Photos by Rubab Akhtar
From television plays to modeling, the very charming Sarwat Gilani has earned the love and admiration of Pakistani audiences, More recently, she has become the face for Special Olympics Pakistan and is passionate about furthering this cause.
Sarwat Gilani very graciously took time out from her busy schedule to show the HomeLoveLifestyle team around her home. And we discovered a whole new facet to this talented celebrity!
Is your home self-designed?
Yes, It’s totally self-designed. I like designing spaces. I am a graphic designer from Indus Valley. I have always loved art and painting. My mother did water colours as a hobby and my father would sketch, so that love for art filtered down.
I wanted to pick up a powerful medium which was communication, but I always liked designing whether its furniture or jewellery… anything to do with my hands.
So have you actually designed spaces for others?
Yes, I started off with a roof-top garden at my parents home. I did that with a friend of mine, Zarmeenay Shah. It was very old-school, colonial, dull gold, dark colours… Then another friend wanted a roof-top garden, a more elaborate one. So I researched that, did my homework and it turned out to be a success.
Then an NGO, The School Of Leadership asked me to design their office. They had a very limited budget but wanted a change. I wanted to bring in the youth factor, so I made it very colourful and played around with their logos, they have five logos, to create a different theme for each room.
Then I did a bachelor pad, a penthouse. That was lot of fun because I got to experiment and play around with raw materials. For example I made a chair out of his old belts. I used corrugated sheets to cover a wall and did graffiti on it.
The roof-top garden seems to be a recurring theme for you.
Yes, I think I would like to be known as the roof-top gardener. (Laughs) I think roof-tops are an amazing space, especially in Karachi. We have amazing breeze in summer and it’s lovely in winter as well. When I got married and moved to this house, the roof-top was simply covered in wires. I knew that wouldn’t do. This time I wanted something lighter, something different. So I thought of Santorini…white and turquoise, hints of yellow. And it turned out very well.
So Sarwat Gilani is actually an interior designer as well as an actor?
Yes. (Laughs) In fact, I want to focus on my interior designing. I am planning to take a proper course in interior design from Indus Valley just to get detailing right. I have done architecture courses in my first few years at IVS so I know the basics. I need something to fall back on when acting and modelling is no longer viable.
I am also an ambassador for Special Olympics Pakistan which keeps me very busy. The children are simply amazing.
What’s your favourite space in the house?
The roof-top garden but also the lounge. We started with one sofa. I like to buy furniture one piece at a time, live with it for a while. I can do this when its my own space and I don’t have a deadline. So we started with this blue sofa and a table. There was a TV on the wall which got spoiled and eventually we removed it. And it’s amazing that when you replace one element, the rest of the room comes alive because you had been blocking the functionality of it.
Then I got this rich, mustard-yellow sofa to contrast with the blue one. This large painting on the wall was bought at a thesis show at Indus Valley School. It’s actually an incomplete piece by, but I liked that. I like the rawness, the sense of anticipation… it’s dark ,yet celebratory.
You have small children. Are they allowed in this space Did you have to childproof the home?
Very little. I think if you make children understand that this is the space they have to manoeuvre in, you don’t have to pick up anything. People are surprised I have so many plants. But my older one knows which space is his and which is Mama’s and Baba’s. You have to give the quality time to make them understand this concept
They love the rooftop space too. They have their sand box there and ride their cycles.
What’s more important? Aesthetics or comfort?
A bit of both. A space cannot just be stylish and not functional. And it obviously has to be comfortable.
As a designer, do you have signature style?
It’s what the client wants, yet if someone knows my style, they will pick it up. People know what they want, and even if I’m trying something new, I try and make them comfortable with it. Otherwise I don’t push it. At the end of the day it’s their space.
The roof garden is obviously a great place for entertaining.
Yes, everyone just makes a bee-line for it. In fact, I don’t want to go out, I prefer to stay here and have friends over.
What’s your inspiration?
Tasteful people, people who are not afraid to dream big. As an art student, I studied so many artists with seemingly impossible ideas which they achieved. And we have access to so many ideas through the internet. I’m always pushing myself to try something new.
Do you have any design advice for all your fans out there ?
If you have the eye, you don’t need to have a big budget. You can re-use furniture, in fact I encourage people to do so. Even by placing the same pieces differently, you can create a new vibe. If a piece of furniture is not working, take to out into the garden or terrace. Use it differently.
Play with colour, draperies which should be kept light. Let the furniture make the statement. Add plants which add richness and warmth. Interior design is not just for the elite.