Home is Where the Art Is
The Gir home is filled with custom-made artisan treasures from around the world.
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Srikant, an engineer and co-director of the University of Memphis’ Biofuel Energy and Sustainable Technologies Center, spent more than three years conceptualizing floor plans and acquiring pieces for what would become a nearly 7,000-square-foot home filled with awe-inspiring, handcrafted items. After spending years planning, traveling, and connecting with artisans around the world to collect and create the items that would turn their home into art, the project began to take shape when they broke ground for construction of their dream home in 2008 with the help of Memphis builders Millard and Bonnie Townsend.
The inspiration for the exterior and interior design sprang from home — from India — and from the Girs’ various travels. “The top designers from all over the world gravitate toward Bali,” says Srikant, an avid reader of Architectural Digest. “Bali is a place for art.” Traveling there once a year has made it easier for the Girs to locate the appropriate artists and materials that can bring a sense of Bali style into their home.
The carved frame and pillars that mark the front entryway derive from Balinese design. The Girs continue this theme inside the house with several more hand-carved sandstone Corinthian columns — not unlike those in Srikant’s grandfather’s home — and a large carved panel of sandstone wall art, depicting a scene with cranes wading in a small water pond flecked with lotus flowers. Upon first entering the Gir home, the most eye-catching piece of art is the flowing steel stairway banister and second-floor railing, designed by renowned Memphis artist Yvonne Bobo, whose public art projects are displayed all across the city, including the Cancer Survivors Park and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. With creeping vines dotted with “flowers” marked by gold leafing and Swarovski crystals that diffract the light at every angle into light-beam petals, Bobo’s creation took nearly eight months to complete.
The distinguishing feature of the sitting room beyond the foyer is its magnificent collection of hand-carved Louis XVI-style chairs. The Girs spent months searching for an artist to craft the chairs to their specifics and eventually found Jean Phillips, a Frenchman whose work (before he retired in Bali) included restoring original Louis XVI furniture. “It took him almost two years to hand- carve these pieces in teak wood,” Srikant says.
Though Phillips based his design on period examples, he included many original concepts and intricate details, down to the small graduated beads carved into grooves in the chairs’ legs. The elegant chairs were finished with gold leafing.