AD Goes Inside Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s Colorful Home in Jaipur
French jewelry designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac discovered the magic of Jaipur and its jewel box of a hotel, Narain Niwas Palace, back in 1989 while traveling across the subcontinent with friends. She was charmed by the beauty of the city, with its pink-painted dwellings, as well as its abundant creativity. “There’s a great sense of decoration and of craftsmanship here,” she says. “Even the rickshaws are painted with motifs. People know how to design and make things, and everything is possible.”
Taillac on a lounge by Idli in the living room.
It took her a while to realize that she was indeed hooked on Jaipur, but once she did, she committed to it profoundly. In 1995 she sold her apartment in London, and with the proceeds, as well as a loan from her mother’s best friend, she returned to Jaipur and set up her jewelry business, working hand-in-hand with Munnu Kasliwal, owner of the legendary Gem Palace. Taillac would spend eight months a year in Jaipur, living in a sprawling house outside town and creating Mughal-inspired pieces set with a rainbow of semiprecious stones with Kasliwal and his atelier. At first she sold only by appointment in her Paris showroom and at high-end boutiques such as Browns in London, Barneys New York, and Colette in Paris. But soon she had her own shops in Paris, Tokyo, and New York.
In 2008, Taillac found herself spending less time in Jaipur since her son, Edmond, was enrolled in secondary school in Paris. Five years later, she gave up her house and moved into the Narain Niwas Palace, settling into a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the garden. “It’s a harbor of peace, with peacocks, birds, monkeys,” she says. “It’s India as I remember and love.”
To transform her suite into something more personal, she enlisted the help of Dutch interior designer Marie-Anne Oudejans , a longtime friend who also lives in the hotel (see AD, April 2017). Structural changes happened first: the addition of a bathroom, the modernization of the kitchen. Then came color. As Taillac notes, “Color is everywhere in Jaipur. Between blue and turquoise, there are 50 variations, and each has a name—some untranslatable because they don’t exist anywhere else.”
Jaipur is a small town in the provinces,” says Taillac. “Life here is simple.
The dominant hue in her new home would be powder blue—her signature, which she uses in her boutiques as well as on her jewelry boxes. “It’s very calming and cooling,” she explains. And in the Indian heat, “I needed something cooling.” For her bedroom, she chose Jaipur’s hallmark shade of rose “because my grandmother taught me your bedroom should always be a color that makes you look beautiful in the evening light.”
Many of the furnishings are pieces she had brought from Paris in the 1990s. Everything else she commissioned in Jaipur. “You can have fabrics printed or furniture made by the miller,” she says. “I call him and, two days later, I have it in my home, and the price is affordable. In Paris, that would never happen.”
Taillac now spends four to five months a year in Jaipur—usually January and February, maybe April, and then September and October. Her son joins her when he can.Each day in Jaipur she rises with the sun, swims in the hotel pool, with the monkeys and birds rustling in the palms, then sets to work designing new pieces. Usually she lunches on her terrace. “I have a cook whom I have trained to do Italian, Moroccan, Lebanese, and a bit of French,” she says. At night Taillac dines either in the hotel’s Bar Palladio, also decorated by Oudejans, or at some charming place in the city, often with “people who come through town,” among them friends such as designers Muriel Brandolini and Madeline Weinrib . Winter months in Jaipur, she explains, can be very social. But there are what she describes as “austere moments,” from end of April to beginning of September, when the visitors retreat and she enjoys “a quiet time for great creativity.”
What Taillac loves most about her life in Jaipur is its slow pace—it is, in a sense, an antidote to ever-cosmopolitan Paris. “Jaipur is a small town in the provinces,” she says. “Life here is simple. There are three restaurants and two friends you always want to see, so you wind up not having to make decisions. It frees you up.”