Havelis – Old Merchant Mansions of Shekhawati

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Can I share a secret? I have new obsession… On my last trip to India I discovered a world of beautiful crumbling mansions and faded frescoes. The only problem is they are hours away from the closest airport and a harrowing drive across the Rajasthan desert.

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The grand havelis of Shekhawati were owned by the merchant princes of Rajasthan (who are now some of the most successful business families in India). Located in Jaipur state, Shekhawati mansions are found in the districts of Jhunjhunu, Chur and Sikar. Many of these buildings have been left abandoned to the harsh desert climate by familes who have migrated to the modern commercial hubs of India.

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The word haveli comes from Iran, and means “enclosed space”. In Mughal India it was known as a home for the wealthy and powerful.

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Built by the business-minded Marwari, these mansions are a testament to past business successes and remain beautiful examples of Indian artistry from the early 1800s to the beginning of the 20th century.

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Haveli architecture exemplifies Rajput and Islamic building forms, as well as occasional European influences. The richly painted frescoes reflect both the religious and folk art of Rajasthan, combined with the colonial influence of “Company School” style painting.

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As in most of India, havelis housed extended familes. Havelis often consist of two courtyards – a semi public meeting place for the men called a “mardana” and a private “zenana” for women (who stayed out of public view).

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Havelis were built inward facing which functioned as both a mechanism of privacy as well as protection from the desert and invaders. The traditional Indian courtyard home is built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, which state that all spaces emerge from the center of the house. All activities revolve around the center, which has a divine power and energy associated with it. 

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Ornate haveli doors were built to reflect the family’s status and wealth. Covered in wood carvings,hammered metal and elaborate murals, these grand entrances only suggested the splendors inside.

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We had the opportunity to tour two beautiful restored havelis in the Shekhawati region. First stop was French artist Nadine Le Prince’s gorgeous old haveli in Fatehpur.

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She has been lovingly restoring it over the past 15 years and has maintained it’s original artwork and features. A labor of love and definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area. For more info on tours and hotel reservations, go here.

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Further down the road we stopped in Ramgarh, Shekhawati where we spent a wonderful night at Ramgarh Fresco. It is owned by Raghvendra & Priya Rathore, who are from a prominent Rajasthani family.

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We were woken early by the sounds of traditional village life – cows mooing and the local Hindu temple bells clanging.

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If you get a chance to visit Rajasthan, it’s well worth a trip off the tourist triangle to visit these elaborate desert mansions. One can only hope that some day this region will be recognized as a World Heritage Site and given the restoration and attention it deserves.

The Society Inc – Sibella Court’s Sydney Shop

IMG_6368In honor of Sibella Court’s new book “Gypsy: A World of Colors and Interiors” which came out on the 15th, I’m finally posting the pictures from my visit to The Society, Inc. – stylist and designer, Sibella Court’s adorable shop in the Paddington neighborhood of Sydney. IMG_6362Sibella is well known for her series of design books and her work with clothing retailer Anthropologie. She has an eclectic, global design aesthetic that’s followed closely by avid devotees such as myself.

IMG_6363 Sibella re-designs her shop about four times a year, with different themes, colors and collections. IMG_6371 An eclectic mix of accessories, home goods, hardwares and whimsical art pieces, Sibella’s magic is how she arranges objects in interesting and unusual ways. IMG_6375While in Sydney, I was super excited to get an autographed copy of “The Life of a Bowerbird: Creating Beautiful Interiors with the Things You Collect”. I was hoping to meet the author, but unfortunately she wasn’t in the shop that day.

IMG_6376 Sibella also designs a line of paints for Murobond, which she often features in the store’s themes.IMG_6379In her latest book “Gypsy” she travels to the Galápagos, Ecuador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Turkey, Scotland, and Romania—featuring local trends, architecture, color schemes and crafts.  IMG_6384If you happen to be in Sydney, enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing the curiosities and collections Sibella’s collected from home and abroad. You won’t be able to resist buying a piece or two…

The Society Inc. 18 Stewart St Paddington 2021
Open Wed-Sat 11am-5pm
Telephone 02 9331 1592

Wanderloot’s Winter Sale – 35% Off All Purses & Handbags

Black Beaded Croc Print Leather Clutch in Midnight Blue
Thai Black Beaded Croc Print Leather Clutch in Midnight Blue

Wanderloot’s Winter Sale – 35% Off All Purses & Handbags! Isn’t it time you treated yourself? Beat the winter winter blahs with your choice of one-of-a-kind handbags and purses collections from Vietnam, Bali and Thailand!

Hand Embroidered Hill Tribe Carryall
Hand Embroidered Hill Tribe Carryall
Embroidered Hmong Hill Tribe Satchel
Embroidered Hmong Hill Tribe Satchel

Includes our one-of-a-kind Hmong Hill Tribe Handbag Collection made from vintage Hmong fabric sourced from Vietnam. Each purse features handcrafted cross stitch embroidery designs that are unique to each Hill Tribe village.

Carnelian Beaded Thai Silk Evening Clutch
Carnelian Beaded Thai Silk Evening Clutch

Check out our cool silk and leather designer beaded Thai Handbag Collection – total one-of-a-kind luxe.

The Bali Bag
The Bali Bag

The sale also includes our intricately woven Balinese Ate Grass Handbag Collection which combine old world Indonesian craftsmanship and modern styling.

Balinese Ate Grass Handbag - Jimbaran Style
Balinese Ate Grass Handbag – Jimbaran Style

Go to Hand Embroided Hill Tribe Handbag Collection Sale.
Go to Balinese Ate Bag Collection Sale.
Go to Leather & Silk Thai Handbag Collection Sale.

All of our Wanderloot items are one-of-kind. Sale ends January 10th.

Global Style – Eames House, Pacific Palisades

I just picked up this wonderful new book: “Handcrafted Modern” by Leslie Williamson. Rarely has “old” looked so new in this book of mid-century modern interiors. In fact, the Eames house in Pasadena looks like it could be a chic new interior designed by Commune.

Also known as Case Study House No. 8, the “democratic mix of tribal and native art and textiles testifies to the Eameses’ omnivorous love of all design.” Williamson goes on to say “When I looked at the different patterns and colors of the numerous rugs, blankets and pillows, I could never have imagined that they would sit so harmoniously together.” Love that. Have no fear! Mix it up. If you like it, you can find a way to make it work in your home. I may be biased, but our kilim pillows would look great here too!

Kilim Pillows Galore!

Roman Alonso's LA Apt. 12/10 Issue of House Beautiful

Bohemian chic is nothing new, but I’ve been seeing a lot kilim pillows in design magazines. Here’s a shot of Roman Alonso’s LA apartment in the December issue of House Beautiful. He’s got gorgeous kilim pillows scattered about. To see the article go here.

At Wanderloot.com we got our hands a cache of lovely kilims with designs sourced from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Persia, Iran, Moldavia and China. Thrown on a leather sofa, or tossed on the floor, these pillows add a great pop of color to the room.  Click here to see Wanderloot.com‘s kilim selection.

Kilim Pillows at Wanderloot.com