Joanna Lester-George

The Farm - review of a Rajasthani resort

The KOKOindia Facebook page | March 7th, 2014 | Visit the original article online

The Farm in Jaipur must surely be India’s most extraordinarily stylish hotel. An art resort and luxury home stay, it is a fascinating hotchpotch of avant-garde design, unique art installations and innovative use of space. It took me a little time to get my bearings at this unusual resort when I first arrived, but it wasn’t long before I was wishing I could stay longer. The quietude of The Farm’s location (just thirty minutes outside Jaipur), and the generous, easygoing manner of my hosts, made my visit to Rajasthan’s busy capital a wholly refreshing experience.

I was greeted at the, um, open aired ‘Reception’ area - a communal and eclectic space which also serves as a Lounge and Dining room. Antiques, curios, mannequins and oversized birdcages encircle differing styles of tables, chairs and sofas (from ancient family heirlooms to trendy, brightly coloured plastic), amongst which guests can choose their perfect spot to hang out. It’s also the ‘Outdoor Office’, where the best Wi-Fi connection is available and where you will often find the charming owners, Ritu and Surya, poring over new designs and ideas.

The Farm is their home, one which they share with their guests and also with their bright spark of a seven year old son Vihan (who had a gold safety clip artfully pierced through one ear.) Unsurprisingly, the place tends to attract a hip, artistic crowd (along with ‘regular guests’ like me) and is the ideal spot for those wishing to simply dip into the city’s hectic sightseeing scene or to bypass it altogether. It is certainly far from the madding crowd - a sprawling property set amidst twenty acres of green fields abundant with wild flowers and gnarly old trees. There is a huge lawn (the size of a football pitch) ideal for quiet walks or for kids to run crazy in, complete with a giant hammock and outdoor dining table fashioned from antler-shaped pieces of driftwood.

Tucked away amongst its grounds, The Farm has six Suites at garden level and three Guest Rooms which face onto the large swimming pool, directly across from the, um, ‘Reception Lounge Dining Room Office.’ The central Guest Room belongs to the family and mine was located just next door. It had a bizarre looking façade made from Nirvar (the rope used to make charpoys) and which provided privacy for a verandah equipped with antique table, chairs and royal wooden chests. Inside was a spacious, comfortable bedroom decked out with the finest Rajasthani linens, and an adjoining bathroom suite with a sunken bath tub and separate shower room. Cool, original art work filled the walls, and there was a private Mediterranean-style sun deck at the back overlooking the grounds.

It was clear that if one were looking for some serious down time, there would be no limit to the number of interesting spaces to choose from. The rooms are deliberately absent of televisions, although one can be found in the amazing communal lounge and library on the ground floor. It’s a fabulous place for families to enjoy with kids too — especially if staying in the pool facing Rooms, as you can keep a watchful eye on sleeping Little Ones whilst enjoying some Grown Up time in the Dining Room just opposite.

Each of the Rooms and Suites are individually styled around a theme inspired by the owners’ own travels and interests — such as the Automobile Suite, which incorporates a motorbike as a table base and is filled with a fascinating assortment of trinkets, photos and automobile associated décor. Each Suite feels private and unique, with trailing vines and flowers adorning every entrance to remind you that you’re in the very heart of nature.

The integral theme here is ‘Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose’, and this has been executed in the most ingenious of ways, such as flower beds created from sunken green bottles. In addition to their own talents, Ritu and Surya also regularly invite artists and artisans to lend their personal vision to the space, and there are philosophical musings and poetry painted on all the outside walls. In fact, there is something eye-catching and unexpected everywhere you look.

The Farm is an ever evolving project and one which draws cleverly on the owners’ personal ancestry - from the family farmland itself (hence the name) and from their noble heritage. I joined Ritu and Surya in the open Lounge/Dining space for drinks in the evening. There was a chill in the air and a roaring fire was lit for us in an angeethi. We sat and chatted over huge goblets of red wine, the candlelight flickering atmospherically in the birdcages surrounding us. Dinner was served without formality and was utterly delicious, most of the produce coming straight from The Farm’s own garden. I loved the relaxed feel of dining in someone's home, especially as I was made to feel so welcome by my hosts.

Surya told me the story of how this farmland had been in his family for many, many years (he is a seventh generation Rajput) but how the main family home was once a palace close to Udaipur. In the 1970’s it was sadly flooded by a new dam, and its contents dismantled and placed into storage. When he and Ritu began their bohemian project together, The Farm was an inspirationally blank canvas for them to fill with the many concepts and objets they are so passionate about. The family’s treasured artifacts came out of storage, and new life was breathed into them with a contemporary twist.

After the most peaceful night’s sleep I have had in ages, I ventured out into the crisp morning air where one of the (very sweet) members of staff handed me a cashmere blanket and the chef got busy whipping up a breakfast in the outdoor kitchen. Green garam with chilies, fresh orange juice, fried eggs and toast. Yum. I had a final leisurely wander around the grounds, checking out the stunning new metal structure that will in future serve as an artist’s studio and party venue. Ritu and Surya may love the peacefulness of their home but they are also great fun and clearly love to share their fabulous place with friends. I was sad to say goodbye….

The Farm is definitely an experimental style ‘hotel’ , for which a conventional label does not exist— a highly unusual ‘home stay’ with an exciting future ahead, and one which guests can return to time and time again safe in the knowledge they will always find something new. The overwhelming sense whilst staying here is that this is a place that knows no boundaries — a rare and precious discovery in a part of India where tradition still reigns supreme.