Devi Ratn, Taj, Contemporary, IHCL, Designers Group, Khozema Chitalwala, Hotel design
Photographs: Prashant Bhat

Intrinsically Indian

With Devi Ratn, Designers Group retains the inherent appeal of a heritage Taj property, whilst cleverly lending it a contemporary chic – albeit local – design language

Devi Ratn, Jaipur – IHCL SeleQtions, is quite the desert marvel. Set against the striking backdrop of the Aravalli Range, this heritage, boutique hotel embodies the glory and glamour of its home city. Spread across an expansive area of 20 acres, this development has all the makings of a quintessential Taj property. Preserving this quality from the original structure, it has recently been skillfully renovated by Designers Group to reflect a contemporary aesthetic, in turn ensuring that its design is in keeping with the times, yet pays subtle homage to its historic past.

It all began when Taj Hotels was to launch a new boutique brand – IHCL SeleQtions. Although the architecture of Devi Ratn’s existing structure was quite remarkable, the interior did not conform to the envelope, and Designers Group was brought in and assigned with the task of its renovation. Given the sheer reputation of Devi Ratn as an individual brand, Taj Hotels was not in favour of diluting the brand during this exercise. As a result, the original architecture became the guiding concept for the comprehensive makeover scheme. With a brief set of guidelines from the client, the design team got to work, aligning their plan with the ‘Ratn’ theme, while also choosing to reflect the venerable Taj as a brand, thus keeping both entities alive through the design.

“The major challenge was the short time span provided for this extensive project, as Taj was supposed to launch its boutique category soon; hence, most of the original civil work was retained in order to finish the project in the stipulated time span,” says Khozema Chitalwala, principal architect, Designers Group.

Of course, the final product gives none of this away. The entrance porch creates an immediate impact, as visitors are greeted with a gleaming ceiling design and interesting lighting elements. In addition, the space features an operational auto rickshaw as well as a royal chariot, both of which make for a great canvas for Jaipur’s indigenous art to be showcased, while also serving as a means to give guests a tour of the entire premises. One then enters the hotel through the airlock lobby, comprising a trendy furniture set-up, a toast to the local craftsmanship.

The magnificently fashioned main lobby illustrates the design intent rather fluidly. The existing flooring in a red chevron pattern has been retained; however, its inclusion did pose a challenge, since the entire sphere became a red monotone owing to the red GRC architectural shell. In order to lessen the impact of the overpowering red, the lobby has been converted into an assortment of colourful hues through the composition of vibrant décor items, furniture configurations, lighting elements and customised soft furnishings – inspired by peacocks and butterflies from the Bharatpur sanctuary. This is the overriding theme of the waiting area and the community seating space. Each chair has been customised with a unique set of prints, lending it a distinct style and giving the guests the feeling that it has been specifically designed for them. Chic-looking chandeliers dangle from the high ceiling, breaking the volume of the tunnel-like interiors and affording a palatial aura. A sculpture imitating a bowing horse has been installed at this site, in commemoration of Maharaja Jai Singh – a Rajput ruler. The reception pods are designed in a way that an existing haveli darwaza serves as the backdrop, with splendid mirror embroidery reflecting the Rajasthani culture. These pods were made using Indian stones and sport minimalistic design details. A feature wall is also included, complete with a chair – which acts like a throne – placed in front of it for its ‘instagrammable’ value. Small handicrafts emulating trucks, bullock carts and elephants, add interest. In fact, each of the components inserted into this composition has some reference to the arts & crafts of Jaipur, thereby expressing the exquisite poetry of the ‘pink city’ through these visuals. “The entire hotel exemplifies bold, big and captivating with a subtle regional nuance,” explains Chitalwala.

While the public areas were always interlinked via a connecting corridor, it has now been outlined to bring out its striking attributes with the use of exquisite lighting design and landscaping inspired by Mughal architecture. The design meanders towards a ramp that guides patrons into the all-day dining area. Called Vyom, this shared space has a rib vault framework. A variety of seating nooks have been created for an experiential vibe, which banks on a clear view of the picturesque Aravalli Range. Vyom also caters to guests with a segregated private fragment incorporating a community dining table, library units, artefacts and other décor elements that create a lively ambience. Interestingly, the wall in the buffet area is layered with quirky ‘henna art’, which has been laid out on white tiles in an eye-catching blue pattern.

Moving on, the luxurious bar area that has been christened Mandala, is a visual delight. The original ceiling – done in mirror – lends a celestial feel to the space. A new acoustic system has been fitted in order to retain that ceiling. The white curtains draped around the seating cluster are reflected on the ceiling in a fluid, imposing form, making for a definite showstopper feature, while also providing a softness to the room. The hard flooring was replaced with a customised carpet, and both the curtains and carpet assisted with the acoustical organisation of the bar area. Thus, with minimum changes needed, the original aura of the bar was recreated in the best possible manner.

The existing hotel was a complete suite-based property. With its lavish architecture and scale, the rooms were divided into four categories, where the most compact room measured over 550 sq-ft in size. The existing, resplendent flooring – laid out in a mosaic, chevron pattern of charcoal grey and white – was kept intact. In fact, the colours used for the flooring help to balance the rest of the design. The walls behind the headboards were reimagined with digital Indian art wall coverings, encompassing the concept of ‘ratn’ (gemstone or jewel), in turn also portraying Jaipur’s culture with contemporary sophistication. Some replica jewellery pieces were framed on these walls, highlighting the vibrancy of Jaipur’s heritage. On the other hand, the bedside lamps represent a mirage of semiprecious stones, which Jaipur is popular for fabricating; while the luxurious details incorporated in the form of bedside table handles in antique brass finish were inspired by the jewellery manufactured in Jaipur. The rooms have fairly large wooden windows, inspired by the strong geometry and filigree work of the building casing in a parametric format. Soft furnishings including multicoloured rugs, cushions, fabrics and curtains, with other accessories galvanised from the regal pheta and kalgi of the Maharaja Sahib of Jaipur resonate with the ‘glocal’ spirit. Indigenous wooden accessories like trucks and auto rickshaws – modelled on a small scale – were also integrated in the design, reflecting Indian art and culture while also adding to the vibe of the rooms. With this kind of hotel accommodation, be it a basic tray or a bedside table, luxury truly is in each detail.

All in all, as an amalgamation of history, design and extravagance, Devi Ratn is sure to leave a long-lasting impression on the minds of its visitors. And, for that, a special thanks is owed to its intrinsic forte – the celebration of its Indian roots, expertly resonated in the design by Chitalwala and team

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