Colours of Chettinad

Home Tour

Colours of Chettinad

BEAUTIFUL HOME : Karthik Vaidyanathan’s home is warm, colourful and has a mix of traditional and          contemporary styles.Photos courtesy: Clare Arnie

Tucked away in the quaint neighbourhood of Cooke Town, Karthik Vaidyanathan’s abode is not just his dream home, it could be for anyone. It is something you want to emulate and get inspired by.

Climbing the stairs, I reach his apartment and instead of ringing the bell, I look at the beautiful teak double door with two brass plates with peacock motifs, staring at me. As Karthik welcomes me into his home, he narrates the story behind this piece of art.

“The door is from a room in Bangalore Palace which had collapsed. Instead of the plates, it had beautiful circular glass panels which unfortunately broke while I was trying to restore it. While walking on MG Road, I was wondering what to do with two gaping holes in the door, when I stumbled upon these two brass plates at Cauvery Emporium and they fitted perfectly,” he beams.

Karthik works for a cable television network and among his other passions in life, he has this innate creativity which he uses to make beautiful things, which is exemplified through his warm and colourful home, bathed in both traditional and contemporary styles.

Burst of colours

We begin our tour from the living room that has simple and elegant sofas with a striking centre table decorated with ornate tiles from Pondicherry. In fact, majority of the traditional elements here are from Chettinad, where Karthik hails from. “In a way I am reliving all the moments I spent in my grandparents’ home. Their house in Devakottai was very kitsch.”

So is his cushion covers made out of saree blouses, sarees in green, blue hues with golden borders draped over windows that allow streaks of sunlight stream in and Athangudi tiles from Chettinad that adorn the floor in bright reds, greens and yellows. What strikes me the most is this Tanjore painting of Ardhanarishwara in the living room. “Conventionally, Tanjore painting subjects are limited to gods and goddesses but this was something different, which is why I picked it up,” shares Karthik.

We move to the study and kitchen area separated by a dining space. In the centre is a beautiful table with an art piece by artist Mukul Goyal hanging above, adding drama, adding to this, a shelf standing against the wall with stand-alone pieces collected by Karthik like a Ganesh idol, a Buddha statue among other treasures.

For Karthik, the most precious of them all are the enamel work pieces like the a 55 year-old tiffin box, a family heirloom. On either side of the dining area are typically south Indian yaali pillars towering above us. Karthik explains the significance of these structures which are purely ornamental. “A mythical creature, yaali is a combination of the head of a lion, tusks of an elephant and body of a serpent,” he says.

In the study area on one side, a cot sits pretty, decked with cushions while the opposite space has a wooden stand attached to the wall, where a few books and lots of old family photographs are placed.

Opposite the study area is the kitchen which breaks away from the overall theme of the house. It’s pure white. “As the house is soaked in colour, I wanted the kitchen to be simple in order to balance it out.” A few black and white family photographs add that personal touch and nostalgia for Karthik. 

As for the sit-out near the kitchen, it was a balcony earlier, which was converted into a utility area and the French windows have now been replaced by these Gothic arches which Karthik was lucky enough to lay his hands on at the demolition site of a church in St Joseph’s College. 

He then painted them blue and fitted in a stained glass on the arch. The shade of the mango tree outside and the cool breeze can be enjoyed by sitting on concrete, bench-like seat called tinnai  which is also found in many south Indian homes. In the centre is a cradle which was converted into a coffee table by adding a glass panel on top.

A contrast in the same space is the lounge area with a bookshelf, a few restored rosewood chairs purchased from a local bamboo market and some pop art thrown in. 

The bedrooms are one of the most vibrant. While one of the them has an art and decor style wooden bed, the other has retro side tables, school chairs painted in bright blue to double up as side tables, old LP records of music legends Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Asha Bhosle framed and mounted on the walls which represent Karthik’s strong love for music. “I was working with a music label in Mumbai earlier and that’s where my passion for his art form began. I have tried to translate that and make it a part of the decor,” says Karthik.

Small is beautiful

Small things are beautiful and these little things in Karthik Vaidyanathan’s home is what bring joy to him and the people who visit his dream home.

The ceramic mugs on side tables, coloured glass bottles, coasters, a green bucket that belonged to his mom and holds a few DVDs, triangular stained glass details on all the doors, knobs of every small cupboard and drawer picked up from flea markets, among others; all these quirky little pieces make the home what it is and lend character to Karthik’s space.

Every piece, nook and corner has a story to tell.

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