Discover the essence of Indian interior decor, design, and architecture with a mesmerizing array of terms and concepts specific to India. Dive into the richness of cultural heritage!
Welcome to the vibrant world of interior decor, design, and architecture specific to India. As an experienced professional in the interior décor industry, I am thrilled to take you on a captivating journey through the rich tapestry of terms and concepts that define the essence of Indian design.
From the grandeur of Rajasthani Fort style to the intricate charm of Chikankari embroidery, each element contributes to the unique and awe-inspiring aesthetics that have been celebrated for centuries. Embrace the sacred symbols, traditional handicrafts, and regional influences that shape the soul of Indian spaces. Join me as we explore the essence of interior decor, design, and architecture specific to India in this enlightening article.
Architectural Styles and Elements
- Chhajja [chuh-jah] – A projecting eave or balcony at the top of an Indian building, providing shade and shelter from rain.
- Jharokha [jha-ro-kha] – An ornamental, enclosed balcony with intricately carved latticework found in traditional Indian architecture.
- Mandapa [muhn-duh-puh] – A pillared outdoor hall or pavilion often used for religious or ceremonial purposes.
- Qibla [kib-luh] – The direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, considered significant when orienting a mosque’s prayer space.
- Vastu Shastra [vah-stoo shah-struh] – An ancient Indian architectural science that dictates the design and layout of buildings to promote harmony and positive energy flow.
Traditional Indian Decorative Elements
- Ajanta-Ellora [uh-jahn-tuh eh-lo-ruh] – Intricate hand-carved wall murals and sculptures found in ancient Indian cave temples, often inspiring contemporary designs.
- Ganesha [guh-nay-shuh] – The Hindu deity symbolizing wisdom and auspicious beginnings, often depicted in decor elements like statues or wall art.
- Jali [jah-lee] – A perforated stone or wood screen used as a decorative element, providing privacy while allowing light and air to pass through.
- Meenakari [mee-nuh-kah-ree] – An intricate form of enamel work that adds vibrant colors to metal surfaces, commonly used in decorative pieces.
- Rangoli [run-go-lee] – Traditional Indian floor art created using colorful powders or flower petals, often used to welcome guests during festivities.
Furniture and Furnishings
- Diwan [dee-wahn] – A traditional Indian seating furniture that serves as a couch or bed, usually adorned with cushions and bolsters.
- Jhoola [joo-luh] – A swing or hanging seat often made of wood, ropes, or chains, commonly found in verandas or courtyards.
- Pichwai [pich-vah-ee] – Intricately painted cloth or tapestry depicting scenes from Lord Krishna’s life, used as a decorative wall hanging.
- Sheesham [shee-sham] – A durable and richly grained hardwood often used to craft elegant and sturdy furniture pieces.
- Tarkashi [tar-kah-shee] – The art of delicate silver or gold wire inlay work on wooden surfaces, adding a touch of opulence to furniture.
Textiles and Fabrics
- Bandhani [bun-dah-nee] – A traditional tie-and-dye technique used to create vibrant patterns on fabrics like sarees and scarves.
- Chikankari [chih-kahn-kah-ree] – Exquisite embroidery done with white thread on pastel-colored fabrics, widely used for apparel and home decor.
- Ikat [ee-kaht] – A fabric dyeing technique that produces blurred and intricate patterns, commonly seen in upholstery and soft furnishings.
- Kantha [kahn-tah] – A form of embroidery originating from West Bengal, often seen on quilts, throws, and cushions.
- Patola [puh-toh-luh] – A double-ikat woven silk textile known for its vibrant colors and geometric patterns, commonly used for sarees and furnishings.
Colors and Palettes
- Haldi [hul-dee] – The Hindi term for turmeric, representing the warm and auspicious yellow color often used in Indian decor.
- Indigo [in-di-goh] – A deep blue dye traditionally extracted from plants, widely used in textiles and wall coloring in Indian homes.
- Rang Barse [rung bar-say] – A joyful and colorful palette symbolizing the arrival of spring, often used in festive decor.
- Peacock Blue [pee-kok bloo] – A vibrant shade of blue, inspired by the hues of a peacock’s feathers, commonly used in accents and decor items.
- Vermilion [ver-mil-yuhn] – A bright red-orange pigment often used in religious ceremonies and as a symbol of purity in Indian decor.
Materials and Finishes
- Athangudi Tiles [ah-tuhn-goo-dee tylz] – Handcrafted, colorful tiles with unique geometric patterns, commonly used for flooring in South Indian homes.
- Banarasi Silk [bah-nah-rah-see silk] – Luxurious silk fabric from Varanasi, well-regarded for its intricate patterns, often used for curtains and upholstery.
