Want Indian decor? Avoid these mistakes!

Too much has been written about Bollywood and Indian décor…and too many people (living overseas) have tried it, often with disastrous results. Carrying off a desi interior look is not easy. Because you are working with so many colors, you have to balance them out, or you are bound to end up with a garish, tasteless blend of Indian colors. Here are some tips for success.

Tip #1: Don’t go all out on the colors.
Yes, India loves colors. Walk on an Indian road and you will see a variety of paint colors on building walls. Walk through an Indian village and you will see colorful clothes, bright blue doors, and temples in multicolor glory. But when people replicate the look, they either overdo it, or fail miserably. Here’s how you can manage your color palette:
– Stick to one or two colors
– Don’t go all out on rich shiny fabrics. One jazzy/bright/ rich fabric is enough. Accentuate the rest of your décor with throw pillows or pretty block print or sari drapes for balance.

Tip #2: The Indian look is not generic.
You can either have a look of opulence, or a look of rundown country living, but definitely not both in the same room! A bright green village door, and maharajah drapes just won’t do!

Tip #3: Don’t make the usual mistakes.
Most people who write in for advice send pictures of their Indian theme homes, and ask me what went wrong? What do I see in these pictures? Too many cheap touristy souvenirs, wall hangings, and cloth lanterns…they almost look like a souvenir shop! What can you do instead?
– Pick up just a few tasteful pieces. Stay clear of souvenir shops when you come to India. Instead visit Indian-themed lifestyle stores – Bombay Store, Fabindia are the most popular ones with a presence in several Indian cities.
– For an authentic Indian look, display brass in pretty clusters, or use window blinds made from printed paisley fabric…you get the idea.

You can even mix up South Asian pieces in a corner. A few tasteful pieces of furniture, a glass mogul lantern, and you are done!

Tip #4: Use furniture.
India has lovely furniture. Bring home a few solid pieces of Indian furniture, and you would have managed half the Indian look already! Some pieces to look out for – diwans, mudas (they are quite easy on the wallet too, look out for these on your trip to India), joolas or swings.

Tip #5: Indian Kitsch is always an option
If you can’t pull off the elegant Indian or village Indian look, why not try Indian bollywood kitsch? In just one room of your house of course, or even one corner!

Aarohi’s painted kettles and buckets – readymade kitsch
for your kitschy Indian space!


French artists Michel and Carol Arnaud Goddet created this kitschy Indian look
for an eco hotel in Pondicherry (Pic via Urban flea design)


Tip #6: Don’t try too hard
Most Indian homes are as simple and aesthetic as the one in the picture below. Keeping it simple will help you make it look more authentic.

Pic via Eric Leong (I just love his work!)


For more styling queries and help, write to us. We can guide you to the right stores in your country or online, or give you advice on what to pick up and where on your trip to India, to complete your Indian look.

Unless otherwise mentioned, all pics are courtesy lebateaudesafran and google


  1. Useful tips… and the last few pictures are practical and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hey

    thats quite true…most of the HGTV series over do the Indian theme and it ends up looking like a circus tent. you are absolutely right with everything you mentioned….most decors "after" are predictable looking with fabric thrown across the wall, a sari draped on some furniture or worst even some glittery fabric used as a throw….one worst case was when the designer actually drew a "paint" kolam on the head booard that too in multi-colors.

  3. hey sharon….really good post. these kinds of posts are what is needed today…lovely…have been very busy these days..not updated much on the blog…waiting to write lots of articles next week…

  4. as always lovely post,..;-)

  5. Thanks everyone, for your comments.
    @Sudha – Bingo!
    I feel strongly that "Indian decor" is often bracketed into the exotic, bright, rich category when it comes to decorating. There are so many simple, elegant and economical choices too.
    @Vasudha – Looking forward to reading your new posts!

  6. Nice post sharon, somehow Indian decor is always related with shiny, bright colors and bling..you are right, understated Indian decor adds elegance to a setting.

  7. lovely post there! nicely written!


  8. Thanks Rekha and Veda.

  9. Nice pics…and a nice post!

    Happy Weekend!
    Deepa from

  10. Thanks Deepa and Deepa:) Lovely to have you girls over. I am heading off to your respective blogs now!


  11. oh fab… such an amazing.. post!! how did I miss this one!! I love the tips… and think I need to redo my house now.. must be an overdose I tell you!!

  12. Thanks Pats. I won't be surprised if you actually go and redo your home now – you work fast!:)

    @ All – I was delighted to get an email from Blog Adda about the selection of this post for their Spicy Saturday Picks! Thanks Blogadda!

  13. Thanks for the tips..really useful

  14. Nice post, Sharon. I think a trip around the real India can change one's view of what Indian decor is about. I love the idea of traditional pots and pans being used – brass, clay, and what not. In fact, I keep going back to the traditional pickle jar example and think we don't have to spend a lot of time or money in bringing a piece of India into your home.

  15. Thanks Devi and Jayashree for your comments.

    J, you are right. The pickle jar is my 'hot' fav too:) and it's such an understated and elegant design that it can even be brought out of the kitchen and used to liven up any living space!

  16. such a wonderful write up!! It will come real handy for setting tone of d home!!!

  17. Fab post Rekha, and very sound advice.

  18. very sensible and practical…somehow elegance is found in simple lines, opposed to gaudy rich stuff.