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The Origins of Anglo Indian Decor

While Britain’s 18th-Century colonization of India remains a highly-controversial affair, perhaps something we all can agree on is that it did create a stunning new style of design: Anglo-Indian.

An unexpectedly harmonious pairing, Anglo-Indian design was the result of traditional English silhouettes being paired with intricate Indian embellishments. Beautiful and distinct, this style permeated all aspects of design, from art to furniture.

Characteristics of Anglo-Indian Style Furniture & Decor

Anglo-Indian Style Decor has a very distinct color palette and look. Picture a tropical backdrop and dark, dramatic furniture contrasted against stark white walls. Imagine rich details like intricate inlays, ornate carvings, vividly-colored tapestries, and high-end decor accents constructed of striking ebony and ivory.

Anglo-Indian furniture itself is quite extraordinary. In 18th Century India, dark woods like mahogany, rosewood, teak and ebony were readily available, and thus became the primary base materials for furniture. Other materials that were frequently used include brass, copper, terracota and horn.

Anglo-Indian pieces combine traditional British Colonial furniture shapes with Indian detailing and ornamentation. To give you a sense of how these pieces were constructed, furniture pieces began simply, embracing structural design elements like scrolled arms, cane seats and turned legs. Indian craftsmen would then take these base pieces and bring them to life by way of ornate carvings and ivory or tortoiseshell inlays. Inlay is a sculptural process where specific materials are set into the surface of another material (e.g. ivory inlaid into mahogany). These days when replicating Anglo-Indian decor, ivory is used in place of bone. The beautiful, light-colored inlays set against the dark wood make for stunning furniture that showcases both cultures’ design strengths.

Another popular element in Anglo-Indian style design is paper mache. This includes a host of vibrantly-patterned pieces made in Kashmir, most of which feature intricate animal or floral and fauna designs. Motifs such as lions, camels, elephants and a variety of different plants are common in Anglo-Indian decor, featured on everything from tables to chairs. Sometimes these motifs are cleverly-hidden in the carved details of a furniture piece, while other times furniture itself assumes the motif's shape. This particular characteristic imbues Anglo-Indian furniture with a wild, exotic feel.

Different Types of Anglo-Indian Furniture & Decor

Examples of antique Anglo-Indian furniture includes tables, chairs, dressers, desks, end tables, canopy beds, nightstands and ornately-carved screens. Fans are another staple of that period due to the intense heat in India.

There are also many different Anglo-Indian decor accents. Kashmir, specifically, was well-known for crafting various decorative goods, including exquisite Kashmiri lacquered boxes, candlesticks, and vibrantly-colored paper mache vases and urns. Some other unique vintage items that reflect the era include ebony and ivory inkstands, ebony playing card presses, spice boxes, gentlemen’s smoking boxes and sterling silver tea sets.

Textile examples of Anglo-Indian Style decor include vibrantly-patterned Indian Agra rugs and colorful pillows. While these items come in an array of colors, shades of red and pink dominate.

Incorporating Anglo-Indian Style Furniture into your Home Decor

The Anglo-Indian style is still a popular design choice for homes, hotels, and restaurants today. It has similar elements to British Colonial style, with the Indian influence being the distinctive factor.

Important to remember is that Anglo-Indian style decor is a bold design choice. If showcasing a large piece of Anglo-Indian furniture in your home, it’s a good idea to make it a focal point. Focal point pieces can include canopy beds and dressers for the bedroom, dining room table and chair sets for common areas, and of course chaises and end tables for the living room. The larger the piece, the more likely it is to showcase exquisite craftsmanship. It can be nice to offset the dark, ornately carved wood of Anglo-Indian furniture light-colored walls, bedding linens, designer sofas and high-end chairs. If you want to add a pop of color to a black-and-white color scheme, use brightly colored paintings, rugs and pillows. Antique Anglo-Indian textiles work especially well with with contemporary boho and vintage spaces.

Another inspired way to bring Anglo-Indian style decor into your space is by curating a collection of smaller decor accents, such as candlesticks, vases, or tabletop sculptures. They can be incorporated into virtually any decor style you like, bringing a rich, exotic, vintage look to your space.