There is a slight aura of mystery about Nisha JamVwal’s Mumbai-based home. As we talk prior to the shoot, she says she’s a private person and very few people have had access to her home. “It’s an extension of my personality, a window to my story.”
And it’s quite a story that she’s lived – years spent in America, Japan and Australia; a career that spans interiors, architecture, fashion, writing and brand management; a Rajput prince for a husband and their love story written eloquently by Jeffery Archer in Caste Off. With such a colourful, larger-than-life existence, one can’t help but wonder how it translates into her home.
All questions are answered the minute you set foot inside her sea-facing, 18th-floor apartment in south Mumbai. A long passageway leads to the living room and even from the threshold one can get a glimpse of the sparkling blue sea. The walls of the passage seem almost weighed down by exquisite artwork that take you around the world even before you actually enter the living room. “Today, art is fashionable, but it’s been a part of my existence since I was three. I could draw before I could write, and I still love and buy art from across the world,” says Nisha, explaining the overwhelming presence of sketches, paintings and sculptures throughout the house.
Unlike most Mumbai homes, space is definitely not a constraint in Nisha’s apartment, and the living room is imposing by its sheer size. Her love for art is the unifying factor, and this room has an eclectic mix of pieces from revered artists – each with its own identity and yet complementing the others perfectly. “My living room has four distinct colour zones – crimson, fuchsia, vermillion and gold – with big mirrors that reflect the sea and give feeling to the space,” she explains. Works of Jogen Chowdhury, F.N. Souza, Paresh Maity, M.F. Husain, Jatin Das and Rini Dhumal add character to the décor and give a glimpse into Nisha’s world.
As we walk around the house, Nisha tells us about her previous work as an interior designer, which includes the homes of actresses Lisa Ray and Zeenat Aman. “I have a very minimalist sensibility when it comes to work, but that does not reflect in my own home, which is a response to a life spent with art,” she says. The statement is illustrated as soon as we step into the bar area – it’s evident that there’s nothing minimal here. The entire room has ornate silver carvings from ancient India, which lends it the feel of a royal mansion. However, the cushions strewn around the couch are very kitsch, giving the space an entirely different orientation. She explains, “My style is very avant garde, very quirky meets traditional meets contemporary, and that’s what you can see clearly in this room.”
Every room in this house has a unique personality, each reflecting a different aspect of this creative mind. “I am not a blinkered person, not at all formatted. There are many aspects to who I am and what I want to be,” explains Nisha. Like its owner, the house tells a different tale in every room. The study, which is mostly used by her husband, has floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with books for the couple, who are avid readers. This room is very personal, says Nisha, and it is here that all of her own sketches, portraits and photographs from past years create a stunning montage and take you on a journey through her life.
Sprinkled throughout the house are little themed areas – a ‘Buddha corner’ in the dining room has a solid jade Buddha and a beautifully lit Buddha head, and makes for an intimate space for tea with her friends; a wall of nude paintings in the bathroom adds drama and goes well with the space; portraits and sculptures of Jesus have a place of proud prominence near the entry to her bedroom and each piece has an interesting history to it. There is a concept of ‘creatures of flight’ that creates fluidity between the living and dining rooms.
It is elements like these that create cohesion in a house that has almost an art gallery feel to it. “My home is a kaleidoscope of gods and goddesses that play up the drama of ancient and modern art,” she says passionately. As an off-shoot of this passion, Nisha’s next big project is a museum in Mumbai to which she wants to donate all her acquisitions so that the city’s youth have a place to see and understand art. If her home is anything to go by, one may rest assured that a visit to this museum will be worthwhile.