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Better Interiors - April 2020 issue

Tone, Tango and No Cash

Pleasant memories, a dash of creativity and bitty colours can form a beautiful home without dipping into your piggy bank, says colour consultant Latika Khosla.


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. Latika’s studio, Freedom Tree Design, undertakes colour consultancies and design assignments.



So what will look more expensive? Purple or silver? Which is more premium? Brown or blush? As a colour consultant, I am often asked these questions when deciding the right shade for cars, cosmetics and packaging.

Luckily, when choosing hues for the home, every colour is equally expressive. Because, as I always say, no shade is bad; only the way it’s used may be wrong. You can splurge on colour and make a home feel lived-in and cared-for without breaking the bank. Expressive is not necessarily expensive, right?

Little corners can house collections that tell a story. A shelf at the entryway can become a canvas for a narrative.

When I asked people what they did to delight themselves with colour at home, I found that experimenting with small ideas gave them great satisfaction. Small bits can gladden a home as much as a large pop-painted wall. A beautiful bunch of sunny flowers can cost as much as a can of paint! The thing about adding colour on a budget is that most often you have to do it yourself. No loss there; that, in itself, is a recipe for fulfillment.

Bits and Blobs
Amita, a sensitive designer, lets nothing go to waste. She repurposes everything. Papers around our office are recycled and made into little notepads on mini cardboard clipboards; and leftover swatches of fabric make up pretty bindings for bags. She has those little ideas that make things go that much further. When her folks were going to re-decorate their home, they went out and bought sampler pots of paint. While the ‘colourful’ family debate progressed, Amita figured out how to get the biggest bang for her buck.

The swatch-patch on the wall inspired her to make a graphic backdrop for her room rather than go with a single colour. Choosing a smart geometric Mondrian-esque grid, Amita mentally laid-out the pattern, right behind her work desk. While the painting was going on in the rest of the house, she did her own. Teaming remnants from larger cans with carefully chosen bright sampler pots, she created an artistic design for her room.

Try this: Little bits of colour bring to life the things which are stacked against them: books, pretty little collections, memorabilia, photographs, scarves… All the debris that surrounds a creative mind.

If pictures are not your thing, give a healing touch to a wall with decorative paint. Drips on a canvas translate into wall art.

A collection a day
There is a collector in each one of us. At the designers’ tables in my office, I notice that random objects form great relationships in just the way they have been put together. Aditi, our design researcher, has gone so far as to archive what she puts together by colour, on her blog. A belt, a pencil, a cutter, a book, a letter, a sample of laminate, a page from a magazine… Sometimes, she finds a relationship through colour, at other times through texture or balance of materials.

The ability to see beauty in everyday objects and befriend them never leaves us at a loss for ideas. Little corners form collections and tell a story. A table end, a shelf at the entry hallway, a kitchen counter, a bathroom ledge, all become blank canvases for a telling narrative.

Try this: Bring out your favourite things and place them together. A wire-frame around a mirror can hold your beaded necklaces. Those beautiful wedge heels, instead of being tucked away in a cupboard, can be teamed artistically with a draped scarf. Books, stones, driftwood, a bottle filled with marbles can come together like a composition in a still life painting. This way, you do not have to go out and buy decor pieces. Accessorize your home, as you would dress up yourself.

Form a harmony of colours in your space by clustering a few of your favourite things like quirkily-shaped bottles or painted vases.

The healing touch
Siddhi, a young designer who works with us, teaches art courses to her neighbourhood kids. She had these fun anecdotes to share. When the little ones are growing up, they are always creating great art. They are certainly not on a budget and anything is usable for them. Shoes, floors, table-tops, walls… whatever they can get their hands on. One of the mothers then decided to draw a line, literally, by creating a dado on her wall. Everything under that was fair game for her child to doodle on. Another mom placed framed sheets of her children’s art whenever there was a particular disfigurement on the walls, and, with that, gave a healing touch to the space.

If the paint is too permanent and pictures are not your thing, the cheapest option is paper. As a student, I inherited a hostel room with terrible graffiti. I pleaded to my design school, who understood the situation, but could not do anything until the next maintenance cycle. Picking up stacks of newspaper, I sifted out the classifieds and matrimonials. Next, going to the local shop, I got myself an armful of kite paper and a pot of glue. Using the textures of the classified pages and layering over gummed kite paper, I began to cover the wall.

Try this: Kite paper when used in layers creates beautiful, surprising effects. Another translucent ‘device’ is mulmul: you can dress your windows in this fabric to achieve a creamy, glowing light.

Everyday Heroes 
One does not always have to do something only when there is a problem. Aditi has taken her brush to make heroes of everyday furniture around her. When she came back to live with her parents, she wanted to give an old cabinet in her home that she’d seen since childhood, a new look. So she got working on it with her paint box.

Try this: Storage areas provide wonderful surfaces to play with colour using paint, paper or fabric insets. Stripes and polka dots are simple patterns that you can try. If you are really short on cash, even the humble metal trunk or an old cupboard can become your very own by painting it. The more adventurous can play with stencil motifs, artistic brush strokes and distressed finishes. A finishing layer of transparent coating will preserve your hard work.

Refurbish your old furniture with simple patterns such as stripes and polka dots.

A few of my favourite things 
Lest you think working on a budget is only for students or first-time homemakers, our designer Aanchal’s story will put that to rest. When her parents finally moved into their dream home in a lofty mid-town Mumbai building, everything was put together from scratch. Now, when you move homes midlife, everything you’ve collected so far, can either be seen as junk or as precious memories you’d like to take to your new abode. Aanchal helped her mother make this transition. The dining room wall, for instance, was covered in plates, from the first dinnerware they used and souvenirs they had collected on travels to designs that Aanchal made for Freedom Tree.

Try this: While living lofty and high-tech, a home can become heart-warming in its simplicity. Nothing is too gauche to be grouped. Greeting cards, postcards, a bunch of interestingly shaped bottles, painted vases… Place things that mean something to you together. They’ll tell your story.

Like I said earlier, expressive is more memorable than expensive.

Some more images…