A fine dining restaurant celebrating India’s pluralism, the House of Celeste displays a tropical jungle-themed design integrated with visual storytelling elements.
A new gourmet restaurant in Gurugram’s vibrant 32nd Avenue urban oasis, House of Celeste explores India’s multiculturalism, while celebrating the sense of togetherness and belonging through its design narrative. The interiors are designed to echo the country’s enduring legacy of regional cuisines through a series of visual storytelling devices.
The site was split into two levels, with a derelict ceiling and exposed run-down services. Studio Lotus was tasked with devising the functional programme and a design vocabulary that seamlessly tied both levels without altering the original structure. This constraint was translated into an opportunity to create two distinctive dining spaces that would offer diners a mix of experiences during the day.
The idea to imbibe tropical influences for the design scheme emerged from conversations with Suvir Saran, the Michelin-star chef who helms the restaurant. He spoke about the legacy of Indian recipes, his journey, experiments with food, and his interpretation of how gastronomic traditions are passed on over generations. The design inspiration came from this tradition of storytelling—where the eatery was envisioned to feature a ‘Cabinet of Stories’ that divides the kitchen and dining areas, and brings the stories of cuisine and culture into the space.
The interior design scheme creates pockets of intense expressions of this concept, intended to surprise and delight the visitor. The spaces in the restaurant trace the jungle theme through a series of dining experiences. Guests enter the restaurant through the alfresco Outdoor Café, which leads to the Verandah, a cafe and patisserie. The Fun Dining has been envisaged as a fine-dining space, and the luxurious Pinjra has been designed to offer an intimate dining experience.
Borrowing from India’s myriad seasonal shifts and weather patterns, and their relationship with jungle fauna, progressive colour transitions have been incorporated as spatial markers within the restaurant. A mix of materials—mild steel, stone and timber comprise the material palette, accentuated against a backdrop of tropical wallpapers, mosaic tiles and textured paint.
A key storytelling device uniting the spatial narrative is the Cabinet of Stories. Running as an uninterrupted grid of mild steel embellished with timber accents, mirrors and animal figurines, the Cabinet of Stories is juxtaposed against a verdant wallpaper backdrop depicting birds and animals—perched, swinging from branches, and peeking from behind the leaves. This visual vocabulary of flora and fauna injects the space with colourful life, enchanting visitors to escape to uncharted realms. This is the duality at play here—while the animals are seemingly escaping the jungle, visitors are led in by curiosity.
Storytelling also finds expression as intricate details in the furniture, upholstery, crockery, shelves, flooring and furnishing. The Verandah is flanked on one end by a beige textured wall teeming with hand-painted animal faces, and on the other end by the Cabinet of Stories and its accompanying jungle aesthetic. The furniture theme explores similar jungle adaptations in its look and feel; the upholstery features a mix of light colours and natural materials, and the design takes cues from the natural environment.
At the Fun Dining space, the feature wall splashed in royal blue is accentuated with round mirrors. The wallpaper gradually shifts to a slightly darker tone, as does the bar counter colour, signifying the change in season from summery bright to a muted autumnal hue. The flooring displays a similar shift in colour, keeping in line with the palette. Crafted to exude luxury and intimacy, the Pinjra features flayed vertical timber slats along the wall periphery, according the space a cage-like sense of enclosure. Bird tracks run on horizontal timber slats at the dado level, enhancing the guests’ sensorial experience of being in a ‘birdcage’.
The washroom design also presented an opportunity to emulate the tropical narrative; it is realised as mirrored cubes, with the bottom half clad in stone, and the top half covered with jungle foliage print glazed over mirrored screens. The tropical print extends to cover the entire expanse of the ceiling, giving the impression of being in the midst of the lush, verdant outdoors—simulating the ambience of a jungle expedition.
Overall, the furniture design and upholstery prints take cues from indigenous craft, tropical motifs, and natural materials that age well. In the café, dining tables reference tree logs by making use of a raw, natural form of wood with uneven edges to evoke the feeling of a verandah, creating an enhanced outdoor dining expression. The Fun Dining experience, by comparison, is traditional in its use of furniture, but vibrant colours and bold prints bring in a sense of playfulness.
Lighting considerations were paramount to drive focus on the key elements in the space—to create intimate pools of light on the tables, and by extension, to highlight the dishes. The bar, kitchen, and the illustrated flora and fauna narrative, particularly, have been highlighted to create cosy pockets of seating with lines of sight to these well-lit focal points.
Photo credit: Avesh Gaur
Project: The House of Celeste, Gurugram
Architects: Studio Lotus
Client: Suvir Saran, Animesh Singh Rao
Design Team: Asha Sairam, Neelam Das & Sonam Agarwal
Site Area: 4,140 sq ft
Built-Up Area: 3,136 sq ft
Year of Completion: 2020