Lucknow is known world over for its cuisine and culture, but not many know that until not very long ago, the city was also known for its architectural finesse and design sensibilities. Thanks to the newly opened lebua Lucknow, a heritage property, the world is waking up to Lucknow’s lost architectural splendour – one courtyard at a time.
The only certified heritage hotel of the city, lebua Lucknow, is conceptualized as a traditional bungalow of the 19th century and reflects the Art Deco influence on the architecture and design of Lucknow in the 1900s. The estate, built in 1936, originally belonged to a Brigadier’s family who, along with his wife, ran a guesthouse here. After his passing however, the estate fell into disuse. It remained so until 2014 when the current owners, Lucknow born expat Mohammed Abdullah and his interior decorator wife Nayab Bakshi, bought the place and lovingly converted it into a boutique hotel. In doing so, they not only gave the house a new lease of life, but also ensured that the original structure was retained. As a result, four years later, you have a hotel, which feels more like an aristocratic home reflecting the Nafasat, Nazakat, and Tehzeeb of the City Of Illusions.
The Art Deco façade of the hotel looks down at a sprawling lawn. A large porch, an outer verandah, and the office, reflect 20th century layout. French doors and windows, stained glass ventilators, arched doorways, mosaic floors, and elaborate chandeliers transport you to the fashionable 1900s while the modern amenities ensure you do not miss the comfort of the contemporary world.
Built over two floors with multiple terraces, courtyards, lawns and corridors, the estate is a tribute to the lavish lakhnavi lifestyle of the yore. The rooms are huge, the verandahs run through the whole property, and the courtyards, laden with fragrant madhumalti, have a quaint charm about them. Walking through the hotel feels like walking in a period drama.
While the 1.5-acre property has retained the original structure, it has also painstakingly recreated the interiors to reflect the period of its creation. Wooden beams and old doors have been sourced from old havelis of the city, lamps, identical to the ones found in the Imambaras of Lucknow, have been brought in from Firozabad, brass has been sourced from Aligarh, and the furniture, most of which consists of restored 20th century pieces, has come from old estates in Lucknow. To say old-world luxury flourishes in this estate will not be wrong.
The first space you encounter, after the long winding driveway, is the verandah. Used as a lobby by the hotel, it has been done up using sheesham furniture, vintage lamps, and large sepia toned photographs of the city. An arched door leads to the staircase next. Narrow, with checkered tiled steps, it is low and inviting. Another few steps take you to the courtyard with creepers, wrought iron tables, brick flooring, and a small fountain. Then there are the winding corridors. Tiled to create a vintage look, they are adorned with sheer muslin drapes, antique décor, and a large old Gramophone, which also plays the choicest of symphonies through the evening.
Rooms & Suits
No two rooms are same at lebua Lucknow. Ranging from 180-500 square feet in size, some come as suites (Heritage suite and Lebua suite), some are singular units (Executive and Deluxe). The suits have an attached sit-out, while singular units open into terraces or courtyards. The subtle showcasing Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of Lucknow, however, is common in all of them. From the zardozi frames on the walls, to the chickan cushions on the bed, local influences not only recreate the elegant lakhnavi lifestyle but also reflect superlative sense of design and aesthetics that truly represents the dying legacy of this beautiful town.
The Diner and Cafe:
The all-day diner, Azrak, takes pride in its handmade blue tiles and repurposed doors from erstwhile aristocratic homes in the city. Its French windows ensure the sunlight is adequate; the lakhnavi chiks meanwhile do not let it get too bright. A collage of chickankari blocks on the wall, and their use as door knobs is the highlight of this chic minimalist restaurant, apart from, of course, its exceptional food.
1936, the al-fresco Italian restaurant set in the lawn is built around two large trees with their trunks inside the brick walled dining hall. The focal point however, is the yellow Lamberetta parked in a corner, not very far from the house car, a Morris. Just like everything else here, this mustard Morris and too is an ode to the era gone-by.
Website: http://www.lebua.com/lebua-lucknow. Room Rent: Starts INR 6000.00/- (taxes extra)
A version of this post appeared in Architectural Digest