Worldly Wise

Greece, France, Turkey, Italy… all find a place in fashion designer JJ Valaya’s apartment in Gurgaon.


Every object in the drawing room bears the Valaya stamp. The large horse bust made from a single piece of solid wood and coffee table a combination of wood, stone and mirror have been designed by Valaya. What he hasn’t designed — like the curios and art — Valaya has picked up during his travels.

It’s not everyday that one gets an invitation to visit the home of fashion designer, JJ Valaya. After all, he has closely guarded his privacy and kept his sanctuary away from prying eyes. So, with a sense of nervous excitement we walked into the designer’s haven which is a 4,000-square-foot four-bedroom apartment in DLF Phase V, Gurgaon. “In my dictionary, there is no one room, but several rooms. I believe in inhabiting them all together,” said Valaya in one of his interviews. And from the moment you step in, you know that in reality he inhabits every nook and cranny here. Anyone familiar with his style knows that his designs (an amalgamation of craft, art and attention to detail) know no season. For the uninitiated (if there are any), you can sum up Valaya’s aesthetic in three words: regal, bold and decadent. But even that knowledge does not prepare you for the interesting mish-mash of global fare that unfolds before you.

Being a builder-made flat, with the concept ‘one size fits all’, Valaya didn’t get to choose the flooring (marble and wood), the ceiling (which is stark white, much to his dismay; he prefers colour and texture), and plain walls. However, even with so many constraints, he has managed to make it his own. Every object has been handpicked by him during his travels. In fact it was while he was setting up his home, and picking up exquisite, exclusive products, that the Home of the Traveller (part of the Valaya Home label) was born, where people can now purchase spoils from Valaya’s voyages.

By using a beautiful shade of yellow for the re-upholstered sofas, and aged gold accessories and frames for the artwork on the walls, Valaya has given the living room a regal appeal. Think of it as bling without the sting.

“I’m such a sucker for design,” says the fashion czar, as you feast your eyes on the profusion of art, style and colour. Seeing Valaya set-up the dining table and playing with his Chinese Pekinese dog named Chang, you can’t help but wonder that an up-market apartment complex was not how you envisioned the talented designer to be living in. He is more suited for a palace, haveli or a bungalow perhaps. “I have two young daughters, ages 14 and 4. I wanted them to grow up in a community-living set-up, so I’ll be here for the next few years,” explains Valaya, who shifted into the high-rise a year ago.

The foyer of the apartment opens into a public space, the dining cum drawing room and a small room on the side. This room was intended to be the guest quarters, but Valaya converted it into his den. The public areas lead to the private ones (three bedrooms) via a long corridor, decorated with art, photographs and sketches.

It all starts at the foyer, which Valaya has created by placing a floor-to-ceiling wooden baffle wall with a high-gloss veneer in front of the entry way. On one side of the baffle wall are shelves that face the dining table displaying interesting finds from all over the world. The other side, which faces the entry-point of the house, features a console, designed by Valaya. It seats a Thai statue, candles, flowers and an artistic photograph of the Jama Masjid, shot by the designer himself for his book, Decoded Paradox. Even though each element belongs to a different genre, they unite with a vibrant vengeance, resulting in an aesthetic whole. The images of the Russian icons on the wall, a 500-year-old Mughal tapestry and the geometric patterns of the Iranian rug enhance the beauty of the area. A larger-than-life Greek mirror, with a dull-gold carved wooden frame and a reindeer (placed in front of it) from an antique market in Paris, are the result of his many tours. The two have purposely been placed adjacent to the foyer. “Mirrors add to the mystery of the space, for as you enter, you see bits and pieces of the interiors,” he adds.

Besides fabulous art, the dining room has on display a beautiful dining table with an embroidered silk cloth below the glass top. Designed by Valaya, it is a stunning example of his ingenuity.

As for the drawing, yellow sofas brighten up the room. These were re-upholstered with a European fabric. The contemporary centre table, an aesthetic union of stone, wood and mirror was crafted by Valaya fifteen years ago, for his studio, when he had just begun his career. On it lie artefacts, curios and a golden tray which was gifted to him by a friend. Below it is a stunning Persian carpet. Complementing this are silk, printed curtains that happen to be the only printed fabric in the house. “It was risky but it turned out to be perfect,” says Valaya. A striking large horse bust is placed in one corner. Fashioned from a single, solid wood piece by Valaya, it is a part of the Valaya Home Line. The artworks which are a mix of original prints, Chinese art and pieces from MoMA cover the plain walls.

The mesmerizing art-attack continues in the dining area, where Chinese art and original lithographs of the Maharajas of India dominate the walls. The pièce de résistance of the space happens to be the dining table designed by Valaya. The wooden table has an intricately embroidered silk cloth top with clear glass above it. The delicate needlework finds its inspiration in the Mughal era. If you take a closer look at the dining table, you realize that contrasts can be found here as well. The Mughal-period inspired embroidery goes well with the pretty blue plates from New York, the contemporary mats and the East Asian boxes. The dining chairs have been covered in a velvet fabric, which complement the Persian carpet below. Two large Chinese urns flank the table. And if you want another dose of global wares, simply shift your gaze to the shelves on the baffle wall: vases from Portugal, Chinese elephants, Art Deco curios from France, Mediterranean sculptures… all are at home here.

Converting the small guest bedroom into his den Valaya has used dark shades in terms of the fabric of the wall paper, dark brown sofa and dark veneered wood in the furniture, giving the space a masculine appeal.

The artistic array doesn’t end here. Even the den is filled with art. What Valaya is especially proud of is the original Da Vinci print hanging on the wall. As you enter his private space a narrow, mirrored-corridor offers a glimpse of artefacts inside. Grey fabric wallpaper covers the walls and a carpet from Turkey adorns the floor. A tan, leather three-seater and two deep brown single-seater sofas covered in a velvet fabric make for comfortable seating. A glass topped table forms the centre of the room. This functions as a mini-library. A bar with a mirrored back houses elegant glasses with a separate space to stack wine bottles. Right next to the bar is Valaya’s wooden study table.

As you enter the serene and calm master bedroom, Valaya greets you, literally. For a beautiful almost royal painting of Valaya by artist Satish Gupta has been hung on the wall.

As for the other private spaces, there’s the master suite, a teenage bedroom and a four-year-old’s private paradise. The master bedroom is no ordinary one. Before you can even step-in artist Satish Gupta’s rendition of JJ Valaya as a royal enigma, captured on canvas welcomes you. Your eyes slowly adjust to all the art on the wall, including Jatin Das’ caricature of Valaya called ‘JJ by JD’, which he drew on a napkin during one of his lunch interactions with the designer. Lots of artwork can be found above the low-bed. What stands out is the larger-than-life canvas painted and presented to Valaya. The canvas is predominantly white with hints of a bold hue, contrasting well with the wooden flooring, giving the room a quaint charm.

And before we know it, it’s time to leave this museum of great design and aesthetics; but you still feel you haven’t seen it all. There’s so much beauty to take in, one visit is clearly not sufficient. Just like when you buy a Valaya outfit, one is not enough, you have to come back for more.

To create a space that was neither overly minimalistic nor ostentatious, but to find middle ground steeped in wares from all over the world.

Flooring Marble, wood Wall Emulsion paints Art From all over the globe Furnishings Silk, velvet and leather

Owner JJ Valaya Location DLF Phase V, Gurgaon Area 4,000 sq ft

Some more images…