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Plotting your escape to another planet amidst soaring temperatures, an endless pandemic, socio-cultural commodification & air choked with waste? Here’s how to make your humble abode a stop-gap haven!
At the risk of sounding like Tyrion Lannister ...a wise person once said, “Your room is a reflection of your mind”. This wise person was my mum and it was usually said before we’d go on another one of our monthly decluttering sprees. Somehow, my mum’s words have stayed with me beyond the context of cleanliness.
Whilst pursuing an Advanced Diploma in Interior Design in my younger days, I’d be pulled towards upcycling and minimalism over and above interior aesthetics. Perhaps, being a 90’s kid, I was part of my generation’s urge to strike away from its given templates of globalized capitalism towards a more rooted, bohemian luxury of experience in the face of planetary doom. Perhaps it was a general sense of ennui. But my first room simply consisted of a side table made from repurposed cardboard, a mattress, an easel, and art I’d made myself.Almost a decade later, my room now looks more like a stop-gap, lockdown induced solution/cocoon that I tell myself will blossom into a more settled character once I can afford it. However being a mostly functional human even on my lowest days, waiting for change to happen to me is a self-limiting paradox. Moreover, humankind generally strikes me as a dual being, constantly living whilst dying. So perhaps being in two places at once, being settled and experimental simultaneously or visualizing another world within your world isn’t too far-fetched a thought after all?
In a time when most young people define the word “vacation” as a trip to Goa, I too am often compelled to daydream of escaping to a beach and flooding my lungs with gusts of salty air. However, in my first year living alone whilst working in a corporate environment, vacation time has been defined by days where I can maintain my studio space whilst reminiscing about a holiday spent in an idyllic resort-style home in South Goa as a child. To this day, I would define it as a perfect mix of both mountain and sea, with sprawling, low lying, lush green ghats sliding into gray-blue ocean waves, the cross from a distant church on the horizon being the sole evidence of life in a hamlet “far from the madding crowd”.The house itself was a meditative resort style experience of escape, with understated coastal grandeur flowing through a koi pond, gable roofs, timber surfaces & infinity lawns. My enduring enchantment with the antithesis to city life is not a trait distinct to my generation though. Since urbanization took over the first world, the idea of escaping to more pastoral surroundings has existed like a postage stamp on one’s heart leftover from a Thomas Hardy novel or like a fleeting moment of fulfillment to be found in an epic by Mulk Raj Anand.
Amidst the industrial insomnia, it is the lucky few who “get away” even for a whisper of a day. Every country, if not every state, has its own version of Goa. For Mexico, it's Alamos or Tequila(!); for Britain, it's the Lake District; for Canadians, this is Victoria; for Italy, it's Tuscany; for Montreal or Scotland, it's, well Montreal or Scotland. In India, Kashmir’s isolated heaven can rival Goan nostalgia. And in India’s federal twin in the west, the United States of America, there is Long Island or the Hamptons.
The Hamptons, now considered an elite stretch of what were once hamlets, is located on the East End of Long Island district in New York. It is this enchanted stretch of holiday homes in New York State that became the site of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epic, The Great Gatsby.
In popular culture, references to the Hamptons mean sumptuous family summer homes and sprawling landscapes. They also mean unattainable ends even for those with considerable means. The collection of townlets in this stretch hold the remnants of puritan British origins, a softer legacy of which is still carried in names like Southampton and numerous windmills, lighthouses and lobster rolls.
Despite having roots in seaside shacks that turned into plantations that were sites of slave labour, the Hamptons have more recently been considered a site for the open expression of architectural freedom. Saltzman House on Long Island was built in 1967 by Richard Meier and The Group of Five or “The Whites” as they were then known thanks to their signature use of white paint in their projects. It remains a statuesque symbol of European rationalism and is a testament to the influence of Le Corbusier on modern architecture as well as on the architecture of leisure, drawing as well as giving back to the architectural elements in its surrounding space.
Over time, and financial constraint (not all of us can afford Long island living, after all), the tendency to recreate the “Hampton Style'' has emerged amongst the coastal holiday lovers, whether they are actually on the coast or not. This style derives from that of the Hamptons which to its own end has sprouted from a mix of coastal style, and relaxed, ironically economic, minimalism. The Hamptons Style or “beach-style” has long been incorporated abroad and has markedly influenced Australian interior design as well. According to National Award winning Australian interior designer Krystal Sagona, the Hamptons style derives from three core French movements:
Hamptons style is also known for how it embraces space, a key aspect of any coastal experience. Open spaces naturally relax the eye and thus the viewer. More and more also, this style also immerses itself in its surrounding coastal scape. This can look like sprawling verandahs and awnings that are raised to overlook the sea, or a more Ko Samui-esque approach to roofs and decks. One cannot ignore the intense Greek presence in the Hamptons style tenet of using white abundantly. One is reminded of cottage core living in Mykonos because homes in the Hamptons also idealize beauty as an expression of simplicity and luxury alike.
