are an identical callback to Kibbe’s beliefs about the dramatic essence. When incorporated into the home in moderation, the style can add glamor and a luxurious edge to the space without seeming dated or ostentatious.
Kibbe describes the Gamine or Flamboyant essence as a union of yin and yang energy. Therefore spaces which embody the perfect balance of traditionally feminine or homely aspects with relatively masculine and industrial finishes may be described as Gamine. This style channels whimsical playfulness whereby tradition or formal structures are punctuated by unexpected details, forming a contrast in every aspect. A home infused with Gamine elements may be characterised as unconventional, androgynous and even bohemian, taking inspiration from a spectrum art movements.
Furnishings and decor rooted in mid century design may be added to the home in order to give it a Gamine face lift. Pieces from this time feature both structural and sculptural aspects so that neither functionality nor visual appeal are compromised. A subdued color palette, unique to mid century design balances somber neutrals like terracotta brown and charcoal gray with muted red and mustard yellow which are brighter by contrast.
A style with focus on Venusian themes like vitality, maturity and sensuality, the Romantic Essence is a celebration of all things feminine. Kibbe recognises key elements like rich colors, graceful shapes and luxurious finishes, as part of the Romantic ensemble. The essence can be adapted to home decor by experimenting with a variety of furnishing pieces having roots in Rococo French and Parisian Chic art styles. Both art movements feature picturesque details and exuberant visuals, serving as a testament to the creators’ keen sense of beauty and creativity. In home decor, this translates to use of either jewel or pastel color palettes, French Baroque prints, detailed frames and soft hues of gold.
Kibbe associates the Natural Style Essence with wilderness, nature and the outdoors. The style channels a sense of ease and effortlessness, with equal emphasis on both function and relaxation. It may be said that the basis of this essence is not to ‘put on any airs’, but rather to be down to earth and to be comfortable.
This style may be adapted to a home by incorporating pieces which are sturdy and functional. Earthy aspects like stone and terracotta along with materials like cotton, linen and wool may be used to integrate natural textures into the space. Farmhouse inspired furnishings are fitting for a natural essence home, owing to the style’s heavy emphasis on wood and raw or rugged finishes. On the other hand Scandinavian inspired pieces can offer a modern adaptation of the natural essence as these items may feature sleek hardware made with industrial materials while still using fabrics which lend a relaxed and natural appearance.
Although added by John Kitchener to Kibbie’s system, the Angelic Essence has come to gather its own due legitimacy over time. This essence is associated with otherworldliness, the cosmos and mystical beings. Think fairies, Greek goddesses, mermaids and angels. The style places emphasis on etherealism, as a means to offer escape from the everyday ordinarily. In other words, a home influenced by the angelic essence may quite literally be one’s personal doorway to heaven or an opportunity to ‘live in the clouds’, leaving ample room for individual takes and interpretations of the style.
Kitchener describes the Ingenue essence as being youthful, delicate and childlike. The style is associated with innocence and nostalgia, resulting in a sepia tinted interpretation of home decor. The mood is light pastels, floral prints, lace trims, pretty bows, wicker baskets and petite fittings which have a vintage or dated look to evoke nostalgia. Many describe the essence as being reminiscent of a ‘young princess living in the woods’, indicating to the utopian childhood themes often seen in disney movies.
To give the home an ‘Ingenue’ touch, one may borrow items having roots in cottage core design which can feature shabby chic furniture, crochet doilies and DIY art. Elements such as floral chintz and lace may also be added to the mix for their timeless and joy inducing effect.