Raj is the rage here
AMONG THE many mementos of the British Raj is the legacy of colonial furniture - European designs recreated by Indian craftsmen from indigenous materials and embellished by decorative traditions such as the carving of geometrical, floral, religious and mythological motifs. Now, Mumbai based Sujata Shah Singh - who has been in the business of collecting colonial furniture for 14 years - along with Saroj Singh, has started selling these exquisite pieces at Gurgaon's DLF City at a store named The Company. Says Sujata: "During the early1900s European designs started coming in droves. Local craftsmen used motifs made from local material. This gave birth to colonial furniture."
Scouting for the European furniture in various nooks and crannies of the country is a painstaking task.
"I have travelled from North to South, Goa and Bengal searching for this furniture, which is made of Burma teak. Initially it was difficult to get leads," recalls Sujata. Now she knows that places like Mumbai's Lakri Market and old Bengal homes are good hunting grounds for this kind of furniture.
The procedures involved in this business - from acquiring the antique pieces to renovating them for resale - require expertise at every stage. Since antique furniture is in a broken state, the carpenters, polishers and craftsmen dismantle the pieces at The Company and reassemble them. Before reassembling, the pieces are sandpapered to remove years of grime.
The prices reflect this effort. A chair costs Rs.9,000 to 12,000. A Portuguese chair cost Rs.14,000. A planter's chair, with long arms, on which the British tea planters used to rest while taking a peg of Scotch is really elegant and would do any drawing room proud.
There are hat racks, umbrella stands, cupboards, mirror frames and four-poster beds. Since the old seasoned wood has been reused this can be termed an ecologically friendly industry. The Company may be quite a distance away from New Delhi, yet for connoisseurs of pre-independence furniture and those who value good craftsmanship it is worth a look.
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