Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lifestyle: Weekend FT, Vikram Chatwal

HOUSE AND HOME: 'The vibe is sophisticated but relaxed'

By Julie Earle-Levine
Jul 28, 2007

Vikram Chatwal is an Indian hotelier, actor and socialite who lives on the island of Manhattan in New York City and has a holiday home on Long Island. He is president of the boutique division of Hampshire Hotels and Resorts. He and his wife, the model Priya Sachdev, have a baby daughter.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Addis Ababa [Ethiopia] but I moved to Manhattan when I was three and have lived here ever since. I love New York because it is so accessible. It has something for everyone because it is constantly changing. I also spent much time travelling to India, visiting family, and throughout Europe as well.

What was your childhood home like?

Growing up, we resided at 30 Lincoln Square Plaza on Central Park West. There was an interesting juxtaposition between the modern design of the building and the traditional Indian furnishings in my family's three-bedroom apartment. Our home was filled with warm colours and antiques we collected during our travels everywhere from London to Bangkok to Japan. All of the artwork and antiques I grew up with are still in our family homes. I loved the New York apartment, especially its location. My brother Vivek and I spent all of our time in Central Park playing basketball and swimming.

Tell me about your apartment.

It's very white and bright with sweeping views of Central Park. The sun pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows. I like to see the park's green tree-tops. It's very relaxing.

What is your favourite room?

The main living area. I have a bar crafted from stainless steel and with white fur. There are photos of friends including Naomi [Campbell]. I have a white, custom-designed, L-shaped, leather lounger, with black and white pillows, and a white, calfskin rug. All of this is reflected in a floor-to-ceiling mirrored wall. The black-and-white composition in general is attractive because it is very polarising. It can make a room feel both elegant and warm, yet also staunch. The lack of colour leaves open the imagination to focus more on the room and furniture.

The black-and-white theme seems to be echoed at one of your boutique hotels, in Manhattan, called Night.

Yes, all my hotels have a story, a connection to the heartbeat, culture and pure energy of the city they're in. Night is my homage to the drama, power, vitality and innate sensuality of New York. The space was designed to elicit the feeling of the city after dark. There are wrought-iron gates, black curtains on the outside of the building and black-and-white tiled carpet throughout. Also, black-and -white photographs, shot for the hotel, are on the walls in our public spaces.

What kind of mood have you created in your own home?

The vibe is sophisticated but relaxed. With Priya it became more intimate and personal. She bought me a 17th-century gable from a Buddhist temple in Thailand and we have this hanging on a mirrored wall, opposite a Picasso linocut entitled "Spanish Woman". When we are not travelling Priya and I like to cook at home: good Indian food. We dine under an antique silver candelabra. The apartment is now a mix of both of our styles.

You have an impressive art collection.

I love art and became an avid collector during my tenure as an analyst at Morgan Stanley in New York. Art is very important to my being. In the foyer we have an oil painting of the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesh; a Francesco Clemente oil on canvas; a Peter Beard diary/collage called "Hot Rod"; and a linear Brice Marden. A "decision tree" drawing by artist Beth Campbell is by the dining table. I love her work. To me, it is the various probabilities that we contemplate, sometimes unconsciously, before making decisions and evaluating their outcomes. In the den I have a Sante D'Orazio photograph of Pamela Anderson [topless] next to our formal portraits. I love the fact that it is very Pam Anderson, daring and fun yet still a really natural photograph. My favourite portrait here though is of the Maharaja Dalip Singh, a poet. There are beautiful swords in this portrait and I have them in a sword collection.

You say the apartment now reflects your travels. What items?

A lot of what I have is relevant to a time and a place that I want to remember, such as artifacts from Thailand, one of my favourite places. I also like to collect art that reminds me of moments in time: "The Dream" from DalĂ­, one of Thierry Despont's masks and Picasso's "Spanish Woman", just to name a few.

Tell me about your 'den' and how that helps your creativity.

It's about comfort. I have two brown leather recliners, next to a bed with Indian throws and a soft, peach headboard. The drapes are pale gold silk. There is also a flat-screen television with a Sony PlayStation and an Xbox for when I want to really relax. I like to collect thoughts and ideas for my next hotel or film in this room. I'm mostly thinking about my hotels but sometimes I just like to look at the beautiful greenery and its various shades. It's so refreshing.

Your bedroom?

It's a quiet room with a four-poster bed and Indian silks and beads. The colour scheme is sombre tones and rich woods. There are two portraits of Sikh prophets hanging above the bed. I really like Indian silks and throws with tassels. They are part of my environment here and in India.

How many homes do you own?

Two - one home in Long Island and the Manhattan apartment. My weekend home is a Charles Gwathmey-designed farmhouse. It's on the north shore of Long Island in Nassau County, close to the water. It is decidedly more traditional inside than my home in Manhattan. It is a wonderful place to escape to. It is so relaxing and very convenient, being close to the city. I enjoy the architecture of the house just as much as the calm interiors. I also have a collection [of art] here and one of my favourite additions is a Ross Bleckner painting of flowers. I like these pieces because they stimulate emotion and provoke thought. I also know my [art] investment is safe and will grow in value.

Do you also invest in real estate?

I invest in real estate as it relates to hotels but not straight real estate investments per se.

You live in a Trump building in Manhattan. Is it glitzy - all gold and chandeliers?

I live in 1 Central Park West, probably the most reserved of the Trump buildings in that regard. The location works well for me and I can see my hotels from there along with the rest of the city I love.