Last week on a lovely spring night, the manicured moonlit gardens at Bikaner House in the heart of the capital came alive as a rather unusual venue for a fashion pop-up event. It was curated by Vayu: Design for Living, a charming little concept store located inside Bikaner House.

Effortlessly luxurious but with a touch of restraint, the spring collections by Lecoanet Hemant (the designer duo of Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar) and Rajni Malla that were showcased that evening were symbiotic of the ethos of Vayu, which celebrates the idea of modern India.

Vayu is the brainchild of design experts Dave Chang and Vivek Sahni. It is as much of a visual tour de force as a boutique stockist of assorted modern masterpieces and traditional handicrafts. It interprets contemporary living, where past and present can be combined harmoniously with elegance and wit.

“We partner with artisanal communities, designers, artists and the occasional maverick to showcase things that we love, both contemporary and antique. Its bricolage aesthetic is a celebration of the complexity of India with an emphasis on Rajasthan," says Sahni.

The product range is a diverse mix of heritage pieces and future classics: think quirky jewellery pieces, lifestyle products, colourful dhurries, personalized stationery, intricate ‘pichwais’, breezy clothes, and handcrafted colonial, mid-century and contemporary Indian furniture and one-of-a-kind objets d’art.

“We wanted to keep things simple, and made by people that we like to work with," says Sahni, whose in-house team also makes some of the minimalistic brass and marble side tables.

“Most of the pieces we stock are one-offs, which require us to keep updating our roster of products constantly. Interesting pop-ups also help add an element of freshness to the mix," he adds.

Bikaner House, restored recently to its former glory by Mumbai-based architect Abha Narain Lambah, is located in a quiet, serendipitous corner opposite India Gate. It was earlier occupied by government offices. It also functions as a popular terminus for buses to Rajasthan.

Instead of maintaining the property as yet another guest house, the Rajasthan government decided to open the premises to the public. There is a newly opened café at the back, and the gardens and meeting rooms are available on rent. But the opportunity to open a store, which comprises three salon-style rooms, came up through a tender to Chang and Sahni. They initially dismissed the idea but decided to take the plunge after much deliberation.

Interestingly, the name Vayu was actually inspired by Badal Mahal at Junagarh Fort in Bikaner. “While we were thinking about the interiors of the store, our thoughts kept going back to the Hall of Clouds. We then thought of Cloud room, Rain room and the Centre Hall, which is how the store is also designed. Vayu in Sanskrit means air and was a natural consequence of the original line of thought," Sahni says.

Sahni’s and Chang’s eye for detail is evident in every corner. Light, airy and playful, Vayu possesses a very cool and curated ambience. “It seemed obvious, if elliptical, to connect these rooms back to the original Badal Mahal in Bikaner," says Sahni. The walls were first painted in silvery gold and then whitewashed about eight times. “These washes softened the gold to a very pale scumbled blue which we then used to paint the main hall," he adds. The pièce de résistance is the extraordinary traced cloud pattern running through the walls of the third room.

Cherished furniture and hand-picked decoratives fill the store in a meaningful way. Even the trees surrounding the store have become a part of the aesthetic.

Acutely aware that Vayu’s off-kilter location may not always garner enough footfalls, Sahni says that the concept is more important than commerce. “Luxury is not always about commodities. It can be about chancing upon a little gem in an unexpected location," he adds.

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