Very often, we know what we want our homes and offices to look like, but feel helpless when we have to translate our dreams into reality. In a true design sense the essence of interior design lies in how one creates space or articulates the space, rather than with what one fills it up.
Dhaka today is experiencing drastic urbanisation. Old single-unit housing is being torn down in favour of lush apartments that can contain several families at one. The living spaces are also becoming more compact. Yet in some sections of the city, particularly Old Dhaka landmark buildings like the Ahsan Manzil and the Lalbagh Fort retain their Moghul-inspired architectural features. Other buildings of interest around the city, include the Curzon Hall, Dhaka University, and Eden Girl's College, whose styles sport colonial influences.
Back in the early 60's, Dhaka had not yet become familiar with high-rise buildings. The first attractive green glass building was completed late in the decade at Motijheel. It is Bangladesh Bank, still very much the heart of Motijheel. In the ground floor, there is a big public transaction hall room. Two long art works still carry the glory of this building, one, an Aminul Islam masterpiece depicting the evolution of money, the other a beautiful combination of wood and brass by artist Murtuza Bashir. These beautiful art works still attract visitors.
Dhanmondi was the first residential area in the middle of Dhaka, and appeared around the late 50's. Banani, Gulshan and Baridhara developed into residential areas a decade or so later. The houses in these newer areas were built on large plots of land, often one bigha or more and usually very beautiful. Architects not only planned their houses, they also planned front lawns; backyards, out-house for staff, and security guards' rooms.
Between the 60's and the 80's, people used to decorate their houses as per their own taste and aptitude. The more well-off families decorated their homes with foreign furniture and objets d'art from abroad. They used antique furniture, gold plated coffee tables, heavy curtains and Persian carpeting. The focus of interior design was mainly on the living room, which was the most public area in the house. Kitchens and bathrooms were largely ignored. People made do with traditional fixtures, and ordinary central lighting was thought sufficient for illumination. They also furnished their houses according to their own tastes. Lamaras, Delta and Continental were popular furniture shops around that time.
Towards the 80's, a gradual change appeared. The Mirpur Ceramic industry began producing red bricks, which found their way onto the walls of verandahs and corridors. Guided by architects and engineers, people sought to conceal water pipes and electrical wiring running along these walls. Tiled floors began appearing, and a large number of business began importing tiles and bathroom accessories.
The 90's saw the start of the apartment-building race, adding a new dimension to our lifestyles. Around the same time, architects and interior designers turned their attention to space planning for office, bank, hospital and other commercial facilities and homes. This was also the time when social interaction between the east and west brought in new styles and ideas, and this was reflected in the change in the way interiors, be they for houses or cafes or hospitals, were planned and decorated.
Around the mid nineties Berger Paint and Exterior & Interior Private Limited from India jointly introduced one year interior designing diploma course for the first time in Bangladesh. It was the starting point for local interior design as a separate industry.
Early on in the last decade, people began to really think about the rooms in their homes as separate spaces that needed separate treatments. Thus bathrooms today have separate wet/dry areas, kitchens have well-planned storage areas, houses have proper storage/utility rooms and facilities for service staff.
The home, is perhaps the most obvious and tangible expression of its owner's character, interests and aspirations. The homes with the most welcoming ambiance, the most distinctive looks and the most enviable design innovation are always there which seem to have evolved naturally around their owners.
Living in style carries its own individual meaning for each person. Some people equate style with current fashion trends, others with over-stated luxury. Home is a place of sanctuary, and no place gives us a more profound sense of shelter than the home. It is where we find respite from our daily cares, and an intimate space that clearly express our identity. There are some essential factors are very related with the interior work. Let's take a closer look at these.
