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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

MADRAS NOSTALGIA, Curzons Showroom: Survivors of time - Of time and tables!

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Asha Sridhar & Anusha Parthasarathy, The Hindu / CHENNAI, August 23, 2011.

Curzons showroom. Photo: M. Karunakaran
Curzons showroom. Photo: M. Karunakaran - The Hindu.

Wrenn Bennett and Curzons are two legendary furniture shops in Chennai. Pieces crafted by them adorn several historical institutions in south India and had also made it to the Delhi Durbar of 1911.

Wearing its age on its sleeves, the past hangs heavy from the high-ceilings of some of Chennai's oldest surviving furniture shops. Walk in and you might find the famed rosewood rolltop desks and teak furniture — not just in weary photographs on the walls.

Walk down Wallajah Road from Mount Road and you will stumble upon a solitary colonial-style building bearing an aging signboard, ‘Curzons'. This landmark furniture shop is now run by B Gautham, a member of the fourth generation and one of the partners in the family business. With an imposing arched doorway, many pillars and the luxury of space that the generously sized rosewood cots, teak tables and a colonial sofa enjoy, what could be a worthy incentive for this historic store to keep pace with time?

The shop was started by Chimato Alavandar Chetty in 1898, and its furniture was known for its superior quality and was strictly for those who could afford it. It also supplied ammunition boxes during the war years; and its furniture as dowry was believed to bring good luck to the bride. “Curzons delivered the best, whatever the requirement was at that time,” says Gautham.

When Alavandar's son C. Seshachalam took over, his association with the father of Indian library science, Dr S. R. Ranganathan, led to the company specialising in library furniture. “Our name is engraved on the library furniture of institutes like Madras University, Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Madras Medical College, Bishop Heber College (Trichy), Madras Institute of Development Studies, and Pachaiyappa's College,” says Gautham. Curzons also made furniture for the Raj Bhavan and for private residences of people like M.S. Subbalakshmi. Many of the government offices in Kurnool, the first capital of Andhra Pradesh, were furnished by Curzons.

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