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Indians love for gold goes beyond jewellery. It's now spilling over to interiors. Celebrity homes - including those of Shah Rukh Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Mukesh Ambani- now feature gold-leafed furniture, walls, ceilings and accessories.
In a way, it is a throwback to the times when maharajas and nawabs favoured gold leafing on just about any surface. But the present craze for this craft is also influenced by Europe where brass and gold accents are making a comeback after years of monochrome minimalism. This trend could be an offshoot of the rising demand for period properties - classical mansions, castles and palaces - across Europe.
In Mumbai, last week, Shehzad Khan of The GoldLeafing Studio organised a "come play with gold" workshop where participants could create their own art work using the leafing technique. Khan, the fourth generation of a traditional gold-leafer family, has taken on the task of sexing up this ancient craft. "It's now no longer limited to temple domes and hotel lobbies, " says Khan. His work decorates the library in SRK's home and the ceiling of his wife's bedroom. He has collaborated with designer Giorgio Armani on Armani Casa which will be a part of the World One tower in Mumbai and worked on the ballroom and the 'puja' room of Ambani's grand Mumbai home, Antilla.
"There's suddenly a great demand for gold leafing as artwork, " says Adita Bhaskar who is proficient in gold leafing and runs Ishatvam, a design store in Delhi. She has decorated spaces like alcoves and walls, furniture, and accessories like mirror frames and candlestands with gold-leafing. "It is a highly skilled craft where two inch-by-two inch or four inch-by-four inch leaves of pure gold or six inch-by-six inch leaves of synthetic Italian gold are applied on the surface. The finish of the product depends on the skill of the artist, " says Bhaskar.
Goldleafing is different from gold plating, which is restricted to metallic surfaces. Leafing, on the other hand, can be done on wood, concrete, POP and various metals. The leaves are pasted on to surfaces with a special glue. "There are different glues for different surfaces, " says Khan. Artists can create hundreds of different kinds of finishes with leafing. For instance, champagne leafing is a mix of gold and silver leaves and gives off a pinkish hue. During the day it looks more silvery but takes on a more burnished look at night.
Khan has created a special 24-karat goldleafing dashboard for a select clientele of the Mercedes Benz S-Class. One of his patrons also recently commissioned leafing work on an earthen pot to be broken by 'Govindas' at Mumbai's famous dahi handi festivities held on Janmashtami.
Of course, 24-karat goldleafing is very expensive but there are plenty of options available in the market. Italian gold, mixes of bronze and gold, silver and platinum, are comparatively cheaper. "Leafing is now an affordable luxury. And it can be contemporarised and used in paintings, on different objects and even to create minimalist furniture, " says Khan.
Gilded Indian furniture is a hit in the West because it plays on the whole royal theme. "It makes the product internationally relevant, " says Gunjan Gupta, the award-winning interior designer from Delhi. Her gilded 'dining throne' is very popular with her international clients for this reason.
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