A hundred things at home

Latika Khosla is on the board of the Color Marketing Group USA and the founder-organizer of Colors India. She is also the founder-director of Freedom Tree, a wholly-Indian, colour-led lifestyle brand with retail presence in Parel, part of Mumbai’s trendy mill district. Her studio, Freedom Tree Design, undertakes colour onsultancies and design assignments.


It’s not just the number of things that go into making a home, it’s also how you pick them out. Colour consultant Latika Khosla gives us a step-by-step plan to transform your house into a dream home.

Bored. I hear this so often from my frenetic daughter. It’s a state of mind common to all teenagers. When she was around sixteen, one ‘boring’ summer afternoon, she and her friend blew up 99 red balloons, filled a room with them and danced away happily.

Lists. We are creatures of habit. So when someone talks of lists or landmarks, I’m always drawn to this summer afternoon, when someone actually crossed this task off their list and had a happy time doing it. My daughter and her friend walked along a little street and collected balloons from various shops. They then came home and had a jolly good time.

In a world full of sounds, tweets, updates and posts, it seems uncool to add even one unnecessary word to the babble. It is tempting to talk of a hundred ideas that matter when designing and colouring your home. But if we get few things right, and fall way short of the figure, I think it’s perfectly all right. It’s important to give direction to the joy of doing up a home.

Know yourself
Ask the question, “Is this me?” Do you want something light, feminine and charming? Then go for the pretty floral stuff. Have you always appreciated the crafts? Look for ideas that are ethnic. Do you need quiet, seamless spaces? Take inspiration from Asian styling. If bold, modern and vibrant rooms are your thing, turn towards colour blocking ideas. Does the past engage you? Seek your ‘pet’ vintage. Today, people do not want a completely matched look in their homes. You can decide to have a pretty and romantic bedroom, a classic kitchen and a lounge-like living room. That is still the quintessential you!

Refined Oriental: Subtle ornamentation and embellishments, straight-lined furniture in dark woods, walls in greyed-down neutrals, small accents of strong and rich hues…colours are chocolate brown, teal, plum, red and yellow green set against neutrals.

Search for inspiration and a mood
Be sensitive to the mood you want to create.  Casual and comfortable. Dramatic or theatrical. Fresh and familiar. Mood is an intangible thing. It will reflect through colour, material and choice of products, and then make up the style. Inspiration can come from the smallest scrap of something you already have at home. A fabric, a painting, a piece of furniture… Be stimulated by images of natural things: the iridescence of a bird-wing, the curve of a pottery urn, a wood grain on a mask. Everyone is a designer today. Look for images of things that excite you on the internet. Instagrams, home blogs and home store sites are a great source of inspiration. Gather your images in a file; it could be a physical scrapbook or a digital folder on your computer. Never forget the power of words. A descriptive paragraph, an evocative poem, a funny stanza, all can be a stirring idea for a room.

Explore different design styles
Each one of us is drawn to a style we like in home decor. Some of us want formal sophistication. Others may want a casual look. Sometimes we may want a chic look for the bedroom and a dramatic style for the dining. Think about what you want your home to look like. Words help. Write down adjectives that describe what you want in the home, and thus select your style. Words are always more important than an image. Because they leave enough room to imagine what you can do with things before they start happening!


Ethnic Indian: Indian artefacts and accessories, stone and tiled flooring dressed up with chatais or woven rugs, block prints and patterns, and metal accents. Experiment with comfortable colours such as henna, terracotta, ochre, carmine and gold.

Keep the function of the area in mind
It could impact clearances and lighting. Living rooms may be formal or casual. But a mix of low and easy seating with upright chairs will make the space comfortable for people of all ages and different preferences. Surfaces matter while entertaining: consider smart side tables and chests that function as coffee tables, for placing food and drinks. In a bedroom, never compromise on a comfortable mattress and a set of soft pillows. Have plenty of easily accessible plug points for bedside lighting and charging the many personal devices we now carry. In a bath area, be kind to yourself and plan storage for linen and fragrances. A narrow ledge close to the wash counter can take care of lotions and suchlike.

Understand the space
The size and proportion of a room influence things. High ceilings allow the use of beautiful lighting fixtures. Low-ceilinged rooms feel snug with the use of dark colours and low-slung furniture. Well-lit spaces lend themselves well to a play on window dressing: blinds to shut out light and airy voile curtains to diffuse the light inwards. Keep small rooms free of clutter. Settle for ‘one-tall-take-all’ storage, and keep other levels low. Break linear spaces into smaller functional pockets. For example, create two seating islands in a long living area. To make a space larger, consider doing away with a wall and replacing it with sliding door partitions.


Techno Organic: Hand-drawn and naive forms and weathered woods, bringing greenery indoors, colour-washed and patinaed wooden furniture, and organic prints. The palette consists of whites, creams, sage green, pale blue and a strong blue-green.

All things material
The choice of materials will invariably depend on your personality. If you like an ethnic home, then you may include terracotta, warm polished wood, and slub and textured weaves. For a contemporary home, colour-blocked glossy paint accents, with graphic white or black furniture in a matte finish, or artwork can form a strong base. A cool desi-kitsch look will incorporate materials and finishes that will range from digital prints on textiles to plastic pastiche figurines. If you don’t want to use colour, a play of textures will definitely add an interesting dimension to the room. Imagine a very conservative space in ecru: think of limestone walls, crochet cushions, coarse weave furnishings, translucent woven curtains and iron mesh chairs.

Staging the heroes
We have spoken about a lot of things. Now is the time to call attention to and focus on one element at a time. Find a hero for each story or a room that is to be designed. It could be a painting in the living room; an antique headboard in the bedroom; or a quaint mirror in the entryway of your home. Make them take centre stage and let the room revolve around them. Pick cushions that complement the artwork. Construct a fabulous canopy above the bed. Build up a tablescape of associated collections on a console in front of the mirror.


Desi Cool: An explosion of prints and patterns and a clash of shocking colours. Patterns and solids are a mix and match of traditional Indian tie-dye, block prints and ikat. The scale or colour combination is changed to make it topical. Accent tones of fluorescent pink, yellow and lime add a dash of attitude.


Colour palettes

There will be a beautiful palette of colours that can be derived from each visual that inspires you. Analyze the image you like the most for a room. Look at the proportion of colours. For example, you may have liked the sunset sky in a seascape. It is tinged with reds, oranges and a little bit purple. At the base, is a large stretch of sandy beach. You can pick ideas for the walls and even get coordination hints for the fabrics and accessories. Remember, these are colours that naturally go together. But a large neutral area, in this case sandy beige, always calms them. There will be palettes that are serene; others that pop with colour. Always balance brights with a neutral.

Enjoy your home
Sometimes, we get so obsessed with getting it right, that we forget to enjoy our home. Call in friends and do not bother to have everything dusted behind the curtains. No one cares. They are actually there for you. Homes become houses if they are treated like museums; showcases for others. They are never able to transform into a comfortable nest for you. Let some quirky characteristics show. Do not be afraid to experiment.
Add another hundred tips to this list. And spend a late and lazy Saturday night, loving your home!