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

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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.

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

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

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