Souvenirs of ShahJahan…Delhi and Agra in Instagrams

Taj Majal Agra India

I guess it’s not really fair to call this post ‘India in Instagrams’ as we only had a few days in New Delhi, ostensibly to “watch” our teenage daughters in a soccer tournament. While we did make it to the late afternoon games, the truth is it was an opportunity to dip our toes into the wonder that is India. Resplendent with color, in particular white, pink and green, it provided me with a jolt of energy after months here in the very beige desert. We managed to tack on a quick day trip to Agra for the Taj Mahal, because in the end, we needed to see that pearly resplendent monument itself, but I think we would all agree that it was not necessarily the highlight of our trip.

White marble was unquestionably one of the storylines throughout our days, from the incredible carved Mughal flowers in the walls of the Taj Mahal…

Mughal Flowers marble Taj mahal

…to the ongoing and surprising details at the nearby Red Fort in Agra – which is not at all just red! It seems apropos just after Valentines Day to mention one of the world’s greatest love stories – that of Shah Jahan building the Taj Mahal, over 22 years no less, as a tomb for his beloved wife. He was eventually deposed by his own son, but lived out his days confined to the Fort, with a perfect view of his masterpiece. Because Agra is not at all built up, some of the best views are from a distance, like those from the Red Fort and from the terrace of the Oberoi Hotel (more on that later).

Marble square Red Fort Agra

There were modern-day inspirations to be found everywhere, including this simplified arabesque floor pattern which I am planning to use as a model for a bathroom renovation back in Brooklyn.

Marble mosaic floor Red Fort Agra India

And speaking of marble and bathrooms, I must stop and mention one of my favorite places on the whole tour – the ladies washroom at The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. This colonial era Art Deco masterpiece is on that list of historic hotels I have been carrying around with me and I was privileged to stay there this trip. The art collection and thousands of engravings that line the halls are worthy of a post of their own. But the ground floor loo with its bank of freestanding back-to-back sinks and mirrors takes the cake!

Imperial Hotel New Delhi Ladies Washroom Bathroom marble

We have all been told that pink is the navy blue of India and it is true. We could not stop snapping photos of the glorious pink saris everywhere, from the Sikh Temple in Delhi…

pink is the navy blue of india lady in sari

…to more subtly in Agra at the Red Fort.

Red Fort Agra Sari

Back in Delhi, we visited Humayun’s tomb which served as a model for the main building of the Taj Mahal. It was peaceful and relatively deserted, in great contrast to the aforementioned monument and therefore magical.

Humayan's Tomb New Delhi

In fact, other than the breathtaking moment when you first enter and the de rigueur perfect photo of the Taj, we often preferred the other sites for their mystery and mood.

Ladies at Humayan's Tomb New Delhi India

No trip to India is complete without shopping – and lots of it – so it is no surprise that green – the color of currency – was one of the other main hues of our visit. We hit many of the major markets including Khan market, Sundar Nagar and Santushi, along with a bicycle rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi. I bought everything from Indian cottons – lots of scarves and kurtis at Anokhi and Fabindia – to carved wooden legs (custom ottomans anyone?) in the back alleys. I desperately wanted the stack of bracelets below, but you can imagine the price tag, so I contented myself with armloads of silver and a particularly delicate gold and raw sapphire necklace.  But all of that shopping was merely a distraction as I had come to India searching for one thing – Indian miniature paintings. At Sundar Nagar market, which sells bits and bobs of ‘antiques’ as well as all the lovely modern inlay furniture so popular today, I picked up a few fairly fine reproduction miniatures. In general these tend to be copies of famous original paintings done on old paper so as to give them a nice patina.

bracelets and indian miniature

In fact I had thought I might be content with my repros until we stopped in at the highlight of the visit, the home of Rohit Kaicker, also known as Gallery 29 Sunder Nagar. In all the rooms filled with spectacular artwork, this turn of the century painting of Shah Jahan himself on a background of malachite, surrounded by a border of Mughal flowers (remember the ones carved in marble at the Taj in the photo above?) screamed to come home with me from the very moment I walked in. I cannot recommend Rohit’s home gallery highly enough as prices are reasonable, his knowledge encyclopedic and seeing his home itself is worth the visit, although I guarantee you won’t leave empty-handed. I’m actually thinking Indian miniature paintings might deserve a post of their very own so let me know if that would interest you.

Indian Miniature Painting Shahjahan Taj Majal Rohit New Delhi Mughal Flowers

And for one more glimpse of amazing Mughal flowers I must share the living room off the terrace at the Oberoi Hotel in Agra. Anyone else would be sharing the view of the Taj from the window, but then I am not anybody else. I wanted to move right in here and stay, or at least try this in a project. Any takers out there?

