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My home, my castle
Gargi Gupta
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June 07, 2008

It's all a little hush-hush no names please, but an eminent Delhi-based industrialist, very high-profile, very glamorous and all that, is building a house. And though it won't quite be the billion dollar Antilla, he'll be spending a cool $1.4 million (around Rs 6 crore) on just the interiors of the 12,000 square feet space.

Due to be completed in December this year when it'll likely be unveiled to the world with a splash, he's entrusted the job to Casa Forma, a young, a-little-over- a year-old London-based firm that's into property, architecture, interiors and bespoke furniture - all with an accent on luxury.

"We were recommended to the client's architect by one of our close friends in India," says Faiza Seth, former investment banker and one of the founders of Casa Forma along with Luigi Esposito, a Brazilian architect and "urbanist" whom she met when she enlisted him to do the interiors of her triplex apartment in London's swish Mayfair district.

"Luigi went shopping with me, not just for the furniture, the carpets, the upholstery and everything else you'd expect, but also for the crockery, the kitchen appliances, and the like. Not just that, he came home to explain to my housekeeper Grace how to lay the table and make the bed in the right, designer-kind of way. He has also arranged for someone to come in every week with fresh flowers."

Clearly, Casa Forma wants to set itself apart in the competitive world of boutique interior design with such "comprehensive" and personalised services and attention to detail, much valued by its targetted clientele - businessmen, successful professionals and entrepreneurs from India, the Middle East, Russia, who want their homes to be a statement of their exalted position in the world.

Indeed, Casa Forma provides services far beyond interiors alone, from sussing out a suitably exclusive address in places like Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, South Kensington and Chelsea to redesigning the house architecturally and redoing the interiors.

It did something of the sort recently with a private polo club in Berkshire. Formerly the property of the Sultan of Brunei's brother, the 200-year-old mock-Tudor stone cottage was bought over by the client (who shall, again, remain nameless). What Esposito has done is nothing less than a sweeping retrofit, using design to refashion it into a luxurious space that reflects "the power of the owner and his status in life".

"When he purchased it, the clubhouse was quite small, as were the stables and staff accommodation," Esposito says. "We doubled the size of the clubhouse, using reclaimed bricks and slate, so you cannot see where the old ends and the new begins. We also created a freestanding double-sided fireplace, building a new chimney to add balance to the roof of the clubhouse.

Esposito, and his design team, a pot pourri of nationalities: a German, an American, a Russian, a French, an Italian, also added a conservatory which allowed them to create a bar, a dining room, media room, a new kitchen and an upstairs guest bedroom suite.

"Good design," feels Esposito, "uses spatial or circulation to create the best layout, and technology to create the best environment within that layout." And so Esposito elevated the roofs of the stables and added a new wing to create a bright, spacious feel. "We dismantled and re-built the clock tower to match the new height of the new roof," he reveals.

"Structurally, this was a challenging job as it involved everything from building anew in a reproduction style to working with horse trainers and vets to ensure that the new stables were suitable for the horses and designing a landscape layout that created new paths to the polo pitches without detracting from the beautiful lawns."

Inside the clubhouse, the additions were no less comprehensive. Esposito exposed the timber beams to give height and character to the rooms. He also used a lot of wood paneling, setting them off with some lines in crocodile-print leather.

Big, solid furniture - armchairs, club chairs and the like - helped to set off the wooden flooring. Also, a full-size snooker table was added to create a "gentleman's club" atmosphere along with a modern media room.

Finished, the club house exemplifies masculinity, all leather, velvet and dark wood, with horse as a theme running all over - from the line of mallets hanging by the exposed brick wall to the saddle-rack with a leather throw casually draped over it in the lounge.

"The boundary between residential and commercial blurs more and more each day," says Seth. "The large residential project will have kitchens and staff quarters big enough to support a hotel while hotels want to portray themselves as a 'home away from home'."

She's got something there, going by how busy her firm's been in the past year. And now Casa Forma's expanding, building on the goodwill from its existing clients.

Besides the private residence in India, there are a set of five houses for an extended family and another five-star hotel in Assam that the firm will be pitching for (an office in India is next on the cards).

A client would like Esposito to design the interiors of his home in Dubai, while another is relocating to Singapore and would like Casa Forma to do his new house there. So, Casa Forma goes wherever its clients go.

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