THE potential clash between an Indian couple's taste for art and decorations and their need for a practical family home has been resolved in this garden villa in Pudong New Area, which maximizes the feeling of light and space and accommodates quite a collection.
Monica Bharadhwaj's passion for home decoration has been nurtured in the last 14 years, following her husband Bharat from India, to Egypt, Mexico and now China.
At first the couple aimed for the comfort of their children, with easy access to school. The only other consideration was a well-lighted, well-ventilated house. "I like The Emerald (a residential complex) since the ambience is good and the layout is perfect. I personally enjoy the privacy in each part of the house," Monica said.
Although her previous house in Mexico was decorated almost Indian style, Monica decided the new space required a different approach. "I wanted to create a blend of India, Egypt, Mexico and China for a new experience," she said.
The space features a collection of pieces including Indian lamps and torals displayed at the front door, a Mexican tablet hung on the entrance wall, Mexican contemporary art, Egyptian wood carvings, a basket of little souvenirs from India, Egypt, Mexico and China - with an angel standing in the midst, holding a candle to protect the home.
"India, my birthplace, has so much to offer. It's a country where you see colors, colors, and more colors … Therefore I collected plenty of colorful items from India to give a life to my home," Monica said.
"Egypt was different in many ways. A country dominated by Islamic and Pharaonic culture, it has a lot to offer in workmanship." She was amazed by intricate depictions of ancient Egyptian history and daily life in paintings and on papyrus.
Mexico is also a sunny, feel-happy place. Many items in her home reflect Mexican culture, love of the fiesta, tequila and celebrations.
In this house, the living room has a contemporary feel. On one side, Monica placed a white sofa with black cushions and some glitter. To maintain the color scheme, she used a white and brown patterned carpet, and white and black artifacts.
On the other side of the room, a Moroccan-style couch, a Mexican two-seater couch and two French chairs are placed around an Egyptian wooden table.
"To give a very rich look, I decorated this side of the living room with Egyptian paintings, framed antique real silver jewelry from Egypt, Moroccan chest and tablets," she said.
The dining room contains furniture from India, Mexico and China and a big Egyptian chandelier hangs above the dining table and steals the show at night when it is lighted.
The family room on the second floor is completely Egyptian, with one big red kilim, two big cushions, and two bookshelves.
It is difficult to choose a favorite, but there are a couple of things Monica cannot live without. "One is my mandir, the place where I pray every morning. A mandir is an Indian word for a temple or a place or prayer. I don't consider myself very religious but I do believe in god, his presence and blessings. Second, the Ganesha painting that I have displayed at the front of the house - no matter how contemporary my house is, you will always see the Ganesha there."
Though the family has only lived in Shanghai for over a year, Monica has injected Chinese aesthetics. "The brass dragon hung on the lobby wall and the dragon on the cabinet show the power of this animal in Chinese history. A few Chinese furniture pieces also go very well with my existing furniture. Blue and white ceramic pots show Chinese creativity and imagination. Chinese musical instruments placed on my staircase reflect the soothing and calming music from China."
While most people develop a color scheme before decorating, Monica worked differently. "If an item is beautiful, it looks beautiful anywhere you place it," she said. "Generally I go by the beauty of the furniture, decoration pieces, artifacts and paintings rather than the color scheme, and it has always worked for me."
She finds many ways to light up a home. "For a home to be warm and inviting, it has to be cozy and happy. Adding colors, putting up happy paintings, detailed carpets, adding beautiful plants and proper lighting are basic ingredients of a warm and inviting home. Besides, there are two non-physical aspects: the people of the home and the natural lighting, which play a very important role."
"When decorating a home, you reflect yourself, your thoughts, you passion and your likes, so be true to what you do in the house. Do something you believe in, and not just something which others have done," she added.
For Monica, home is where the heart is, a place to forget about everything else. "Once in Mexico I was sick for three weeks and couldn't leave my house at all, however there was not a single moment when I missed going out," she said.
ASK THE OWNER
Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: Shanghai is very cosmopolitan, and gives me ample opportunity to meet different people from many parts of the world, something I love to do. There is so much to learn when you have friends from all over the world.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Welcoming, happy and interesting.
Q: What's the first thing you do when you get home?