Arjun Sawhney, the managing director of integrated PR agency The Communication Council and creative director of branding studio Green Goose Design, is a man elegantly weathered by a vast personal and professional life experience, the former driven by his passionate interest in philosophy and spirituality, and the latter constituted by earlier careers in banking and advertising.
His home, a perfectly proportioned extension of himself, is one that invites you to linger, not leap out of your skin. It does not hide under cover of dim lighting or behind mammoth objets d’art that deviously distract from architectural discrepancies. Like the man himself, it is not complicated, but complex: a product of profound sentiment, endless study, and precise calculation.
Born and raised in Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, Sawhney possesses a natural poise and polish, dexterously depicted in the decor of his home. Located within a dense residential colony of New Delhi, Sawhney’s four-bedroom apartment is a veritable sanctuary.
Arjun Sawhney with his pet cocker spaniel, Tintin
On Sawhney: Jacket, Aaftab Mehra
The visual odyssey begins in the lobby just outside the apartment, situated on the second floor, where one is greeted by an imposing front door painted a brilliant midnight blue, skilfully balancing the sombre green hues of an old Pichhwai hanging on the adjacent wall and a Bhutanese Thangka directly opposite. But it is across the threshold where the real magic begins—the interplay between light and space no less than masterful.
The apartment is bathed in natural light, the result of its privileged corner position overlooking a tree-lined street on one side and a lush park in front, an attribute Sawhney has cleverly exploited using a colour palette that calls to mind the work of Picasso during his blue and rose periods. The salmon pink and teal blue upholstery, further represented in the exquisite Kashmiri silk carpets covering the teak floor, is beguiling; the colour scheme perfectly suited to a nursery for grown-ups, if indeed one should ever exist.
Everywhere one looks, one cannot help but be charmed and delighted by the smallest details and their deft execution, right from the mirrored bedroom doors fringing the open-plan living and dining areas, which serve to artfully expand the 2,200-square-foot apartment and create the illusion of a much larger surface area, to the built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves framing the living room.
The vision is gracefully completed by the slim brass lining on the mouldings, an oversized glass-mounted wooden coffee table inspired by a Gustav Stickley design, and last but not least, an assembly of dazzling paintings adorning the walls. Sawhney is a passionate collector, his appetite for art governed by its aesthetic rather than its commercial value.
Centre stage is occupied by the little-known Chinese artist Fang Hui, whose portrait of a young oriental girl with a porcelain complexion, set against a peacock green background, is both a courageous contrast and consummate complement to the cornucopia of colours on display. Sharing the limelight on the facing wall of the long rectangular living room is a black and white Seher Shah digital artwork, the severity of its tone and tenor as unexpected as it is effective in this particular context.
And that is precisely what sets apart Sawhney’s home. It comprises a series of surprises, impossible to summarise, classify, stratify, or consign to a specific design period or particular influence. Instead, it is a seamless composition of several styles, from art nouveau to art deco, from mid-century modern to contemporary. The array of artefacts embellishing the tables is equally multifaceted: two dramatic Bhutanese brass garudas flank a light pink crystal bowl purchased at a former British auction house in Kolkata, an old silver cigar box is coherently positioned next to an ivory ashtray, pieces of blue and white southeast Asian pottery usurp space on every surface and there are innumerable other trinkets, each with a tale Sawhney is only too pleased to tell.
The dining room, opening onto a miniature verandah filled with towering plants that canopy the seating area, is dressed with a glimmering rosewood credenza, matching dining table and bench swathed in Chinese brocade, all presided over imperiously by an old Bhutanese door frame, bringing visions of sumptuous gastronomic extravagance (amongst other things, Sawhney is a culinary enthusiast, and his collection of cookbooks is a treasured part of his belongings).
But his most prized possession is a self-portrait by his late mother Kamal Sawhney, hanging discreetly above the rosewood credenza, to which he points just as I am about to make my way out; her benign but somewhat quizzical expression, suggestive of a faint smile, is the finest finishing touch to this unequivocally spellbinding home.
Photographs: Anubhav Sood