Distinctive and Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home


Filled with interesting collectibles and distinctive art, this home perfectly expresses the artistic sensibility of the homeowner. With a love of the antique, the off-beat, the organic and an absolute horror of anything flashy, Nafisa Rizvi has an eye for design and knows how to elevate the ordinary.

Nafisa is a curator and art writer who has written extensively on art and edited two books on Pakistan’s important artists.  She shares the home with her husband Hasan, who is happy to led her take the décor lead. Her two children grew up in this house but are currently settled abroad. She has also lived away from Pakistan for the last several years and is now in the process of settling back into her home.

On a dusty summer morning, Nafisa welcomed us into her home with some delicious sherbet and spoke about her passion for beautiful but unusual things.

How long have you lived here?

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

We have lived in this home for 30 years. It was an old house but we somehow never got around to extensive renovations. So there has been only minimal intervention. For instance, I had this antique staircase put in; it’s from an old house that was being torn down. The tiles in the patio outside are also from an old Parsi home.

Everything in the house is re-purposed or antique.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

Mostly, but I did have some new pieces made like some sofas and the sideboard. Antiques were cheap back in the day and I bought things for a pittance. The mirrored cabinet in the entrance is actually from Begum Rana Liaquat Ali’s home. I remember it was being unloaded at the shop when I walked in and I bought it and had it delivered on the same Suzuki.

The dining table and chairs are also from antique furniture stores. The long coffee table in the sitting room is actually a chowki.  

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

You will find no glass, marble or crystal in my home. I don’t like anything shiny. People keep telling me to polish the wooden staircase but I like it the way it is.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

You obviously love art and are deeply involved in the local art scene. Tell us a little about your own collection.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

I started collecting art much before I started writing. I remember I bought an Ahmed Pervaiz from Chawkandi Art with my first paycheck. It was only 7000 rupees but that too I paid in installments.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

Then when I became more involved in the art scene, I would go to a lot of previews and pick up work there; but art was not so expensive then. I stopped buying when prices soared.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

But I am lucky I have works by artists like Unver Shafi, Muhammad Zeeshan, Samina Mansuri (I bought the sketch because the painting was so expensive), Belinda Eaton (who was not so famous when I bought her work.) I really cherish my  Anwar Saeed.

But I also have works from thesis shows and things like this incomplete piece by the late Asim Butt; his mother gave it to me along with his paint brushes and these things hold a lot of emotional value.

I love this work by Australian artist Michael Kempson who is recognised as a master printmaker. He has been given a special title by the  aboriginal people, allowing him to use their techniques. Then some artists have gifted me works and I have even been paid in artwork for my writing. I was paid in a painting by Ghulam Muhammad whose work sells for huge amounts now.

So how can one buy art without spending a lot?

Those who are interested in buying art should visit thesis shows, I have picked up some wonderful pieces there.

The students do very innovative work and one should talk to them, see the concept behind the work. The other thing to do is to look at alternative genres of art, like photography. It doesn’t have to be paint on canvas. There is some amazing work out here. One of my favourites in my collection is by  Dominic Rouse which would be considered photographic art.

But one should understand that art does not have to be pretty! It should speak to you, hit you in the heart. People find this work in my stairwell with the heads and pelvic bone very disturbing. But it speaks about something. And please don’t buy art to match your upholstery.

We love the idea of a bookshelf in the sitting room.

That bookshelf was gifted to me by my dear friend, the late Imran Mir. It means a lot because it was in Imran’s office at his agency where I worked for 12 years. I’m waiting to fill it with my books on art which are presently in the US and have to be shipped here.

You have a fabulous teapot collection but even more unique is your plant pod collection.

Arty Vibe in a Karachi Home

You know these are mementos from my travels. It started with a pod I picked up on a beach in Sri Lanka. Then I got this banksia pod in Australia; the plant only grows there and nowhere else. Others are from North America…

You also love gardening and the patio is full of beautiful plants and quirky objects.

I do love gardening; my garden is a little unkempt right now because I have been away. This huge neem tree was planted just before my daughter was born and we had a turtle in the pond which was the children’s pet.

I picked up things like the handpump and the oars (the wood will never rot)… the stone chakki was brought by my driver from Kohat. I picked up the driftwood off the road. It’s lovely to entertain here at night and I do up the place with fairy lights and other touches.

Photography by Naeema Kapadia