Of Instinct & Individuality

Delhi-based designer Jivi sethi creates interiors whose subtle visual structures reveal the charged energy behind the glamorous elegance in his own home. Text & Photographs: Henry Wilson The delicate wrought-iron work of the main door is actually made up from a number of small pieces. ‘i bought them by the kilo,’ Jivi explains. ‘They are great examples of early victorian work and probably came out of an old haveli.’ The terrace. The seating and table settings have varied origins, ranging from posh antique shops to salvage yards. some of the artefacts have been produced by Design laboratory Pvt ltd: ‘we are passionate about all our products because a great deal of craftsmanship has gone into them.’ ‘It is the context in which you put objects which can bring them alive and accentuates their individuality,’ says Jivi. Designer Jivi sethi possesses an innate ability to see the extraordinary in the mundane, with the flair to put them together so they create a coherent and interesting visual story. Jivi epitomises style and glamour, and features regularly on Delhi’s champagne circuit. So I view my first meeting with him with a heady mixture of excitement and not a little trepidation. Having climbed the stairs to his top floor apartment in the family house in south extension, I am ushered by his man-friday through the apartment and out onto a large private verandah. Though south extension is one of Delhi’s great shopping hubs, Jivi’s apartment, only five minutes away, is surprisingly tranquil. it’s elegant and relaxed – like Jivi himself, and it’s hard to believe that he has just been on a trip to mathura to supervise an ongoing commission for a client in germany. He is indeed very busy at the moment: he is doing the interiors of five stores in Delhi – his client list includes two of india’s leading fashion designers, Rohit Bal and Rajesh Pratap Singh. Jivi also has commissions for various home interiors, while he is busy with his own design company in partnership with Viki Sardesai, Sethisardesai Design Studio. Jivi recalls that from an early age he had definite ideas about what he liked and disliked. ‘I have always had an eye for design and been very clear in my mind about form, style, colour and proportions in a given space. I remember always having opinions about a room or a house; I would instinctively tell people what they should do with their homes. Today my strengths come from years of looking, seeing, observing and reading.’ Walking through from the drawing room to the verandah, the sheer diversity and eclectic mix of sethi interiors is evident, though initially there is no discernible theme, neither through the type of objects, nor the style, period or colour. ‘My first “buy” was the goan lamp you see in the study area of my bedroom, I just liked its form, its patina. i never buy objects for investment, only for their aesthetic quality. I might find a piece in a posh antique shop or an architectural salvage yard or on the street, it could be profound and serious, it could just as well be kitsch, cheap, even banal; it doesn’t matter, so long as it excites me.’ Certainly there is nothing banal about anything in the flat. ‘It is the context in which you put objects that can bring them alive and accentuate their individuality,’ says Jivi, ‘like the sin dhoor lacquer boxes piled up on top of the wardrobe in the bedroom. Ii suddenly came across these inexpensive pieces in Vishwanath gulli on my way to the Vishwanath mandir in Varanasi. I am an impulsive buyer, utterly impulsive; I could not take my eyes off them, they are so simple and ordinary yet so significant and symbolic. They are pagoda-like in shape; remember that varanasi was on the grand Trunk road linking india with both the Far east and the West, and in ancient times was part of the silk route. Did the original shape of these boxes, and also their colour and lacquer finish, come from burma? it can be the history of an object, and thereby a romantic notion of the distant past, that can intrigue me. - 


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