Vasundhara Raje pens her thoughts about friend Adil Ahmad’s work and outlook on life as he celebrates 30 years in the field of interior design.
Vasundhara Raje has known Adil since his childhood, closely observing the evolution of his design and aesthetics over the years. They have collaborated on the interiors of her homes and offices. This makes her the best possible person to capture and write about his design and style in this milestone year of his design journey.
Nestled in a leafy street off one of New Delhi’s most affluent neighbourhoods—Jor Bagh—exists a small colony that was once a refugee dwelling named after a famous freedom fighter. It is off the beaten track and not easy to find. It consists of small houses, all laid out cheek by jowl, in rows facing each other separated by green spaces. It is not the most likely choice of dwelling for the well-heeled.
Let me walk you through this unfettered fantasy world—a little living room with a brilliant red carpet and an oversized chandelier hugging a large silver bureau, on which rests two large Baccarat urns and rare Satsuma china elephants.
Through the door on the right, we enter a tiny salon upholstered in a voluptuous floral Indian mashru. A silver-footed settee on one side and on the other a large painted Bhutanese wedding chest. In the middle of the room, a carved and painted alter piece makes an interesting coffee table. The warmth in the room comes from the charming Murano glass chandeliers and portraits of Adil’s nearest and dearest.
The door on the left leads to the dining room papered in a teal blue bamboo textured wallpaper on top of which there is a profusion of turquoise blue fu-dogs, with a pair of Imari China lamps to complete the picture. Above it on the wall is a very unusual and rare painting of the Kaaba by Souza. A Chinese camphor chest adorns the opposite wall, on which a number of prayer metal talismans have been placed. Above them on the wall are ottoman plates with ayats from the Quran. In the two corners there are two pairs of the most exquisitely embroidered Chinoiserie silk panels.
In the middle of the room is a hexagonal wrought-iron dining table over which hangs an exquisite Bohemian crystal chandelier. A three feet wide marble corridor in a contemporary black and white abstract pattern, with a mirrored glass ceiling, leads off the dining room. The walls on either side along with the two consoles are covered with a profusion of Ming and Satsuma ceramics and Charlie Mackesy serigraphs. To the right is a small, interestingly mirrored dressing room leading on to a little bedroom with two large antique Belgian mercury mirrors. A pair of beautifully carved Chinese chairs flanks a large bed.
A pair of Art Deco side tables adorned with hand-blown Murano glass lamps stand by the bed on either side. The roof is edged with glass panels and the walls and bed are again covered in a vibrant Indian-inspired modern toile.
This charming pied-à-terre works as a home-cum-studio for Adil Ahmad, one of India’s most celebrated interior designers. A man whose innate taste and sense of colour and scale has captured the imagination of the discerning. A seer once said of his work—he can create and resonate with beauty but doesn’t need to own it. In that lies the paradox; he is a man of great taste but lives a life free of the constraints of the mundane.
Almost a mendicant in his monastic approach to life and possessions, he encourages others to open their minds to the beauty around them without any necessity to possess. This miniscule 20 by 50 sq ft space is a world unto itself. It exudes warmth and is always welcoming. In Picasso’s words: “Art is the best possible introduction to the culture of the world. I love it for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings it can summon at a touch. It washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
This encapsulates I believe, the philosophy that Adil Ahmad lives and creates by.
Profile Photos: Abhishek Khandelwal; Creative Direction: Amber Tikari; Interior Photos: Sarang Gupta
This is an excerpt from an interview from HELLO! India’s October 2023 issue. To read the full interview, check out the latest issue right here.