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t’s always the same story. You walk groggily out to the living room after a party to survey last night’s damage, only to be greeted with half-empty wine glasses littering your living room carpet, scraps of tinsel clinging to the stuccoed ceiling and your IKEA abstract prints hanging off-kilter on your builder-beige walls. But it’s not just last night’s pomegranate martinis that are causing your temples to throb. It is the sudden realization that your apartment is completely devoid of style. A halogen lamp from Wal-Mart and your mom’s Corelle dishes does not an apartment make.

Immediately, you re-commit yourself to your New Year’s Resolution: Re-decorate. The cold sheen of your stainless steel appliances, the gleam of chrome coffee tables, your old futon from college—all of this must go. You need a mood, a warmth to your place. Something to set it apart from the countless other condos with laminate flooring and fake granite counters. You need a style all your own.

You will do what our ancestors did when faced with vast expanses of drywall and the gleam of white ceramic, a far cry from the richness and color of their homeland. You will inject your place with a little FOB glamour.

Fear not— has the solution. A style that will guarantee a warmth and colorfulness about your abode, that will capitalize on the vintage trend and will have all your friends buzzing about your originality and good taste. You will do what our ancestors did when faced with vast expanses of drywall and the gleam of white ceramic, a far cry from the richness and color of their homeland. You will inject your place with a little FOB glamour. That’s right—FOB style is back and in full swing. Just follow these five simple steps and you too can fool your friends into thinking you are fresh off the rickshaw.

1. Cover up those bare walls

First things first. You can’t just let those oppressive, cold walls surround you like the barren tundra. We must cover them up! Give them life! Give them character!

And what better way to do that than with an impressive, full-size zebra skin?

So root through the musty suitcases in the basement, the relics of your parents’ big move to the new country. You will find the zebra skin wrapped up amongst the ivory pendants, the purses made from king cobras and the other illegal remnants of endangered animals that your parents smuggled into the country. Now pin that sucker up, preferably on the expanse of wall above the couch for maximum effect.

2. Cover up that bare ceiling

Now that you have managed to show off your wealth and stature through the creative use of animal hide, it is time to turn your attention to the area of flora and fauna. The best way to set off that gorgeous zebra skin is with some greenery—the epitome of which is the hardy and economical money plant. Buy a fair-sized money plant, one which already has some trailing leaves and vines. Prop it in a corner somewhere, atop one of those plywood decorator tables from the ’80s, covered in a lace tablecloth (you will also find this in your parents’ basement). Then, using multi-colored thumbtacks, carefully climb the vines up the wall and then wind them around the ceiling. Be sure to hide the thumbtacks among the vines—otherwise it looks tacky.

As your money plant grows, you will soon be surrounded by a canopy of lush greenery. Your green thumb will no doubt be the envy of all your friends, and the shade provided by the trailing vines will cut down your air-conditioning costs in the summer.

Using multi-colored thumbtacks, carefully climb the vines of the money plant up the wall and then wind them around the ceiling. Be sure to hide the thumbtacks among the vines—otherwise it looks tacky.

3. Add decorative accents

Now that you have the trailing glory of greenery, you must complement it with some color. And what better way to set off real plants than by using fake ones? Head to your nearest flea market and gather as many fabric flowers as you can. Roses are best—nothing is more elegant than a fake silk rose. Also, try to get them in as many vibrant colors as possible—the purpose of buying fake flowers is that they are available in colors not normally found in nature. Midnight blue, eye-popping fuchsia and neon peach are all practical and beautiful options. If possible, mix all the colors together in one bouquet to create a real feast for the eye.

While you are at the flea market, pick up a beautiful cut-crystal vase to display your bouquet. No need to get actual crystal—plastic looks just like the real thing and is far lighter and more durable.

Once you have arranged the flowers to your liking, get out your glue gun and festoon each flower with fake “dew drops” for that just-picked-from-the-rose-garden look. This last option is a minor detail, but it is these details that really define the FOB aesthetic.

