Jain Home Ideas – Jaipur: Inside Neela’s House, Bijoy Jain House Converted into Craft Center Bijoy Jain’s conversion of a semi-traditional Rajasthani home into a craft center in Jaipur is an act of cultural preservation. Founded by the Lady Bamford Foundation, it is called Nila House
Architect Bijoy Jain transforms a traditional Rajasthani house into an arts and crafts centre. All photos courtesy of Shine Bhola
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If there’s one image that sums up Nila House in Jaipur, it’s this: the walls of the room I sleep in are painted in different shades of blue. Not in an elegant and organic way, but patterns; neat rectangles, arranged in an orderly array and painted in slightly varying shades of light blue. Anuradha Singh (who runs Neela House) and I (accidentally, I assure you) are in blue. It’s like standing on a Pantone color card. Wall samples had to be sent to the UK so that Nila House founder Lady Carol Bamford could choose the exact shade of blue. This level of painstaking detail is what this entire project encompasses.
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A central, inner courtyard forms the heart of Nila House, dividing the building’s exterior into two mirror-like halves. The outdoor courtyard is paved with Jaipur tiles and topped with a colonnade of columns – a mix of original end columns and unadorned beams for additional support.
A 1909 edition of the Imperial Gazetteer of India listed Jaipur’s major arts and industries as “painting, marble carving, gold enamel, ceramics and brass” and dryly praised the local school of art, established in 1857, for having “done very useful work.” in these fields. It is interesting how the craft traditions, founded a century and a half ago, grew and became one of the most solid pillars of the city’s foundation. In July this year, Jaipur was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s list of seven World Heritage Sites, saying it has “preserved local trade, crafts and cooperative traditions to this day.” .
A colonnade of pillars jutting out from the garden and the outer courtyard flanks the entrance to Casa Nila. The pillars have been restored to their original shade of pink Rajasthani sandstone. The natural indigo and kanta embroidered cushion cover is part of the Nila Home collection created in collaboration with designer Simon Marks and song expert Kanika Mukherjee. Spools of handwoven fabrics dyed in various shades of natural indigo will be available to explore in Nila House’s textile vault.
It is true that tradition is central to Jaipur’s identity. The city itself was built on a plan based on Vastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra, both historical Vedic texts dealing with architecture and arts and crafts. But times have changed, and finding a place for these traditions in a modern context gave rise to the idea of Casa Nila. This space is dedicated to showing craft traditions, with the first exhibit being Indian (hence nila, which means blue). “From the supply chain, to going back to the artisans and assembling the vats, to the actual painting process, the idea is to publish the whole process and show it to the world,” says Singh.
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In Lady Carol Bamford’s workshop area, there is a marble pool designed for natural dyeing experiments. She wears a natural indigo shibori piece from the Nila House x Anna Valentine collection created in collaboration with Jaipur-based shibori specialist Brij Ballab. Photo credit: Lukasz Auguscl
The project is part of the Lady Bamford Foundation, named after British entrepreneur and philanthropist Carol Bamford, whose first brush with Indian craftsmanship was in the 1960s, when she first came to the country “to learn yoga to Rishikesh!” Bamford adds, “I was drawn to the particular aesthetic of ‘Indian Craftsmanship’, as well as the meditative spirit and quiet ceremony involved in the process.”
The landscape of the terrace and two bamboo pavilions are designed to transform the terrace into an interactive space for visitors and artisans.
Over the years, Bamford’s philanthropy has focused on humanitarian programs focused on sustainability, social awareness and education in the UK and internationally. Through her work in India with her eponymous charitable foundation, she has joined artisan groups around the country “to preserve the rich heritage of Indian craftsmanship and support artisans,” she says. “And Nila came from the idea of having a physical space that would be a vessel for all the work we do, that would allow us to share the wonder of Indian textiles and craftsmanship with a new generation.”
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The annual Nila Home collection is a collaboration with Indian artisans and designers offering tableware, home textiles and a capsule collection of children’s clothing and toys. Proceeds from the exhibitions are returned to the artisans and weavers.
Half an hour from Rishikesh, Bamford first saw the work of the architect he would hire to design Nila House. The structure in question is the Gangamaki Textile Studio (featured in the September 2017 issue), a sensually expressive wonder made of clay, stone, wood and local fabric, with the same aesthetic as its founder, weaver Chiaki Maki. Bijoy Jain was the architect of the wonder here, and when he saw the space, Bamford knew he had found just the man for the job. “I was impressed by his unique understanding of earth architecture and natural materials.”
Dhurri handwoven with natural indigo threads in the center yard, made in collaboration with a group of dhurri weavers from Lawan, Rajasthan. Dhurrie and the wooden and bamboo chairs reflect the Nila House aesthetic of quality craftsmanship and sophisticated luxury.
Jane, 54, has several international awards to her name and is a firm believer in a renewed approach to international architecture. It’s so easy to imagine her strolling through this space, her silver hair (how does she make it look like that?) contrasting perfectly with her black outfit (cotton pants and a well-cut shirt) gently setting it apart. . Words of advice and encouragement for the people working on the site.
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Since its inception in 1995, Jain’s Studio Mumbai has consistently focused on creating sensuous architecture that, while grounded in material, design and the environment, extends this sensibility to artisans and craftsmen with whom he works. This made it a perfect fit for this project. “For us it was about doing what was set in motion from the beginning and continuing with it,” he says, with Zen calm, in the hive of activity of the current space.
The natural indigo dye is the focus of the first Nila Home collection; The shape of the Indigofera tinctoria plant inspired the design motif of the ceramic capsule collection conceptualized by Hungarian artist Jusanna Nül.
Because although the concept of Nila House is new, the building it is housed in is not. Built in the 1940s, the detached, quasi-Art Deco structure was owned by a Rajasthani family and reflects the typical architecture of the region: a central courtyard, red sandstone columns, decorative consoles, all present and exposed . It was even based on vastu. The house had long been uninhabited, and Bamford’s first impression of it was: “A lovely farm, surrounded by monkeys and maids!” But on the day I visited, it was occupied by an entirely different species of fauna. Everywhere, busy workers are hustling. climb the ladder and paint the ceilings; Up and down stairs, carrying mysterious planks that Singh and I dodged; and crouched on the ground with his tools spread around him. It is a moving vision of the truest traditional craftsman.
The botanical motifs on the edge of the table were designed by artist Hugo Guinness. The tablecloths were created on a wide-width loom designed in collaboration with a weavers’ cooperative in Kerala; Printed in natural indigo, the motifs are by Ahmedabad-based screen printing specialist Asif Chhippa.
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And under Jain’s leadership, the results of his work are showing. The acoustic walls created a great sense of space; those who are still treated with traditional methods
Techniques; hand-welded metal window and door frames; and the rooms, designed for weaving, printing, dyeing, display and retailing, fit into place. The spaces now flow into each other and eventually settle around a sunlit central courtyard. Between the light and air filtering through the courtyard, and the building’s original local stone, brick and limestone, which Jane insists on preserving, Nila House now breathes, literally and metaphorically. More than a year after work began there, Nila House opens its doors to welcome people in a space full of light and fluidity, as well as performance. This is a test of both
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