- Chettinad Woodwork [chet-ti-naad wood-wurk] – Exquisite wooden carvings found in Chettinad region, known for their craftsmanship and elaborate designs.
- Pattachitra [put-tah-chee-truh] – A traditional style of painting on cloth, usually depicting mythological themes, used as wall decor.
- Zardozi [zar-doh-zee] – Elaborate embroidery using metallic threads and beads, adding opulence to textiles and furnishings.
- Chettinad Architecture [chet-ti-naad ar-ki-tek-cher] – A distinctive style of architecture originating from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, characterized by its grandeur and intricate woodwork.
- Goan-Portuguese Influence [go-an por-chuh-geeze in-floo-uhns] – A design style influenced by the Portuguese colonial era, featuring vibrant colors, ornate tiles, and arched doorways.
- Rajasthani Fort Style [rah-jas-thah-nee fort stahyl] – Inspired by the majestic forts of Rajasthan, this style emphasizes grand arches, domes, and intricate stone carvings.
- Kerala Backwater Charm [keh-ruh-luh bak-waw-tur charm] – Drawing from the tranquil beauty of Kerala’s backwaters, this style incorporates natural elements, wooden architecture, and open spaces.
- Mughal Architecture [moo-guhl ar-ki-tek-cher] – Influenced by the Mughal empire, this architectural style showcases ornate domes, arches, and intricate carvings.
- Aarti Diya [ahr-tee dee-yuh] – A traditional oil lamp used in religious ceremonies, often displayed decoratively during festivals.
- Filigree Lanterns [fil-uh-gree lan-terns] – Delicately crafted metal lanterns with intricate cut-out patterns, casting mesmerizing shadows when illuminated.
- Hurricane Lamps [hur-i-keyn lamps] – Vintage-style lamps with glass shades, often used as elegant tabletop decor.
- Moroccon Chandeliers [mo-rok-uhn chan-de-leers] – Exquisite chandeliers inspired by Moroccan designs, featuring intricate metalwork and colored glass.
- Tukkal [tuhk-kahl] – Earthen oil lamps, used in clusters or rows during Diwali, creating a warm and festive ambiance.
Religious and Cultural Symbols
- Om [ohm] – A sacred symbol representing the essence of the universe, often featured in decor items and wall art.
- Swastika [swah-stih-kuh] – An ancient symbol of prosperity and auspiciousness in Indian culture, often incorporated into decor pieces.
- Toran [toh-run] – Decorative door hangings made of flowers, leaves, or fabric, commonly used during festivals and celebrations.
- Trishul [tri-shool] – The trident symbolizing Lord Shiva, often seen as an ornamental piece or religious symbol in Indian homes.
- Yantra [yuhn-truh] – Geometric diagrams representing cosmic energies, often used as decorative wall art in Vastu-compliant spaces.
Handicrafts and Artifacts
- Bidriware [bid-ree-wair] – Craftsmanship originating from Bidar, known for its exquisite metalwork with silver and brass inlays.
- Dhokra [dho-krah] – Traditional metal casting technique creating intricate tribal-themed figurines and decor pieces.
- Madhubani Art [muhd-hoo-bah-nee art] – An ancient art form involving colorful folk paintings depicting nature and mythology, used as wall decor.
- Papier Mâché [pa-pee-ay mash-ay] – Artisanal craft using paper pulp to create intricate sculptures, often used as decor accents.
- Thanjavur Paintings [tahn-jah-vur paint-ings] – Classical South Indian art form featuring richly detailed paintings of deities, often displayed in Indian homes.
Flooring and Wall Treatments
- Gond Art [gohnd art] – Indigenous art form known for its vibrant colors and intricate patterns, often seen as murals or wall decorations.
- Jaisalmer Stone [jahy-suhl-mur stohn] – A golden-hued sandstone used in architecture and flooring, popular in Rajasthan.
- Kalamkari [kuh-luhm-kah-ree] – A form of hand-painted or block-printed textile, often used as tapestries or wall hangings.
- Khatauli Tiles [kah-taw-lee tylz] – Terracotta tiles with floral designs originating from Khatauli, commonly used for flooring.
- Mural Art [myoo-ruhl art] – Large-scale paintings or artworks directly applied to walls or ceilings, often depicting scenes from mythology or local culture.
Sacred Spaces and Altars
- Puja Room [poo-jah room] – A dedicated space in a home for conducting daily prayers and rituals, adorned with sacred images and idols.
- Ghar Mandir [gahr mun-deer] – A small, ornate home temple where the family performs religious ceremonies and rituals.
