Raseel Gujral’s home is a homage to her brand Casa Paradox. Inspired by palaces of bygone era, it has the charm of an artist’s paradise with Manjit Bawa and Satish Gujral’s artworks across 30,000 square feet of unadulterated luxury.
Driving more than a kilometre beyond the border of Delhi, one wonders why Raseel Gujral and Navin Ansal, partakers of a quintessentially luxurious lifestyle, are far away from the hustle-bustle of the city, and choose to live on Jaunapur road. “It’s actually a planned move. We’ve always lived outside Delhi. We wanted to get far away; we were in Garden Estate, which was more than 13 years ago, and at that time there was nothing in between Andheria Modh and Gurgaon. There wasn’t a single mall, restaurant or building. Then we moved to MG Road, and when that started getting crowded, we moved to Chhatarpur. That is the reason, why the house is not on the main road. Navin lives in Ferozepur. He has lived in farmhouses, where there are large spaces of land, so neither of us like to live in the chaotic city. It mentally puts you in a different space,” says Raseel, explaining, why they’re away from the city every time they’re home.
Why would two people need 30,000 sq. ft of land to live? On a typical scorching day in Delhi, one would assume that large spaces come with affluent surnames. However, the Ansals explain, how making a ‘big and impressive’ house was never their aim. “For example, when we’re watching television, we’re either in
Navin’s study or upstairs. So we don’t have a TV in every room, and it’s not like you can watch it everywhere. We’ve both have always had separate bathrooms. So, our home was designed in a way that we get separate dressing areas. We’ve always lived either in a courtyard house or in a house, where there’s a central congregation point. So there are no doors here. You can walk in anywhere,” she asserts.
Her experience in interior designing is reflected well, in the design language she has woven around the needs of the house. She explains, “Naveen likes to meditate in the morning. There’s a morning room, which was initially done for me because I don’t watch television. I thought it would become my study. But I ended up being so lazy in the morning that Navin’s the only one, who uses it now. Also I hate going into the kitchen, so it has been built far away. The staff kitchen is also kept separate. The family room is upstairs, where our two kids grew up. The rooms upstairs are converted into guest accommodation, when required. If you have a set of guests, you have an upstairs lounge, family area, living area and it becomes theirs to use, away from your space; it can function separately. We sometimes bring work home, hence, there is a home office too. The segregation of space meets our individual needs.”
In spite of the vast space, and the visual rhapsody created by colour which is lent to the house by luxurious upholstery, exquisite chandeliers and quirky artefacts, the things that Raseel cherishes the most, are the memorabilia in the form of family photographs and her father’s paintings. “There’s artwork that has been gifted by my father. Starting from when I was one to 15. There are different pieces of art, which represent various important milestones in my life. There are also pictures of my children from the time they were young to adults. Sometimes I think they grew up so fast,” she smiles.
She adds that she treasures books, and they have been her constant and loyal companions. “Upstairs, there is a whole section of books that I can fit in, right now. The rest of the books are neatly tucked away in all the four cupboards inside the bedroom. Both of us like to read a lot,” she says.
Gujral’s home is not a stone fortress. There is room for a lot of sunlight. “As far as architecture is concerned, whether it is light, landscape or plants, I like there to be very few barriers. However, you cannot live in a glass house because climatically it’s not conducive to northern India. Still there’s a lot of glass, but it has been placed in a manner where there are enough walls to balance the outside heat and give a feeling of the outdoors. As far as light and a connection with nature is concerned, there’s plenty of natural lighting,” she says, while elaborating on the importance of having enough sunlight in the house.
In terms of artificial lighting, Raseel is a fan of façades. Calling herself a ‘non-automated person’, she admits she likes to build an environment, that is user-friendly from the point of view of the staff as well.
“I’m not living in a penthouse or an apartment, which is largely controlled and manned by just one or two people. We have a few settings for lighting in each room-some, that highlight the art, others that can be ideal to create a party mood. There are about five modes of lighting rather than a complex remote system, which is bound to confuse me,” she smiles.
Raseel remains ambivalent about using solar energy and adds that they do have a provision for this, and it is part of the plan of the house, and even of houses they design. But they prefer not to rely on it despite the abundant sunlight. “It is there as a backup. All the boilers run on solar energy. We have built solar panels on top of the house as well as a system for rainwater harvesting.”
Interestingly, Gujral single-handedly took upon the conceptualisation and building of her house, as the purpose was to make something beautiful for her future family. “Our home is where the family meets and enjoys. We do not have a big family today, but when we do, this place will be ideal. It was like a canvas. I was free to draw on it and for once not be answerable to a client,” she says.