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To say that Dr. Anurag Kanoria, Founder and Owner of ‘The Great Eastern Home’ fine interiors store, is passionate about classical furniture and collectibles, is an understatement. And when one hears of his travel adventures for sourcing prized pieces from around the world, it’s easy to see why.
At a time when Gaddafi’s regime had fallen and Libya was in the midst of civil strife, Anurag Kanoria was in the town of Benghazi, trying to salvage exquisite French furniture from the 18th and 19th century! Even though he didn’t manage to take the furniture out of the country, he fondly remembers the dramatic, yet surreal experience.
(19th Century French Furniture, from The Great Eastern Home)
An Early Love for Art
Anurag’s love for furniture and all things antique started at a very young age. Born into a family of collectors, he often accompanied his grandfather on trips to purchase antiques and collectibles.
“The first individual purchase I made was a bronze idol of an Indian god when I was 13 or 14 years old,” says Anurag. “I later discovered that the idol was from the 17th century and worth a whole lot more than the couple of hundred rupees I had paid for it!”
(Luxurious Pieces at The Great Eastern Home store)
A Passion that Evolved into 'The Great Eastern Home'
After graduating with a degree in commerce, Anurag decided to pursue a different route, away from the family business of textiles and sugar. He completed several Masters degrees, in Literature, Economics and Aesthetics, and also a Doctorate in Postmodern Literature.
(Dr. Anurag Kanoria giving a talk on 'The History of Furniture' at his store)
Anurag’s first encounter with actually making furniture began when he hired a team of carpenters to make furniture for his own home. “The project took almost two years to complete, and during that time friends started requesting me to make furniture for their homes,” says Anurag. “Soon I found myself doing the interiors of various homes and I knew there was no looking back, this was what I wanted to do. All of this naturally led to The Great Eastern Home being founded in 2008.”
Today, the sprawling 65,000 square feet store, housed inside a historic mill compound in South Mumbai, is one of the finest destinations in India for luxury furniture, collectibles and interiors. The overwhelming and precious collection that Anurag has proudly put together from all across the world, beautifully complements the furniture made in-house, and gives visitors the sense that they’re walking around the finest museum in the world, and not just a store.
Love for Art Nouveau and Art Deco Styles
The Great Eastern Home has a global customer base, and they are famed for creating furniture with exquisite detail. Anurag employs a guild of carpenters from Kolkata who had originally worked on the British Raj houses, among many other well-trained craftsmen. Uniquely, he has also brought experts from Australia and England to conduct workshops on polishing and classical furniture for his highly skilled carpenters.
“We are the only store in the world making larger pieces of Art Nouveau furniture,” says Anurag. “Art Nouveau is one of my favourite styles; I love the theory and politics around it. The aesthetics of the style are complex and while others may make simple Art Nouveau pieces, we make more intricate and elaborate ones.” The Great Eastern Home also manufactures Art Deco furniture, which is another style that Anurag is personally very fond of.
(European style Furniture created by The Great Eastern Home)
Between finding and making furniture, Anurag gets his thrills from finding hidden treasures. “While buying, I go by instinct, and whether I like a piece,” says Anurag. “I have eclectic taste, so the monetary value of an item is secondary and aesthetics are foremost.”
(A Chinese Bridal Bed is one of many unique pieces available at The Great Eastern Home)
One of Anurag’s surprise finds was in the Chor Bazaar in Mumbai. He found a huge howdah (a seat used on top of an elephant by royalty) covered under a tarpaulin with a shopkeeper, who was contemplating chopping it into pieces for easy sale. On further investigation, Anurag found that the howdah was used by the East India Company. He found three more similar pieces in possession of the same shop keeper, and bought them all! The howdah is now one of the most expensive pieces available for sale at The Great Eastern Home.
(Another howdah found by Anurag, now at The Great Eastern Home)
“My quest to find unique pieces has taken me to many places, and it’s been quite serendipitous,” says Anurag. “I’ve purchased furniture from an exiled Ottoman Princess, residing in Saudi Arabia!”, he admits, while laughing.
“Once while driving on the Banaras highway, I came across a group of people trying to break up a stone carving. I inquired if I could purchase the carving and was led to an unassuming man smoking on the side of the road, who had supposedly ordered this destruction. He turned out to be a young Prince who was trying to make some quick money, and I got quite a few valuable pieces from him!”
(Unique pieces from The Great Eastern Home, collected by Anurag from different parts of the world.)
Curator, Mentor and More…
In recent years, Anurag Kanoria has gone beyond creating and collecting classical pieces. In 2015, The Great Eastern Home launched Art35, a unique show that promoted affordable art from young emerging artists. Anurag has also curated many art shows, and has established the Nine Fish Art Gallery, that promotes contemporary art.
(Guest enjoying the art display at Art 35, an annual art show for affordable art)
For an individual who dons so many hats, we ask him which role he enjoys most. “Nowadays, I’m enjoying being a mentor,” says Anurag. “I recently had students from NID complete their thesis under my guidance and it was a great experience. But traveling across the world and collecting unique pieces will always be something I enjoy immensely.”
So what advice does someone who is so emotionally invested in the classics, have for someone with a more modern or contemporary taste? “Classical furniture tends to have a large scale, so if you don’t have space, or if you don’t want the décor to be overwhelming, invest in once statement piece, and it will look beautiful in any setting,” says Anurag. And what about those buying their first piece of art? “If you are buying art for investment, then you should look at its value and understand the artist’s journey. If you just want beautiful art, then go purely by instinct and buy what appeals to you”.
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