- Namaz Space [nah-maaz speys] – A designated area in a home for Muslims to perform their daily prayers, often oriented towards the Qibla direction.
- Vedi [vay-dee] – A raised platform or altar used during Hindu weddings and ceremonies, adorned with flowers and decorations.
- Zoroastrian Fire Temple [zoh-ro-astri-an fahyur tem-puhl] – A place of worship for Zoroastrians, featuring a sacred fire and intricate architectural details.
Traditional Indian Carpets and Rugs
- Agra Carpets [ah-grah car-pets] – Hand-knotted carpets from Agra, known for their intricate floral and geometric patterns.
- Durrie [dur-ee] – Flatwoven rugs made from cotton, wool, or jute, often used as floor coverings or wall hangings.
- Kashmiri Silk Carpets [kash-mee-ree silk car-pets] – Luxurious carpets woven in intricate patterns using silk threads, famous for their softness and sheen.
- Kilim [kee-leem] – Flatwoven rugs with vibrant colors and geometric patterns, originating from the Middle East and Central Asia.
- Persian Rugs [per-shee-uhn rugs] – Handwoven rugs from Persia (Iran), renowned for their intricate designs and high-quality craftsmanship.
Doors and Entrances
- Carved Teak Doors [kahrvd teek dohrz] – Ornate entrance doors made from teak wood, often showcasing intricate carvings and brass accents.
- Haveli Doors [hah-vee-lee dohrz] – Traditional doors inspired by ancient Indian mansions (havelis), featuring elaborate carvings and motifs.
- Jharokha Windows [jha-ro-kha win-dohz] – Decorative windows with latticework, projecting from the exterior walls of Indian buildings.
- Patra [puh-truh] – An intricately designed wooden door panel, commonly used in traditional Indian homes and temples.
- Qutub Minar Arches [koo-toob mee-nahr ahr-chez] – Arched doorways inspired by the Qutub Minar monument in Delhi, featuring geometric patterns and floral motifs.
Water Features and Fountains
- Baoli [bah-oh-lee] – A traditional Indian stepwell featuring a series of steps leading down to a water reservoir, often used as a decorative element.
- Charbagh Fountain [chahr-bahg foun-tin] – A central fountain in a four-part garden layout, commonly seen in Mughal-inspired landscapes.
- Jala Neti [jah-luh neh-tee] – A decorative water feature used in traditional Indian architecture to enhance cooling and aesthetics.
- Shahi Talaab [shah-hee tuh-lahb] – A regal water tank or pond often found in palace gardens, surrounded by lush greenery.
- Zanana Fountain [zuh-nah-nah foun-tin] – An elegant water feature located in the women’s quarters of historical Indian palaces.
- Chajja [chuh-jah] – A projecting eave or roof overhang that provides shade and protects walls from rainwater, commonly seen in Indian buildings.
- Dome [dohm] – A rounded vault forming a roof or part of a roof, often seen in religious buildings and historical monuments.
- Lotus Dome [loh-tuhs dohm] – A dome design inspired by the shape of a lotus flower, commonly used in Indian architecture and temple structures.
- Shikhara [shee-khah-ruh] – A tower-like spire or pinnacle crowning the roof of a Hindu temple, symbolizing the abode of the gods.
- Vihara Roof [vee-hah-rah roof] – A tiered and sloping roof design often found in Buddhist monasteries and stupas, resembling a stepped pyramid.
In conclusion, the captivating realm of interior decor, design, and architecture specific to India presents an inspiring fusion of history, culture, and craftsmanship. With a plethora of terms and elements at our disposal, Indian design offers a boundless playground for creative expression.
From the majestic Mughal domes to the intricate Jharokha windows, every aspect reveals a story of rich heritage and artistry. As a seasoned professional in the interior décor industry, I firmly believe that incorporating these Indian elements into our spaces can elevate them to a realm of beauty and cultural significance. So, let us draw from the essence of India’s design legacy and craft spaces that truly resonate with our souls.
Shilpa Ahuja is a designer and editor of Decorisk Magazine. She has worked in hotel interiors at The Park Hotels, India, and has completed several home interior design projects as a freelancer.
She completed her Masters in Design Studies (MDesS) degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She also has a Bachelor degree in Architecture (B.Arch) from Chandigarh College of Architecture. Her work has been published in Indian Design & Interior magazine and exhibited at Harvard University and at Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh.
Shilpa is also the Editor-in-Chief of Shilpa Ahuja Digital Media, which includes ShilpaAhuja.com, one of India’s most-read digital fashion magazines. Originally from Chandigarh, she is currently based in Chennai, and can be reached at [email protected].