The word “theme” is associated with terms like:
Let's try an experiment. Ideally, every person’s space is an extension of themselves. From a UX perspective, this approach would entail building a persona that requires a particular space designed in the Hampton’s style. If we were to assume the persona was that of a student or “young person”, and “Indian”, the elements of the space would merge, shift and align with the tastes and preferences of the specified persona.
Assuming we have the above persona and having deconstructed Hampton Style successfully, what would be the ways in which we could makeover the living room using this style in his apartment to help Vivek throw his dream party? Lets approach this conundrum via integration with various interior design basics.
A typical living room contains the following elements:
Seating: Hamptons style seating is set-up to be conversational, but laid back. Sofas can be low lying, deep and encourage curling up in them with one’s feet up. Cushions are usually plush, white, or pastel colored, with a suede or similar texture that can provide feedback that is comforting when brushed with one’s hands. Seating can be communal around one center or multiple centers can be created for different types of conversations, whether these are one-on-one, a melting pot of voices or a solo reading nook!
Seating Hack: While buying sofas is expensive, old sofas or seating areas like timber (wood plank) benches can be zhuzhed up with white covered cushions. However, since white is a much harder color to maintain, going with a more saturated pop of blue color for cushions and sofas/couches with warm accenting will be a good alternative, especially for students, else pick a soft gray for a lighter look. For alternative seating, see if you can salvage an old stool, wooden furniture, makeshift slabs or planks, polish these up and you can have statement seating with a touch of nature about it! Placing these near windows can add to the romance of wooden benches and provide full back support without needing a full sofa!
Tables: Hamptons style table ware can be as dynamic as your uses for it. Hamptons tables range from low lying tables that invite people in to play board games or share charcuterie boards to dining room affairs, statement marble table tops or modular tables that can take on personalities for multiple user scenarios. Having an open kitchen can make your job easier and perhaps allow you to make the kitchen counter a dining table as well. Hamptons style is about ease of use and the luxury of effortless efficiency in one’s lifestyle and what better way to say it than by not having to move rooms in order to cook and then to eat!
Table Hack: Having an open kitchen is not always an option but using one table for multiple purposes can easily be done. Investing in a table from IKEA with multiple height settings or a modular 4 to 6 seater white table can make it a suitable workstation or the scene for a party buffet when required! Using wicker or cane chairs and painting these white can make your dining space both more elaborate and more cozy.
Personal Elements: Living rooms should look lived in. The personal touch can express the personality of the owner in subtle or ironic ways. The idea is to take the things you love and dip them into a glaze of Hamptons style sauce.
Personalization Hack: If you’re a Wes Anderson film lover? Print out and frame a collection of minimal interpretations of his movie posters. Into records? Consider visiting old music shops like Rikhi Ram or RGH in CP to pick up a few choice records to display. Enjoy playing foosball? Invest in a mini set. Hamptons style can be integrated into a flat structure for the display of curios, else a small white glass cabinet or bookshelf can also help you organize prized items in the style.
Lighting and Mirrors: Mirrors can automatically add an element of spaciousness to even the smallest of spaces. Lighting can provide emphasis and create atmospheres that can enliven the mood and help one unwind. Soft yellow light is a mainstay for hamptons style as it simulates the setting sun.Chiaroscuro Hack: Students can invest in antique lamps, statement fixtures or just take a peel on mirror and cut it into kintsugi style shapes to create areas of interest that also add dimension to the room. Natural light can be further filtered through textured curtains. Visual alcoves can be created through directional lighting which introduces a sense of depth. A couple of brass fixtures can automatically add an old world charm that is both ornate and inviting.
Doors and Windows: Hampton style doors are usually double doors keeping with the classic French style. Windows in their turn tend to have white casings, grid lines as ornamentation and shutters in the style of plantation times. These shutters were meant to shut out the heat and this could work well in the heat of Delhi as well.Hack: Adding flat white cabinets or painting them in the Shaker-style will be a budget-friendly way to add the Hampton-style element without spending funds on redesigning foundational elements in the space.
