Two storeys and a roomy terrace bistro overlook a checkered courtyard. The floor plan allows for strolls starting out in one room that reveals chairs and cots to another lined with sunken stools and intricate carpets. You’ll find among the racks and dotting the walls, light khadi embroidered in bullion, and the occasional ceiling-to-floor tapestry in crimson silk and bright threadwork and racks of summer-appropriate clothing.
It’s where we shot our palette of vanilla and honey on a scorching summer afternoon; in between endless glasses of super-refreshing lemonade we got in a word with Kuldeep Kaur—chief custodian of this haveli that’s part shopping experience, and part sampler of another world. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I did my masters from JNU in Spanish Languages, simultaneously learning French at Alliances Française, here in Delhi. However, realising the few career options available post that in India at the time, I decided to pursue an MBA from IMT, Ghaziabad, followed by a long career designing furniture and textiles for the international market. So I am a completely self-taught designer but with a dose that keeps me going.
How did Serendipity happen?
My journey to opening Serendipity happened totally by chance. Almost a decade ago, I landed in Morocco—in the middle of the night, finding myself alone in a country that was very new to tourism back then. As I walked through the narrow dark deserted lanes of Fez to my hotel—it was past 1 in the morning—with the cabby who offered to escort me as I wouldn’t have found it otherwise, I was quite nervous. But what awaited me as we rang the bell and the door was opened by this young American guy was worth all the effort. Dar Seffarine was a jewel in the middle of the old walled city of Fez...beautiful and just so breathtaking. Lovingly restored by Norwegian graphic designer Kate Kvalvik and her husband, Iraqi architect Alaa Said—it really felt like home away from home, and it had this amazing vibe which just embraced you instantly. I think this experience stayed with me, as it’s what really happened with our store Serendipity which launched in March 2014.
The haveli is in Jonapur, in Delhi's Chattarpur area in a village which unlike the so many urban villages of Delhi, is very calm and untouched. You need to drive up to it as there is very limited public transportation available. We were renting the space for a long time as did many others before us for our textile business, however when we first set our eyes on it 8 years ago we knew somewhere deep down what could come of the neglect the place had seen, with its age-weathered structure, large courtyard and big gates. The place was massive, a warren of tiny rooms and dug up central courtyard where trucks would roll in for loading and unloading (you should see pictures of the place before its transformation—quite unbelievable).
It didn’t happen for a long time as it was never a priority then, but having been in the textile and design world for the last 15 years, I just needed another creative outlet for myself. We decided to put to use our vision of years, of what this place could be turned into and pretty much gutted down the place leaving the structure intact. After more than a year of restoration, the haveli finally got back some of its lost glory. We thought of opening a regular store in it, but as we starting working on doing up the interiors, we realised the place could not be a regular store—it had to be something more. If Serendipity had a tagline…
So Serendipity Delhi today is a travel inspired concept store, our motto is “Mughal meets Morocco via Mexico city”—an ode to all the places we have been to, and are inspired by. It is a home away from home; an oasis of peace, tranquility and beautiful products from all over the world, with a large central courtyard where you can just put your feet up and relax over a cup of coffee and perhaps enjoy an evening of light classical or fusion music, meet friends and be transported back to another time.
We are five siblings, all naturally inclined to the Arts, history, culture and even interiors. With some experience designing our own homes, work spaces and not to mention our plant in Alwar, the space at Serendipity has been a joint effort between my brother Paramjeet, myself and of course local artisans and masons who have an amazing wealth of knowledge to impart.
Interesting collaborations you've managed to wrangle?
We had a book reading with William Dalrymple which was very successful. I would say, the most unusual was to host a book reading on a biography of Shashi Kapoor—famous Bollywood star of the 60s and 70s by New York based film journalist Aseem Chhabra. Hosting noted musician Vidya Shah, is something we are quite proud of. Our super successful “Color me Autumn” festival of art, design and music is of course something we look forward to hosting every year.
We have not stocked any designers at the store so far, but yes we do have interesting labels we invite regularly for pop-ups at our annual festival. Kharakapas, Chicory chai, Baby Baniya, Leekhin, and Jyoti Enoki Eri of Pondicherry are some of the designers we are proud to have hosted.
Find Serendipity at 238/4, Jonapur Village, Mandi Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110047 and on Instagram @serendipitydelhiA palette of vanilla and honey suited to soaring tempearatures with our editorial Crisp white summer, here.