Inside Suzanne Dimma’s Trip To The Devi Garh Hotel In India
Suzanne Dimma shares inspiration from her latest trip to India.
If you follow me on Instagram or read my editor’s letter in our January issue, you undoubtedly saw the pictures from my trip to India this past fall. My time there was a dream of jewel tones and exotic textiles; the colors of ancient palaces, busy spice markets and gorgeous saris were intoxicating, and left me newly inspired for 2016. After spending time in cities like Delhi, Jaipur and Jodphur, Arriz and I headed to the country, where we stayed in the village of Delwara outside of Udaipur. Our accommodations there were breathtaking – a restored palace known as Devi Garh. The interior design was standout, and offered a fresh perspective on how I plan to approach my own home this year. I thought I’d share a tour of the grounds, so you can gain some fresh inspiration, too.
The 18th century palace has been lovingly restored with an appreciation for the building’s rich history and the passage of time. Authentic yet modern, rustic and spiritual are the words that come to mind. Moving through the palace was like a walking meditation. Arriz and I loved being there so much that we extended our stay.
Entering the grounds, we were greeted by lush plantings, a series of gently cascading stone steps and pathways framed by narrow water troughs and exquisite dry stone walls.
The central focus of the hotel is the dramatic stone pool that seemed to take a design cue from India’s famous step wells.
With the Aravalli hills as a backdrop, the pool’s setting was breathtaking. Every night the setting sun behind the pool was the star of the show.
Here is the bar lounge overlooking the pool and the surrounding village where we watched the sunset every night. It was loaded with daybeds filled with pillows. It was also the most colorful room in the hotel.
The fort is on a hilltop so as you can imagine, there was a lot of climbing! As you move up higher in the building, the views get more and more spectacular, like this one to the hotel grounds and the village beyond. Apparently, when the palace was still inhabited by royalty, the queen would spend most of her time perched in a lookout with this same view to the village.
The hotel’s complex plan was based on the verticality of the site, with secret stairways reaching every corner and clusters of courtyards with rooms running off of them. Each courtyard always displayed a large marble bowl full of flowers, magnolias or rose petals to greet guests.
Exploring the palace was about discovery at every turn. We had so much fun navigating the maze of stairways and passageways. In the public areas, open-air rooms were framed by a series of decorative stone arches painted white. The beautiful architecture and sense of flow meant there was very little need for superfluous décor.
Moving through the hotel at night with the soft lighting, setting sun, rising heat and soft music playing in the village felt like a dream.
This is the common lounge area, which used to be the ballroom when the Raj inhabited the palace. Apparently the king would sit at one end and the queen at the other while people danced below. Since we were visiting during Diwali, this room was approprtiately filled with enchanting music rising up from the village below.
The suites were predominantly white with a pop of color and were clad in local marble and terrazzo to keep things cool and comfortable. It was both modern and chic. I was especially impressed by the all-marble platform design for the beds and sofas. The low marble steps running the periphery of the room were ideal for keeping belongings within reach.
I spent hours reading and meditating in our window seat with its saffron cushions and gentle view to the hills.
The bathroom was also wrapped in local white marble. I loved the symmetrical set up with the large central tub framed by matching his and her vanities. The massive slatted wood door made for a dramatic entrance.
We toured the hotel and were shown the presidential suite where the highlight was this private pool, also fully clad in stone with views to the hills beyond.
This is a perch at the very top of the palace that was originally the queen’s quarters. Like most of the palaces we visited, mirrors were set into the walls for a celebratory sense of sparkle. Upon request the hotel would dress this space for a private dining experience filled with reflecting candles. It was beyond magical.
The hotel designer, Rajiv Saini, included many of the artifacts found from excavations and in the hotels restorations. This is the carriage that the queen was carried in on during village visits. In this space, the walls are covered in original paintings from the 18th century and left as they were found.
We ate breakfast on this lovely outdoor terrace. And dinner was often held on this upper patio. The tableware was art in itself. Every detail was considered for a complete experience.