Double height ceiling and large French windows, two lost features of the colonial architecture, can still be found in modern Dhaka buildings. Illustrious writer-dramatist Syed Shamsul Huq's (built in the eighties) and late Dr Mazharul Haque's (built and interior-designed in the sixties) residences blend western décor with its post-colonial cousin, giving design a new meaning. The latter is markedly unique in the sense that it successfully played with style and function at a time when the concept of interior design was in its infancy. Rafter-like concrete beams and both the buildings' frantic wish to make the best use of sunlight have set them apart in a city that is gradually turning into a concrete jungle
Space Plan : The space in a room naturally set by boundaries and by the arrangement of its furniture. Well planned furniture placement can draw attention to specific areas or can create a sense that one may wonder freely. A good space plan guides you effortlessly from setting to setting: a place for family and friends to gather in comfort, a niche for quiet reading or day dreaming. Always think about traffic flow. Place your sofa far away from the entrance/ doorway if your room is small for more visual depth as it forms a division point where it is located. Allow minimum space of approximately 3ft between a table and a wall for comfort at the dining room.
Colours : Selecting colours from the colour palette may be too confusing for some when it comes to matching them. A cue would be to choose similar colour tones, shades and tints to blend the scheme. Stick to one dominant colour and up to three in a room. Pale shades reflect lights and dark colours absorb. So, it is important to evaluate the size of the room and to access the source of natural light to avoid the squashy feeling in a small space. We can also create a feature wall with multiple colours in lines, checkers or varying sizes of the same shape in different shades of a colour. Use curtains that are a few shades lighter than the sofa or create a feature wall using the same colour as the other walls but of a darker shade. Colour choices should reflect the function of the room. Generally, vibrant and bright colours are to be avoided for bedrooms which are a place for soothing shades that calms the nerves. Adventurous fresh colours like blue, yellow, green may be used in the bathrooms for novelty.
Lighting: Avoid fluorescent lights for their bluish glow. Low-voltage halogen down-lights are the preferred choice nowadays as they mimic natural light. Remember that balance is essential. Light fittings and sockets positions should be planned before renovation starts to avoid pulling wires here and there haphazardly. Ranging from down-lights, up-lights, spotlights to floor lamps, wall lights, chandeliers, etc. the inclusion of lighting is equally important as the type of light to be used and should be planned to achieve the best visual effects.
Lighting up a dark corner can drastically make a room appear larger. This is even more essential if the room lacks natural light. Do not forget the dimmers for your down-lights which allow you to alter the brightness for ambience or mood settings. Position lightings to create focal points like an artistic floor lamp by a mini-landscape or a pendant light over a dining table. Shine down lights or spotlights on your glass-wares, ceramic vases or wine collections, etc. for added lustrous appeal. To create a meditation mood, use candles or tea lights which flickers to the atmosphere.
Textures: Laminates in wood textures offer a soothing and graceful effect. By applying them on the walls, it lends a tranquil mood to the living area or bedrooms. Alternatively, a play of wood grains in different directions subtly decorates as a feature wall, too. Concrete and cement effects or rough stone walls add a hint of outdoor to your interior especially if you fancy a bold characteristic or rustic appeal.
Photo: Tamim Sujat
Flooring: Large polished porcelain tiles are currently popular. Their high-gloss and reflective surfaces suggest sheer opulence at a cost that is much easier on the pocket as compared to marbles and granites.
Decorative mosaic tiles add visual interest and a cheerful mood for flooring or as highlights on the kitchen and bathroom walls. Gaining its popularity especially in the bathrooms, these tiny tiles are making a tremendous comeback with more varieties in colors and the versatility to create interesting motifs when arranged creatively. Incorporate a bed of pebbles and ornate seashells and starfish, etc. or simply display some artificial flora or artworks beneath temper-proof glass casing in the raised platform as design accents and you can achieve aesthetics without additional fittings!
Choosing Furniture: If you have plenty of collectibles, cater display shelves to display them in the most organised and gracious manner.
For fabric sofas or seat covers, it is always safer to opt for the plains with textures. Stripes are pretty formal while florals may appear old-fashioned and too dominating when applied in quantity.
Use related colours, similar wood or fabric tones, etc. to blend the different elements [i.e. flooring, furniture, upholsteries, etc.] together in a room. Avoid too much contrast in colours and tones between the furniture and the floor and the walls especially if there is a space constraint.
