From fashion and art to interiors and food, Tahir Sultan has his fingers in numerous pies — and he excels at each of them. HELLO! gets some insightful tips from the ‘interior architect’ on all things aesthetically pleasing.
“You can call me an interior architect,” says Tahir Sultan. Included in the sweeping expanse of this term are numerous creative activities, each of which he excels at. Through his exclusive, high-end catering business that specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine, party styling and décor consultancy, popular artefacts and objets d’art store Makaan in Jaipur, as well as collaborations in fashion and a bespoke table settings practice, Tahir is who one consults when transforming their home into a gorgeous and truly one-of-a-kind space. In this chat with HELLO!, Tahir shares his secrets to laying a table that everyone will remember.
Five must-haves of a great table setting: “I believe your table should reflect your personality. Hence, my five must-haves are great guests, good wine, amazing food, great conversation, and whimsical cutlery and crockery that describe who you are as a person.”
Style to me is: “Luxury, freedom and the courage to express yourself and inspire other people.”
Being elegant vs being trendy: “Elegance is free of insecurity and is, therefore, timeless. Trends only reflect a moment in time that you wish to emulate. In my opinion, the only trend worth following is the one you start, which is also what makes you elegant. Elegance is a natural self-expression that embodies harmony and exudes its owner’s personality.”
My biggest indulgence for table settings and décor: “I always have a lot of flowers on my tables. There’s also always beautiful cutlery, crockery and glassware, lots of antique, vintage and decorative pieces that add whimsy, character and old-school charm to the setting.”
My most memorable table setting: “Once, for the launch of an international fashion brand in Kuwait, we pulled large cabbages, brassica and artichokes with their roots intact from the soil and placed hundreds of them on the table, interspersed with roses, candles and tuberoses. It had a magical effect!”
One item that’s always on my table: “Flowers and evil eyes made by Sequin, a women’s NGO I work with. When a guest visits my house for the first time, I gift these evil eyes to them, as well.”
The three most enduring décor trends: “First, having an element of the unexpected on your table, which you wouldn’t see anywhere else or on anyone else’s dining table. Second, adorning your table with beautiful drinking glasses. Third, presenting your food thoughtfully and beautifully.”
My favourite table setting brands: “I love discovering items from unknown brands and potters, including unusual tribal or vintage pieces. But I do like Ecru and Michael Aram and return to them frequently.”
My favourite cities to shop for table setting décor: “Ahmedabad, Paris and Bali.”
The aesthetic of my home is: “Absolutely unique! It’s a personal expression of ideas that define who I am at the moment. I don’t really follow trends. I’m building another house, which will have a completely different vocabulary from my current home. It’s a canvas that allows me the freedom to express myself.”
I derive inspiration from: “Everywhere — from books, old photos, antique markets, conversations, art, nature, historical buildings, prints, and so much more.”
An overrated table setting trend: “Those mirror candle holders. I really dislike them!”
My most prized pieces of décor: “I love my stone lions from western India, my 350-year-old urns, my brass temple pieces, my nettle birds from antique markets, and my tribal pieces. I have an eclectic collection, and I love it all!”
Three essential elements for an elegant dinner party: “A damascene tablecloth, elegant white napkins, and foraged leaves.”
Three essential elements for a homely lunch: “Colourful crockery and cutlery, seasonal flowers, and interesting looking vegetables to add an organic feel and flair.”
My work mantra is: “Nothing is impossible!”
My advice to others entering this field of design: “Experiment, and have fun. Don’t worry about what other people think. If someone criticises you, it only means they are ungracious because you are hosting them. Dare to follow your inner voice.”
Interview: Noor Anand Chawla; Photos: Abhishek Khandelwal; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s January 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!