Anglo-Indian style

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 September, 2008, 12:00am

Fancy lying back on a beautiful chaise longue in a white-washed bungalow while a wallah fans you with a palm frond and brings you cups of sweet chai? This may be a politically incorrect colonialist image but it does sound like a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

You can still capture the aesthetic of this lifestyle, without invoking the wrath of Amnesty International, by adopting an Anglo-Indian style for your own home. Minus the wallah, of course. Ditto the elephant-foot umbrella stand.

As its name suggests, Anglo-Indian style is a fusion of two cultures, resulting in an aesthetic that combines the restraint of English Regency furniture with Indian ornamentation.

Singer Sir Cliff Richard is the most famous example of an Anglo-Indian person (strictly speaking, the father should be British), but don't let that put you off.

To find the seeds of Anglo-Indian style you need to return to early 18th-century India. Here, gorgeous, rich timbers and intricate workmanship caught the eye of British traders and bureaucrats. They wanted to take the beautifully crafted goods back to their homes in the mother country. And so the cabinet making workshops of Vizagapatam were born.

Indian craftsmen adopted the various forms of English Regency furniture - loungers, day beds, tables, chairs, sideboards, desks, boxes and tea caddies - and crafted them from rosewood, teak, laurel, cane, ebony and sandalwood.

The items were adorned with ornate Indian motifs, which were carved, inlaid or veneered. Inlays of ivory, turtle shell, pewter, copper and mother of pearl were typical. The patterns achieved are a testament to the craftsmen's skills.

The resulting look may have been over the top but the aesthetic was always sophisticated and rarely kitsch.

With the move away from minimalism towards pattern, texture and colour, Anglo-Indian antiques are well suited to a contemporary interior. Team a couple of key pieces with some zebra-skin rugs and perhaps a classic, like an Eames lounge chair and ottoman, and you'll be looking super chic.

Just remember, the Anglo-Indian style should be used sparingly. Too much and you'll turn your abode into the kind of bazaar that only Indiana Jones would feel comfortable running through.