Window Treatment: Windows mediate between the world outdoors and the world within. Their decoration present a vital aspect of interior design. It is usually prudent to avoid heavy velvet panels. These are more suitable for cooler climates. In warmer climates like ours, uncomplicated drapes and curtains can help streamline the transition between outdoor and indoor living space. Bangladeshi handloom, raw silk, and muslin fabrics are very eye-catching when used as window treatments. Sheers should be soft, demure and romantic. Personify and create accents with interesting braids, ribbons, tie-backs, tassels etc.
Pictures and Ornaments: If you fancy putting up plenty of pictures of varied colours, keep the decor minimal and use light colours on the walls and floor for the best effect. Instead of hanging them up the conventional way, lean the bigger pieces of murals (small items would appear accidental) against the wall/skirting or along a bookshelf for a relaxed, trendy appeal. Monochrome or black and white photographs add personality to a plain area - a preferred choice to colour prints for futuristic interiors.
Mirrors are good choices that can make a room look bigger and brighter. For visual space use those of bigger sizes without frames.
Create harmony with a unified scheme of colours for your ornaments especially if they come in varied sizes, like complementing your glassware and fabrics by using the same colour of different tones.
Cushions on a sofa and bed-linens are good objects for creating colour accents. However, again, it is advised to confine within one colour scheme with variation on its tones to maintain a sense of unity. Candles, room essences and incense sticks are ornamental and their individual fragrances create a dramatic reminder with its particular odor like the delicate sense of frangipani for African safari or the smell of incense remind us of Thai temples, etc.
These are the essential factors to decor a house but there are lots of other issues; that always merges with renovation work. Now we will discuss about current interior works of few sections of our homes.
Functionally and aesthetically, an entrance is a starting point. It is also the public face of a private domain, a chance to make a clear declaration of personal style to the world at large.
The entrance is normally a pass through area. Sometimes in an individual big house a spacious entry hall is provided for entrance. Often an entrance may be a corridor, or a stairway. Whatever you have to work with, a little imagination can make it look good. Since it is the first area that people see in your home, it should be as inviting as one can make it.
Colour : Light colours create the illusion of space, and an atmosphere of calm. Bright colours add energy. The entrance hall or corridor is a good place to experiment with colours.
Floor Ideas : Entryway, hallway and stairway floors should be coordinated so they make smooth transitions from one area of the house to another. You do not necessarily need to use the same floor covering throughout the house, but materials should be planned so the colours, textures and tones make a visual connection. There are various types of mood you can draw as per desire. You can use parquet wooden tiles, or polish porcelain tiles, or a marble floor with a daring pattern. With this, you can blend rugs or shatranji, or may be heavy duty carpet.
Lighting: To make people feel more comfortable in an entry with a very high ceiling, install translucent wall sconces. This will create a secondary ceiling line that gives the desired human scale and makes the space feel less intimidating. Reflecting light from the ceiling will help make low ceilings seem higher and small entries seem larger.
Lighting a painting mounted on the wall along the stairway, or illuminating plants or a sculpture on a stair landing, can also help a small entry assume the appearance of a grand entrance hall. Switching and dimming systems can take the same entry that was made to look dramatic for a big party or event and instantly transform it into an intimate greeting area for small gatherings. Lighting can and should be that flexible. By using an integrated dimming system, homeowners can create whatever kind of setting and tone they would like. Lighting can be used to set the mood and even provide timing cues for the evening's activities.
Furniture : Once again, experiment with the look. Put in an ornamental console table at the entrance, for storing keys and mail, or simply for displaying decoration items. If you have a little more space, add a pair of chairs and create a waiting area.
Brighten up the walls with art. Add breadth to a narrow corridor entrance with mirrors, or have a long carpet runner lead to a floral arrangement at the end.
The decor of entrance can differ from person to person. This is a place where individual mood is reflected. Think of the entrance as a preview to the main event of our home. It is a taste of things to come, where we live, and our heritage and culture.
One can let the imagination run free when designing a dining room. Whether one is to devote a full room for the purpose or just a corner, there's scope for a lot of drama. While the focus is on the food, there should exist alternative visual interests on which diners can cast their gaze during leisurely reports. These can range from collections to artwork to rainbow lighting.
