Sitara by Anita Lal embodies the timeless luxury of her brand, Good Earth
Good taste is dictated by fashion but style is to live exactly as you want, surrounded by what gives you joy,’ reflects design doyen Anita Lal as we sit in the lush ‘English’ garden of her recently unveiled Himalayan retreat, Sitara. Having created a legacy with her brand Good Earth, Anita, or AL as she is affectionately known, has climbed her mountain, both figuratively and literally, and settled into the Valley of Devatas, a corner of heaven where creativity flows. As freely as the seven waterfalls across the valley.
“Every trip I’ve taken has come about by accident or serendipity,” she says. “I started Good Earth after a while living in Munich and fell in love with the stylish stores there, the aesthetic, the elegant packaging, and the thoughtful products – but I never imagined it would become the behemoth that you have from one small store.” Having recently adopted a more creative role within the brand, Anita is free to spend more time at her cottage overlooking the Kullu Valley, and has discovered that the combination of simplicity and the grandeur of the surroundings can be the backdrop to a place of creativity. Healing and Anita’s own approach to wellness that penetrates every crevice of the soul.
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Obtaining a sloping meadow behind the family home, Anita worked with “more than one architect” to conjure the grand hill house that seemed to crown the valley below and oversaw every detail with her well-tuned eye for both the practical and the poetic. “I had already engaged Manali architect, Sri Dhoni Chand, who understood on an instinctive level what was needed in this area; it was a learning process that seeking local voices and talent was worth 20 imported names. Over the past decades, the designer has developed a deep respect for the language The mountain vernacular of these parts and he imbued Sitara with a single mind in the spirit of the place he was set in. “We had to build huge stone walls and level the ground, which was an achievement in itself. The garden is credited to the amazing landscape designer Taera Chowna, who envisioned it as the seasons changed and planted it so that every month the garden changes to new colors. I brought most of the seeds from London and we had a lot of fun at the Chelsea Flower Show looking for inspiration. She smiles as we walk through the stone doorway into the central arched drawing room, filled with views across the peaks.
After lighting a wood-burning fire, using an old yonka to keep it from smoking, and designed by a “talented New Zealander in Pondicherry,” Anita points to the double sofa in front of the stone fireplace, topped with stone lions by Sanjay Garg. She talks about it being inspired by a visit to a country house in the Cotswolds. “I covered it with silk printed with a Himalayan floral design inspired by an antique sherwani I discovered.” The sense of layering is evident across the walls with a dazzling brass panel by Vikram Goyal in front of chairs covered in a vibrant pattern taken from an old Russian print, inspired by Indian cotton fabric. “There was a lack of symmetry in this room, which I addressed by hanging this set of chandeliers that I found in the Netherlands. I love the delicacy of it,” Anita says, looking up. “Thanks to Covid, I had the time and space to sit in rooms and think.” Deeply into the shapes of where things should be placed. This is the culmination of two years of reflection and accidental learning. And it ends with laughter.
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The deep green color of the walls seems to echo the moving mountain clouds as Anita muses, “My philosophy is rooted in a Sanskrit word, popularity, which was a guiding vision. We carry ancestral memories that shape our beliefs. We come from a living, continuing tradition. I believe that everything we create should be relevant to our Indian context of life, and I saw that color was at the heart of our society but not in our homes; I think we helped change that. We have brought elements of nature indoors through our designs. In India, we understand color by how it appears in nature, Thani, the color of new rice, Jamun, Nel, Phalsa-Mayur, the twinkle of peacock. Sitara is raas Or the essence of this approach.” Talented young chef Aman Singhal serves up a Himalayan lunch with exquisite flavour. “The colors of teal, cherry, jade and aquamarine – which you see on the Varanasi silk woven on the bedroom walls – are the colors of my soul,” she continues. They were deliberately chosen to create a feeling of deep calm. This is a retreat in every sense of the word, sensual, spiritual and soothing.