September 17, 2009

Design & Decoration in Little India

As I mentioned in my last post, some friends and I were going up to NYC for the day. There were two directions on this trip and I took the second… the road less traveled. Julie, who’s my partner-in-crime on Sunday mornings at the Farmers’ Market and the Book Thing, and I headed out to Queens and the villages of Flushing (which I wrote about here) and Jackson Heights, which is also known as Little India.Little India 014

One of the things that I was most intrigued with was the sheer volume of design, decoration and colour on even the simplest of products. The other thing was the sheer volume of incredibly intricate jewelry in almost every store. While I prefer much simpler jewelry, this was incredible because of the delicate work that had been done on each and every piece.

Here are some examples of what we saw: This simple tin of curry, by Appointment to His Excellency, the Governor of Bombay (now Mumbai) reflects the age of its founding during the Victorian era.

Little India 010 These tins were about 12 inches tall and were just so beautifully decorated. If we weren’t getting on the train back into Manhattan at rush hour, I would have bought one for Connor’s dry dog food. Wouldn’t that have been elegant?Little India 016Each brand and variety of rice (and who knew there were so many?) had labels designed to attract the attention of buyers, many of whom may not know how to read well.  

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We saw some items that have been long gone from American stores, including tooth powder and snuff!

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The main street we were exploring, 74th Street, was lined on both sides with shops selling saris and jewelry. Each window had dozens of necklaces, bracelets and earrings on display. Little India 006Most of the gold is 22k and doesn’t have the alloys in it to make it shiny like a lot of the gold jewelry sold in the States. Most of the stones are semi-precious, such as tourmaline, coral, turquoise and pearls. Little India 041  Even if the jewelry isn’t to your taste, you have to admire the workmanship that went in to creating it. Little India 046

I did rather like this piece! I can just picture it on a black cashmere sweater. It would be striking.Little India 043

It is always fun to explore places that I have never visited, and Little India will now be on my list of fun places.


  1. Don't you love it when such mundane products as rice and tooth powder have beautiful, colorful packaging?
    Looks like you had a fun day!

  2. I spent a long and happy day there a couple of months ago and could have happily settled down, eating curry and wearing fabulous robes.

  3. That looks like so much fun - def. a ton of inspiration at each shop. Love the graphics on the labels, the tins and the jewelry. Blingeddy bling bling bling!

  4. quite an adventure - and in my backyard - the neighborhoods tucked into the city are wonderful -
    there is special spot for everyone and everything- i did not know about little india - we are off to the city today too - met, moma and the hi-line then chelsea market!

  5. All the ethnic neighborhoods have such colorful presence, I love this. We often take the children and show them all the colorful places, be it in NYC or elsewhere.
    I love your post,you picked such lovely images...

  6. The last piece is stunning. At our local food coop in a university town, I get to see many women in their native dress. One tall, slim Indian woman (sociology professor) floats in among the organic produce looking like a beautiful butterfly in a colorful garden. I like to watch her shop, always choosing the colorful items for her cart. It's like watching a ballet dancer!


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