A separate dining room is luxury for many people. In apartment's town houses and in many modern homes a section of the living room is the space for table and chairs, meaning that the style chosen for the main living area is carried over into the dining part of the room.
As the focus of the dining area is the food, table setting play a key role. With a bit of innovation and enthusiasm we can make our table as interesting as the food we place on it. Expensive dinnerware does not necessarily fulfill a design plan. Our local markets are flooded with endless crockery choices that are as affordable as they are attractive.
Tableware, tablecloths and napkins, and flower settings can work together to completely transform the dining experience.
Bathroom decor is currently considered the most important part of a residence's interior. An ideal bathroom is functional, clean, maintainable, and has a tidy appearance, with wet and dry areas separated by a low ledge. It is a place you can retreat to in privacy, spending uninterrupted time tending to your needs. It reflects your individual sense of style by displaying your love of particular colours, your favorite textures and patterns. There are various styles of bathroom decor to choose from such as Indian-style, British Style, Chinese Style, Luxury, Different Levels Black and white etc.
Personality charged bathrooms have taken the place of the bland, utilitarian space of old, which fulfilled a purpose nothing in terms visual expressiveness. Tactile materials, sensual colors and interestingly unorthodox fittings create a distinctive identity, yet it's all for nothing unless sound planning first provides a room that functions efficiently and performs reliably.
If you are remodeling and old bathroom, you will also be limited by the existing positions of the plumbing. Pipes can, of course be torn out and replaced in a different configuration, but this will add considerably to the cost of work being done. Even in a brand new bathroom, there will be some restriction as to where you can locate the major fixtures.
Space is an important factor. Care must be taken in order to accommodate all the necessary utilities within the limited space, and this involves good planning. When everything is in place, even a small bathroom can be comfortable, whereas clutter can make a large bathroom seem stuffy.
Safety is another issue. Bathroom floors should not be slippery, so matte tiles are an ideal choice for flooring. Such tiles are available locally in endless variety. Wetness is a hazard. Floor-length shower curtains are one solution. To further minimize wetness, it is necessary to keep the needed accessories close to the bathing area. Bathroom mats are also a good idea.
Lighting is another important consideration. In our country, traditional lighting is handled very badly. A bathroom must have light fixtures, plug-points switches that are grounded and protected with circuit breakers and kept well away from the bathing area.
The door to the bathroom has to be chosen very carefully. Wooden or particle-board doors don't last very long, while plastic doors, which are more durable, are not popular with home-owners.
A bedroom is the one space in the house that can be closed off from the rest of the world. This is the place where parents can get a break from the kids and children can be alone with friends. The bedroom is the location where every day begins and ends.
The bed is usually the focal point of a bedroom, so dress it up with attractive bed accessories, including comfortable throw pillows to call attention to the headboard.
There are some practical aspects to be addressed in a master bedroom, in which two people often waking up and getting dressed at the same time. If space permits separate storage for each, one should include dresser and bureau; two closed 'his' and 'hers' sections.
If there's room, also include a comfortable chair along with a small table and a lamp. This quiet spot is great for reading relaxing on enjoying evening tea or morning coffee in the privacy for your restart.
Colour : White or pale colour- blues, greens or pinks create a restful ambiance in the bedroom, making sleeping easier. Cheery colours, such as yellow work for those who like rising with the sun. Bright fun colours are usual in a child's room. In bedroom design, ambient light should take priority, Ambient light in most flattering to people: it eliminates harsh shadow and helps erase dark circles and soften age lines.
Another effective lighting technique for bedrooms is to place a halogen indirect light source on top of a tall piece of furniture or false ceiling. The bedroom is your getaway space, so design it to please yourself.
People today desire beautiful living spaces and workplaces. The interior design sector is enjoying a boom as never before, as more people are waking up to its potential and joining this field. It's obviously a good thing for the country, but aside from that, it's definitely heartening to see that we are finally waking up the art of living beautifully.
By Nazneen Haque Mimi
Photo: Hasan Saifuddin Chandan
Photo courtesy: JOURNEYMAN