Amid the vibrant houses of New Delhi, India, lies a decidedly minimalist abode. The combination of clean lines against the vibrant chaotic beauty of India becomes less surprising when you realise that the dwelling was the brainchild of the Parisian design house, Liaigre.
The French firm’s first project in India, this house is featured in Liaigre: Creation 2016-2020, a new book published by Rizzoli in May. Penned by art historian Francoise-Claire Prodhon, the design tome chronicles key projects by Liaigre in the past five years. This storied brand has become synonymous with quiet luxury, realised in a muted palette and wonderfully elegant designs. Founded in the 1980s by Christian Liaigre, it is now bringing this very French aesthetic to the world under the stewardship of German designer and Liaigre creative director Frauke Meyer.
Meyer recalls when she first landed in New Delhi and understood the magnitude of the project, for which she worked on interior architecture and furniture design. “I stopped for a moment to appreciate my surroundings,” she explains. “It is difficult to say how I felt. There was certainly a great divide between the Indian and European cultures. It was quite difficult to imagine such a great and also modern project here in New Delhi.”
Difficult but clearly not impossible, largely because Liaigre is known for its fresh and elegant approach, which has become the essence of the brand. The New Delhi owners chose to work with them because they were hoping to find the luxury of simplicity in the middle of a city teeming with colours, and asked for nothing fussy or formal.
Meyer’s style is evident in the brown, cream and golden hues that grace the interior of this delightful home, where a flash of candyfloss pink from a chair, or a modernist sculpture by the pool, creates an element of surprise amid the sensual starkness. The tables were designed for the project and handmade in Morocco for the dining room, and crafted in gold brass in India for the reception rooms.
“In general, all the furniture was designed to respect the Indian culture, by only using the best silks and precious fabrics, and avoiding leather,” says Meyer. This was a major part of a brief that Meyer worked on with the owners, long before the first design was even sketched. “We understood that the house should represent the greatness of a family dynasty,” explains Meyer. “The heritage of great palaces in India was inspiring and certainly the starting point for our imagination.”
The kitchen with its rounded marble dining table and muted colours is one of the more immediately impressive rooms, although it competes with the sleek drawing room and wonderfully photogenic pool area. However, for Meyer, the most interesting and challenging section to work on was the pooja (prayer) room.
“It did definitely catch our curiosity and I liked this spiritual place, and I loved designing it,” explains Meyer. “Although the section I’m particularly satisfied with must be the pavilion with its sliding patterned screens. It really is a wonderful place to be in.”
As a German designer living in Paris, Meyer wasn’t raised in the heat or colour of India. She speaks about how different it is designing a home such as this one, compared to those in Western Europe, where most of her work had taken place up until now.
“The constraints are different,” she says. “People are searching for shadow, so avoiding the direct sun becomes part of the design and the decoration. Partitions with a pattern inspired by local silver lace work, filter the sun, as do flowing curtains that move with the breeze. In addition, the roof needed to overhang much more than it would have in a colder climate, and light-shading screens are everywhere.”
As well as tapping into the need to avoid the daytime glare, Meyer’s personal relationship with India deepened over the course of the project. “To be honest, I was sceptical about quality of the craftsmanship at the beginning, but I learnt that I was completely wrong,” she says. “The project manager had a great sense of humour and a strong hand, and the result of the work was just amazing. During this time, we were finishing a project in Switzerland and I was travelling from New Delhi to St. Moritz; I am not sure which of the two was more outstanding in terms of quality.”
Work on the house took nearly eight years to complete and as a result, Meyer had to update the project while on the job. The family comprises a couple and their children; over the course of nearly a decade, the brief naturally changed.
“The owners wanted to have their room very close to the kids’ at the beginning,” explains Meyer. “As the works progressed, the kids became teenagers. Being close to the parents’ room, as well as a few other things, no longer made sense. Considering the monumental size of the project and the duration of the works, we had to be agile enough to adapt to those evolutions and break away from the original brief.”
The result is more beautiful than even Meyer could have imagined, and the property quickly became renowned in New Delhi. “I believe the family members live a very fulfilling and joyful life in their home, combining social obligations and private moments. Our job is to contribute to the happiness and well being of the people who live in this house, who have entrusted us to turn their dream into reality.”