Oberoi Hotel Agra Taj Majal Mughal Flowers

I must give a final shout out to Fiona Caulfield‘s Love India, billed as a ‘Handbook for the Luxury Vagabond’. This book was our bible, albeit a carefully annotated one by our dear friend Lisa who used to live in Delhi. Other cities in India appear in the series and I am tempted to buy them and dream. Be sure to notice the accent color 😉

Love India Guide Fiona Caulfield

Related Posts:
Provenance: Inlay
Inlay All Over the Map…A Peek at my Collection
Toran on Provenance at Cloth & Kind
A Little More Toran Goodness
(Fabric) Bordering on Obsession
Renovation Report and a DIY…Using Indian Wood Blocks to Create “Wallpaper” in the Master Bath
A Possible DIY…Painted Inlay Vanity?

Form Versus Function…White Marble Countertops? Really?

One of the main components of the Brooklyn kitchen renovation I am working on is white stone countertops of some sort. In the Sheila Bridges inspiration photos, heck, all of our inspiration photos, the counters are white marble. My clients are amazing cooks – or shall we say “he” is an amazing cook – a hard working and hard wearing cook – who doesn’t always worry about spills along the way. Their current counter is a dark man-made material, so there has been no need to worry about wiping up that turmeric right away or stressing over the coffee and red wine served daily. That said, spills against a dark surface don’t show so you don’t feel as prompted to wipe them up immediately. The “she” of the household is a wonderful baker and marble counters are perfect for rolling out dough. So while we love the look of white marble countertops, and know they are great for baking, we worry whether they are actually functional for cooking? Won’t they stain, etch, show every little imperfection? Don’t they demand slavish care?

In the home decorating world these questions rank up there with other biggies like “What is the meaning of life?”

As a result, many have addressed this topic already and addressed it very well. The folks over at Apartment Therapy have wrestled with it numerous times and have hundreds of pro and con comments on their site. A low-key looking site called The Garden Web is an outstanding source of information with numerous threads on the topic (for instance here,). Searching the web I found amazing posts such as the one from Greg at The Petch House (he’s restoring an 1895 Victorian) in which he tests a piece of marble, both sealed and unsealed, with the its classic nemeses – red wine, acidic fruit and tomato sauce. Two years later, he reports that his counters have held up extremely well without a lot of special care.

petch house marble test

So while white marble has a bad rap as being hard to care for, my instincts tell me that while this can be true, it can’t be the whole truth. Marble has been used for centuries for counters, tables and floors and held up extremely well during that time. Personally, a little patina makes everything better in my book. Research around the web, particularly the many first hand accounts in this vein on Garden Web…

You need to do a search on Marble threads in this forum – there are MANY of us who have marble countertops (mostly honed) and LOVE them and have no staining issues at all.”

…make me optimistic about considering a white marble. Marble is simply calcium carbonate, just like chalk, but in a compressed and crystallized form. It’s the calcium in it that makes it easily etched by acid. But it does seem that sealants have come a long way in the last few years in preventing etching and staining.  Honing the counter which is the matte finish I prefer, rather than polishing it to a shine, also helps in the battle against marks.

In terms of choosing what type of marble, trust Joni at Cote de Texas to have covered the choices pretty exhaustively in her post on the subject. She chose Calacutta Ora for her remodel.

joni kitchen marble

But before we rush into the choice, it’s a big enough decision that full research is necessary. As I am not a geologist, it has taken me a while to understand the differences between marble, granite, quartzite and manmade quartz materials such as Silestone, Cambria and Caesarstone. Granite is the hardest of the stones and the most resistant to staining and etching. But it doesn’t come in a true white and tends to be very busy and speckled, as opposed to veined. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock formed from sandstone and tends to be white and greys. It is more stain resistant than marble, but has been known to etch if calcium is present and it is unsealed. That said, when sealed it looks to be a very good option. The different brands of engineered quartz all seem good and hold up to the staining and etching tests, but they look artificial to my eye, certainly in a more traditional kitchen. Cate at Girl Cooks World has done a fantastic (and very recent) post comparing many of the stone and stone like options currently available out there, but we will need to go see them all in person ourselves.


Even after choosing the material we want, in the end, the choice will come down to seeing the exact slab for this kitchen. The variations in the marbles and quartz are so extreme that samples are only indicative, not conclusive. One Garden Web forum poster chose to use Bianco Macabus quartzite because of this exact slab at their stone yard. I can see why.

White Macabus quartzite

I’ll keep you up to date on what we discover, but I am hoping to hear from all of you too. The comments on my previous post about the sink and faucet were so helpful.

Related Posts:
Form Versus Function…A Farmhouse Sink and That Perrin & Rowe Bridge Mixer Faucet
Brownstone Kitchen Inspiration From Sheila Bridges

Tokyo Jinja

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