The treehouse for two

Paramjit and Arpita Singh line their sunny nest with warm reds and leafy greens ♦

This article is part of a series on artists’ homes.

When artists Arpita and Paramjit Singh first visited their house in Nizamuddin East, it was in 1975, for chai with barsati resident Bhaskar Kulkarni (a “hippie-type”, as Paramjit put it) who was responsible for popularising Madhubani art. Little did the Singhs imagine that just over three decades later, they’d be moving into the three-floor home, built in the 1950s – and by that time in a state of utter disrepair.

Renovating the house was a challenge, not because of the actual work (the Singhs count several architects among their friends), but because of the ASI permissions needed to build within range of Arab Ki Sarai around the corner. They managed to work within the parameters quite well, incorporating the verandas to build a ground floor for living, a first floor studio for Arpita and a second floor for Paramjit. An advantage of the ASI restrictions, and the colony’s original planning, is that there are unhindered green views from almost every picture window. “They designed [this colony] strangely,” Paramjit said, “there are three houses, then a park.” It’s easy to see how he keeps images of woods and fields in his mind while working with such a view for a backdrop.

As far back as the 1970s, the Singhs’ Tara Apartments flat was featured in a foreign magazine. Many of the objects, like the simple settees constructed in a Kashmere Gate shop (“We were never sofa people until we came here,” said Paramjit), have followed the Singhs from that flat to their Chittaranjan Park home –  designed by Ram Sharma and often cited as an example of good living in a small space – and then here. Nizamuddin East has an arty reputation: Anjoli Ela Menon is a neighbour, and BC Sanyal used to live nearby. The sense of being part of a creative community is evident from objects inside too: a table from A Ramachandran’s house, stacked with brushes; stools by ’60s designer Shona Ray; and work by friends in every corner.

1. Freudian print The Singhs purchased this print at a 2007 Grosvenor show of Lucian Freud’s work in Delhi. It stands out (along with a Pablo Picasso linocut of Christ with a crown of thorns) among the abstract works by Arpita and landscapes by Paramjit on the living room walls.

2. Red frame The fire engine-red gate to the house is carried through in every window frame, banister and other border accent. Unable to afford teak in their CR Park home, the Singhs used hollock wood, painted red. They liked the combination of this bright border with gray stone so much that they replicated it here – though now the frames are aluminum to avoid termite damage.

3. “Skipping Girl” A statuette by Sarbari Roy Choudhary (who died earlier this year, and whose sculptures dot the artists’ homes we visited). Paramjit purchased this from the artist for “something like `1,000” in 1984.

4. Nature study Piled up on a yellow stool are the distinctively sunny spines of a collection of National Geographic magazines. Arpita is the enthusiast, who takes inspiration from the wildlife and maps for her own paintings.

5. Coke studio Upon further inspection, what looks like an oversized Koosh ball on a table is part of daughter and artist Anjum Singh’s installation “Cola Bloom” (featured in Time Out Delhi’s January 2011 issue).

6. Silk roots Draped on one bench is Paramjit’s grandmother’s phulkari. His family is from district Wazirabad in Pakistani Punjab, but was settled in Amritsar from the 1920s.

See the images and read more about Delhi artists’ homes.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, September 2012.