The Kasauli hills are very special for former model Feroze Gujral. She studied at the Lawrence School, Sanawar, and grew up in these hills. “I always wanted a house overlooking Sanawar so we bought this land a long time ago and for many years it just lay here,” says Feroze, standing in one of the gardens from where the red roofs of her alma mater are distinctly visible. But husband Mohit, a developer by profession, not only built a villa for them, he also constructed 16 other homes on the hillside in the Lower Mall area, which were sold to friends. Of course, their six-bedroom home is at a vantage point, with a clear view of the hills.
Inside, it’s warm and lovely, with Feroze giving it a different treatment from her city home. French windows, and pinewood ceilings from wood sourced locally, give it the feel of a hill home. Instead of art, Feroze has used paint differently—the walls have watercolour murals with a forest theme and wild animals running throughout the house. Feroze scoured books for pictures and then got art students to execute what she had in mind.
The Gujrals’ living room is brought alive with the vibrant red wall on which an owl has been painted, ostensibly to keep a watchful eye on the house. Styled by Ragini Singh
The attention to detail is visible in the fact that all the creatures are hill animals, such as bears, squirrels and hedgehogs. It’s also a home built for family and friends to enjoy and names of the couple’s nephews and nieces are embedded in the paintings.
Some walls have been left blank to display family photographs that Feroze has grouped together and framed. Family portraits by Dayanita Singh, a friend, occupy pride of place in the basement. The other facet that lends a homely touch is the fact that every piece in the house has a story to tell, and none of it is store bought. “All the furniture is special, it’s been collected over the years; nothing has been bought except the Ikea sofa-cum-beds. Also, when friends and family asked me what they could gift me for this home, I told them not to buy me new things but to give me something of their own. So the dining chairs are my mom-in-law’s old ones, a chest has come from a friend, a lamp from another. That way the entire house has a history, each piece a story.”
The home plays host to friends and family throughout the year, especially to the couple’s children, 20-year-old son Armaan and 16-year-old daughter Alaiia. “A lot of the house is the kids’, they use it a lot…they come with friends.” Feroze, whose father is Malayalee and mother Hyderabadi, wanted this home to capture the essence of her childhood, when she would go for holidays to her family estate in the south. “For me, it’s very important that a hill home is where family and friends come together like the olden days... the feeling of an estate home, where things are old, and history is welcoming. We celebrated my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary here; it was a fantastic evening. If you have a place like this, it should be shared, otherwise what’s the point?”
Feroze has ensured that two permanent staff members are always at hand for them. “I like a house to be lived in, not locked up. I don’t like coming and then cleaning for the first two days and dealing with the smell.” She’s also ensured that whatever she has here is not expensive. “All the things are priceless but I am not worried about breakables. In a hill home if someone is coming with kids, or my kids are coming, it should be easy, so there’s all simple stuff. If it breaks, it breaks, if it’s missing, it’s missing.”
The spacious attic is son Armaan’s domain.With a stunning view and floor seating near the window, it’s a great place to chill out. His sports medals line the walls
For someone with access and exposure, Feroze is particularly grounded. Not one to sit around and give orders, she’s up on her feet, taking pains to ensure that every corner is perfect.
No wonder then that though it’s very spacious and luxurious, the villa feels warm and lived in—just like home.
All content courtesy Better Homes and Gardens
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