The Story Behind Raji RM Murals / by Raji Radhakrishnan

A sampling of  Raji RM Murals . Interior Design by  Raji RM & Associates

A sampling of Raji RM Murals. Interior Design by Raji RM & Associates

We've had fantastic response for my murals since we launched the capsule collection this Spring and since many have asked what inspired me to start these murals, I thought I'd talk about how it all started #TBT. This is the story of I how I evolved my personal design aesthetic and particularly how my line of murals came to be. Rewind nearly a decade ago, I was in Versailles in the King's apartment wandering the rooms in awe and absolute love. I couldn't hear my husband's voice or the chattering of other visitors - it was just me and the rooms. I was lost in the architecture, the frescoes, the paintings - clicking away photos of painted ceilings, decorative cornices and velvet damask walls. They were all so gorgeous, I was speechless.

More flashback - My family and I had recently moved back to the east coast after a short stint in Palo Alto, CA where I was immersed and entranced with modern architecture, lofts, industrial design, et al. Not fully realizing how much I still loved classical architecture and design and like many design enthusiasts at that time, I was in a moment of flux about classical vs modern design. It was a time when some argued about the merits and demerits of using modern and contemporary furniture in a classically based setting vs. using very traditional furniture in a contemporary/modern setting. With all this churning in some corner of my head, there I was in the middle of what is arguably the most elaborate and vetted traditional architecture in history with high-ceiling frescoes and the most beautiful millwork in every corner and turn. The rooms in Versailles of course were full of gilded fauteuils, Louis XV bureau-plats, elaborate canapes, carved poster beds, etc. Most shoved to the walls behind velvet ropes to let the visitor traffic flow through without touching any of the furnishings. And there was a moment when, perplexed by the beauty in front of me and my still strong love of modernism and contemporary design, I paused letting other visitors push and walk right past me because I felt something very strongly. It was coming down but just not clear enough. As the last of the visitors left the room, I saw it. What if these rooms were filled with modern and contemporary furniture instead of the gilded fauteuils and beaureau-plats?

On my way to our hotel, I started to think and talk in great detail how I would design such a space. Take a grand, classical room and juxtapose it with modern and contemporary furnishings. Simple enough, right? Not so fast George Banks! In reality how will we create that grandeur? Versailles is Versailles! And that night I couldn't sleep not until I had an answer. Sure, it's not easy or one shouldn't even try to recreate rooms like in Versailles but couldn't we still evoke at least a simplified, modern version of it? Yes and No. You want to be very careful here. As the night progressed, frustrated and excited at the same time, I turned on my computer to connect my camera and upload the photos I took, hoping to jiggle my memory and recreate the feeling I had while in the King's apartment. And boy am I glad I did! The answer I was searching for was staring right in front of me in the photos I had taken that day. Not the photos of the rooms itself but the details I had captured in some of the frescoes in the ceilings, in the paintings on the walls. It struck me then, at least one way I can recreate the feeling of a grand space was to blow-up these digital photographs almost room size if needed. This would ideally create the classical backdrop I love, which will also be my cue to then decorate the room in more modern/contemporary (and traditional) style, letting the interplay between styles tell a new story - one that blends the past and the present, evoke thoughts of the best of history and modern life.

One of the first murals we created for a client in Chevy Chase, MD

One of the first murals we created for a client in Chevy Chase, MD

Continuing our trip to England we came back home packed with goodies, mostly in my head and in my computer. I started toying with the ideas that kick started in Versailles but I don't think I even thought of it as murals just then. As luck would have it, soon after the trip Metropolitan Home magazine's Senior Design Editor, Linda O' Keefe called to ask if I would be interested in designing a show house room in Washington, DC. This was my first show house. I started planning the design in all earnest but not until I figured out how I was going to transfer the feeling I had in Versailles to the master bed room I was designing! As it turned out, it wasn't any of the photographs I took in Versailles that made the cut for this particular room but a photograph I took standing over a hundred feet below the front facade of the British Museum in London. More stars aligned as a brave client whose home I was designing in Chevy Chase, MD during that same time was also game for the idea of having one of her own photographs taken in Israel from the 70s digitally re-captured in detail by me for an entry way. By then I knew I was definitely on to something but making it a line didn't even occur to me until (fast forward) 2012 when I did the Kips Bay Show House. And the rest as they say is history.

Today, Raji RM murals still start with photographs I capture during my travels. Hundreds of them. Sorting through them I usually select just a few (3 to 4 may be) and start working on them to see if they could become a mural. I work on photography related applications that allow me to tweak the light, shadows, color, crop and remove the unwanted details, etc., just until it's perfect to become a mural. The photograph is then transferred to the lab (which I selected after trying several that didn't make the cut, including trying out different papers, finishes and thickness) to test samples of whole image and sections of the image, looking for color correctness, color bleeds, focus, panel cut points and overall to make a beautiful, large scale mural. Sometimes it doesn't work out and the images are terminated at this stage. The one image that does qualify is then printed into 2 - 4 panels that require installation by a professional wallpaper installer. The next image to become a mural only happens at a very inspired moment when I know I found something very special. For more on how to use these murals in today's interiors click here.

I hope you enjoy the murals as much as I do and let them transport you to a different time and place. To inspired moments! Cheers!

Raji Radhakrishnan

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

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