Conquering the Elements:
Line: Corinthian elements can be incorporated into your living room via elongated furniture pieces, use of lined rugs, rectangular mirror shapes and the like.
Form: While forms can remain a somewhat eclectic combination, focussing on ones that convey a more laidback aura of plenty is key. Layering flat tops with throw pillows or rugs, etc. can change the way the room speaks. Structure should be played with but materials can impact how strong these seem. So pick materials that are closer to nature, more pliable and inviting.
Light: Whilst chiaroscuro has been mentioned as a go-to technique, making sure your space is well lit and has a source of natural light can work wonders on the vibe, especially during the day!
Color: Hamptons Style does favor white, and it is a great blank canvas for the rest of the items in the room. Moreover breaking this white mold whilst incorporating it helps create a visual dialogue.Texture: Go with textures that make you feel spoiled, are easy to maintain and add layers to the rest of the room or generate interest in specific areas.
Pattern: Whilst patterns are usually kept minimal and azure, the use of ornate and geometric embellishments can be integrated in specific objects around the room, like perhaps a rug or a curtain to add a touch of playfulness and structure. Try to stick to rococo, baroque or even nature inspired patterns though, and don’t overdo it else it shall overpower the character of the space.
Integration of Principles:
Balance: Hamptons style is formal yet inviting. Serene yet playful. However some core aspects of it need to be maintained in order for the style to come through. White surfaces, parallel lines, inviting textures, comfort lighting & minimalist forms are foundational to the accents that come and go. You must also seek a balance between masculine and feminine patterns as the coastal style that feeds into Hamptons style is a mix of both.Harmony: Creating harmony between the Hamptons style & personal contexts can present a challenge to even the most seasoned interior designers, let alone students. Maintaining space for your own cultural identity & roots is a fundamental aspect of owning one’s space. So go ahead and experiment with Indian crafts and see how they integrate in new ways.
Rhythm: Use patterns to negotiate rhythm and break them to play with the space! Collaborating with friends on an abstract painting to hang up in the space could be a fun way of introducing them to one’s new living room.
Proportion: While some aspects of Hampton style involve exaggerated proportions for effect, this is not always necessary, and definitely not a fundamental aspect of every item in the living room. Flower pots can be used to experiment with proportion, and working with pots of various sizes can add interesting dimensions to the space.Scale: Scale can add a touch of light playfulness and possibility to the country vibes, both aspects of Hamptons style. If a smart TV is part of the room, try to consider changing its size to something smaller and less overpowering to the space, else surround it with white cabinetry containing artifacts like candles or books to help integrate it into the space.Emphasis: This is a brilliant tool to use to focus and rest the eyes on aspects of the living room, create nooks for guests or to leave an impression of a core aspect of your personality through integration of memorabilia, legacy items, curios, your own art or regional crafts.Contrast: Contrast allows for climatic recalibration from modern to nostalgic, royal to pastoral, masculine to feminine, and beyond. You get to pick and choose across the spectrum of your chosen binaries here. And can bring in multiple binaries into the same space to various extents depending on your personal tastes.
Unity: Staying true to the foundational elements is crucial but should be easy to do within a single room. Consider a false wall or collapsible room dividers to achieve an oriental finish whilst segregating your Hamptons style living room from the rest of your apartment space at low expense.
Life is about externalizing moods we want to keep for longer and for owning space with our identity. The magic and history of Hamptons style lies in its ability to absorb and carry accents from other styles without losing its identity. While it's no stretch of Long Island beach, Vivek won’t have to pay 50$ parking tickets to be in his living room, and he can go ahead and colonize the style instead of putting the legacy of a traumatic racial past that even Indians have a stake in, on a purist pedestal.
Acanthus: a plant that has been used extensively as inspiration for foliage ornament and decoration especially in context of nobility
Cartouche: an Egyptian element in which a collection of glyphs/symbolic elements are grouped together inside bigger shapes or “frames”
Casings: molding used in window installation to seal the window to the houseChiaroscuro: a painting techniques used in the dramatization of light and shadow perfected by artists like Vermeer
Corinthian: ornate and sleek assemblage style derived from Greece and Ancient Rome
Gestalt: psychological principle of seeking wholeness
Kintsugi: Japanese concept of finding beauty in the broken
Lacquer: a shiny resin based finish that hardens to form a protective layer on wood, metal etc.
Motif: a decorative idea, image or design that can be multiplied across artistic contexts and surfaces
Shaker-style: a clean, minimal approach to furniture named after American believers in Christ’s second coming
Stucco: a building material made of a mixture of aggregates, binder and water that can be carved into a variety of shapes
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