Design Destination: Jaipur, India with Grant K. Gibson

For interior designer Grant K. Gibson, principal at Grant K. Gibson Interior Design and author of the forthcoming book The Curated Home: A Fresh Take on Tradition, traveling to India has been a lifelong dream. After years of planning, he recently made the journey. He fell in love with Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan in the northern part of the country. For the designer, it was a life-changing event, and he plans on returning soon.

On Grant Gibson’s don’t-miss list: Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds.

Why did you want to go to India? My mother was in the fashion industry, and during my childhood, she would travel there to produce textiles. Going myself has long been on my list. I feel like other trips I’ve taken in recent years—to Mexico, Istanbul and Morocco—were just warm-ups for this journey. Even though some friends offered to go with me, I chose to do it alone. For my first trip, I wanted to learn about and discover the culture at my own pace.

A vibrant blue-and-white pattern covers nearly every surface in the City Palace space.

How did you plan for the trip? I started planning a year in advance, and I began by talking to friends. People had interesting reactions—some of them very negative. But other people were very supportive, and steered me in hiring a driver and booking hotels.

What were the negative points people brought up?  It’s not an easy trip—it involves two 12-hour flights, and that nearly killed me. Once you are there, it feels like the complete opposite of the United States. The highs and lows of society in India are so much more dramatic than what we are accustomed to seeing, and I saw a lot of poverty in the streets. However, the people I met there are the nicest I’ve ever encountered. It was striking how welcoming, friendly, positive and helpful people were.

An Indian woman draped in colorful saris in Jaipur

What was the highlight of your trip?
I fell in love with Jaipur, where I spent a lot of time exploring the factories where textiles are made. I started by contacting the vendors I’ve worked with in my design business. I’ve dealt with many of these companies for years to produce fabrics and rugs. I connected with them and let them know I was coming to India and asked them if we could meet. Seeing the factories in person was amazing, and I discovered some capabilities and options I didn’t know they had. It was eye-opening and inspiring to see the kinds of embroidery and block-printing they could do in person. In one case, I was able to see a rug that is being woven for one of my clients.

The designer suggests the mural-studded dining room at Caffé Palladio for lunch

Does Jaipur have other features you recommend?
There’s a wonderful shopping scene there. In the markets you can buy a multitude of spices, housewares and fabrics. Some of the markets are geared toward tourists, but I’d encourage visitors to look beyond those. There are also wonderful architectural gems—including palaces with arches, frescoes and secret mirrored rooms. I had a lot of luck asking about shopping destinations at the hotels where I stayed. I found the guidebook information to be more hit or miss.

The blue-and-white dining room at Bar Palladio is the designer’s choice for lunch.

Do you plan on going back? Yes, and I want to go with people this time. I’m starting a venture that will lead designers and design- minded consumers through the factories, textile mills and markets. The idea will be to go with a specific project they’d like to work on—maybe developing a rug or a fabric. My plan is to take what I learned on my trip and lead small groups of people through the process. You can find more information on my website, grantkgibson.com.

The dining room at 47 Jobner Bagh Hotel is home to a traditional portrait

Grant K. Gibson's Favorites from the Trip 

HOTEL: 47 Jobner Bagh

RESTAURANTS: For lunch, Caffé Palladio; for dinner, Bar Palladio; for a lassi (an Indian yogurt drink), Lassiwala

SEE: Visit City Palace and the palace Hawa Mahal. Hike up the hill (don’t ride the elephants) to Amer Fort to see another amazing palace and stunning view.

SHOP: Saurashtra Impex has block prints, cashmere and vintage pieces. Kishor Maheshwari is the owner and is happy to help you.

READ: Love Jaipur, Rajasthan by Fiona Caulfield

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