4. Beautify the heart of your home

This is all very well, you are thinking, but where do I display the centerpiece of my room, my pride and joy, my 64” television? Have no fear. That is what the deluxe floor-to-ceiling, cedar veneer entertainment unit is for. Now, this may seem like a hefty expense, but remember: Quality items are worth the investment. You will be able to display it proudly in your home for 20 or 30 years, marveling daily at its quality craftsmanship and timeless style.

No need to get actual crystal—plastic looks just like the real thing and is far lighter and more durable.

My advice would be to choose a model that comes with glass cabinets on either side of the television to display the trinkets you have gathered on your many jaunts around the globe. Some examples of knick-knacks suitable for display include:

—Every toy you or a family member has received from a Happy Meal since 1972
—A miniature porcelain toilet (acquired proudly during your parents’ honeymoon to Niagara Falls) that reads “I don’t swim in your toilet, so don’t pee in my pool”
—A bright red shot glass that reads “Arriba, arriba! Greetings from CANCUN, Mexico”
—Carved wooden figurines of elephants, antelope and African Masai tribesmen

5. Create a welcoming dining space

If you have followed these steps meticulously, you have nearly reached the pinnacle of fobbified perfection. There is only one more thing you need: somewhere to set down your piping-hot samosas and tasty jalebis when guests visit. You need a dining room table.

The perfect dining-room table will have a sturdy brass frame, with a darkened glass surface (much like the cabinets in your stunning entertainment unit). It will come with six chairs that also have a brass frame, but are upholstered in luxurious burgundy velvet. The most important thing to remember is to never let guests dine directly on the surface of the dining-room table. That is asking for trouble. Instead, carefully lay out six doily placemats on your new table.

Then, affixing the mats in place, cover the whole table with a sheet of thick industrial plastic, which you tape in place underneath the tabletop. Don’t worry about air bubbles that may appear in the plastic—they add interest and detail. There! You now have a beautiful table that is always laid with pristine placemats. When guests spill chicken korma or aloo ghobi while eating, you simply wipe the plastic with a damp cloth and voila! The table and placemats remain as good as new.

The most important thing to remember is to never let guests dine directly on the surface of the dining-room table. That is asking for trouble.

To give your table some extra oomph, lay another doily in the center and set one of the vases of dew-drop roses on top. It will be the prefect conversation starter at your next dinner party.

There you have it—five easy steps to turn your home from a cold yuppie condo to an old-school oasis. Now that you have learned the FOB design basics, be creative and apply them to your other spaces—fobbify your cubicle, the elevator in your apartment building, even your front lawn. The subtlety and clean lines of the FOB aesthetic will translate easily into any environment.n


Roxanna Kassam
learned the desi design principles through hands-on schooling at the homes of various relatives, babysitters and women who sell saris. She is relieved to say that she has not applied any of them to her new apartment.
Published on April 2, 2007.
Photography: Vikram Tank for Nirali Magazine.
Comments are closed.
  1. April 2, 2007, 9:21 am Indian-American with style

    I am sorry but this is not a very interesting article. I expected better from Nirali.

    What is the point of the article? It is not about style, and it is not even funny.

  2. April 2, 2007, 1:49 pm Oh the memories

    The point (to me) was to invoke memories of our parents and their friends, and how they chose to decorate; I guess you didn’t get the sarcasm of the article.

    Good on you, Nirali, for keeping things light-hearted!

  3. May 30, 2007, 12:11 pm fake roses

    Some good basic concepts here – I like the idea of sprinkling in some inexpensive items in the mix – we have a fake plant in our bathroom and a real one – no one has ever made a comment about either

  4. June 15, 2007, 10:11 am Silk Roses

    I have seen enough “cold yuppie condo” some good old fashion homeyness is a nice change – thanks!

  5. September 9, 2007, 1:22 pm Faux Wood

    What a brave interior decorator you are. Bet your parents smile looking over all those old memories in your place:-))

    Di