Three dis­tinct Draw­ing Rooms with a vari­a­tion on the same theme — British Raj and Vic­to­rian influ­ences still play a key role in our dec­o­ra­tive schemes for draw­ing rooms

By Saima Malik


n the days of the British Raj, the draw­ing room, also referred to as the par­lor, was the most lav­ishly appointed room in the Vic­to­rian home. The decor reflected the pros­per­ity and sta­tus, as well as the aes­thetic and cul­tural inter­ests of the occu­pants of the house. It usu­ally was the most spa­cious room in the house with the high­est ceil­ings, the most elab­o­rate archi­tec­tural designs and the most sump­tu­ous dec­o­ra­tions and fur­nish­ings. Though styles of decor var­ied, the one thing that remained con­stant was the fem­i­nine touch.

The favored wall­pa­per pat­tern incor­po­rated scrolls, vines and birds and were gen­er­ally small-scale and finely detailed. Ceil­ing mold­ings were elab­o­rately carved and painted in lighter tones taken from the color of the walls. Dec­o­ra­tions were added to the ceil­ing, usu­ally in the cor­ners and around the chan­de­lier. Win­dow drap­ery was also a sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture. The drapes were made of white muslin, dur­ing the spring and sum­mer and, sump­tu­ous fab­rics such as vel­vet, bro­cade and silk dur­ing the fall and win­ter. Folded and held back with ropes or scroll shaped fit­ments embell­ished with tas­sels, rib­bons and fes­toons. Amongst all the sofas, chairs, foot­stools and tables, the largest item was the uphol­stered sofa. Nowhere else in the house did the fash­ion for unin­hib­ited orna­men­ta­tion and deep, rich fab­rics and color scheme find bet­ter expres­sion than in the draw­ing room. The inten­tion was to cre­ate a room which was osten­ta­tious enough to be noticed and com­fort­able enough to be hos­pitable.

Pak­istan may have become inde­pen­dent in 1947, but the colo­nial influ­ences remain strong in our homes. The size of our Draw­ing Rooms may have decreased and dis­tinct ceil­ing mold­ings may have become scarce but draw­ing rooms are still effec­tive sta­tus sym­bols and bench­marks of our suc­cess in the world. Here’s look­ing at three dis­tinc­tive well-done draw­ing rooms, done by three equally dif­fer­ent women: Tan­veer Ijaz, Nasim Qadir and Faiza Malik from dif­fer­ent walks of life, a house wife, a social worker and a doc­tor, I found an under­ly­ing com­mon theme.

Com­mon Ide­ol­ogy

As in Vic­to­rian times, no mat­ter the size of the space under con­sid­er­a­tion the ide­ol­ogy still seems to be the same.

Sep­a­rate schemes, themes and ideas were employed but the main pur­pose of this room still reflects the sta­tus and aes­thet­ics of the lady of the house – depict­ing “glam­our”, “exclu­siv­ity” and “impec­ca­ble taste”!

Inter­est­ing Knick­knacks

All three draw­ing rooms may not con­tain the most expen­sive fur­ni­ture in town but they do con­tain indi­vid­ual and exclu­sive knick­knacks and per­sonal touches that pro­vide a bril­liant frame for the whole set­ting — for exam­ple excep­tion­ally done dry flower arrange­ment that add a bril­liant splash of color; expen­sive crys­tal pieces grouped together on a cen­ter table and inter­est­ing pot­tery, clay works and hand­made local arti­facts.

Rich and Shiny, Solid and Lux­u­ri­ous Uphol­stery

The fur­ni­ture, be it com­fort­able sturdy uphol­stered sofas of Nasim Qadir, del­i­cate fem­i­nine set­tees in Dr Faiza Malik’s draw­ing room or Vic­to­rian era chairs grac­ing Tan­veer Ijaz’s draw­ing room – all are draped in shiny fab­ric of var­i­ous hues of beige, white and cream. Here prints are avoided or scant­ily used while plain, good qual­ity fab­ric in shiny col­ors or self print pre­ferred. The clean smooth lines of their fur­ni­ture are best dis­played by such col­ors and they off set the vibrant col­ors of the rug and assorted paint­ings.

Ori­en­tal car­pets and glass topped cen­tre tables

Another com­mon but highly suc­cess­ful trick is the place­ment of one square rug, roughly 5 by 5 feet of ori­en­tal design in the mid­dle of the room under the cen­tre table. The cen­tre tables are glass topped to pro­vide a clear view of the intri­cate design below. The rug col­ors again com­mon to all three lovely rooms are dark: suc­cess­fully bring­ing out the lighter shades used in the room.

Strate­gi­cally placed lights

The light­ing is pro­vided by strate­gi­cally placed spot­lights which softly high­light the best fea­tures of a cor­ner, huge scenic lamps as well as the lone chan­de­lier daz­zling in its crys­tal bril­liance, lend the word fes­tive to the atmos­phere.

Dra­matic win­dow treat­ments

The cur­tains again fol­lowed the com­mon thread of filmy, flimsy and opu­lent! The stuff used is vel­vet satin, good cot­ton, all guar­an­tee­ing a good fall and for the sheers embroi­dered organza or net. Jew­eled cur­tain ties fur­ther enhance the lux­u­ri­ous effect.

Inno­v­a­tive ideas

Jazz­ing up the immac­u­late view are some very inno­v­a­tive ideas like a sump­tu­ous elon­gated win­dow seat lined with col­or­ful cush­ions which looks over Tan­veer Ijaz’s well– groomed gar­dens. Another is a glitzy but not gaudy chan­de­lier at Nasim Qadir’s place cou­pled with a huge paint­ing of a mosque in somber col­ors dom­i­nat­ing one of her walls. Dr Faiza Malik has an inter­est­ing set­tee with embroi­dered sides and carved lionesses for feet just next to a beau­ti­ful armoire!

Soft color schemes

Another com­mon theme is the use of soft col­ors for walls and uphol­stery, adding dabs of col­ors in the form of flow­ers, knick­knacks, rugs and of course the sophis­ti­cated touch: gor­geous paint­ings.

victorian value

Val­uemag issue 5, Pho­tos by GM Shah, Mag­a­zine lay­out by M. Asif

vv 2




This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the print edi­tion of Val­uemag, issue 5, Sep­tem­ber 2008

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