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Home » Bushra Janeen Asad’s beautifully-appointed home takes us on a journey through the different cultures that have made an impact on her family

Bushra Janeen Asad’s beautifully-appointed home takes us on a journey through the different cultures that have made an impact on her family

by Aiden

It’s a haven of culture and comfort.

By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales

Before I even enter Bushra Janeen Asad’s home in Raveevan Suites in Sukhumvit Soi 33, I’m greeted by a beautiful, navy-blue Loh e Qurani, which I’m later informed is a tablet or board with specific words from the Qur’an; an indication of the ways that the Islamic culture in Pakistan where she was raised has impacted Bushra’s design choices and style within. When Bushra greets me with a ready smile, resplendent in an azure salwar kameez, she immediately puts me at ease, and this feeling of warmth and instant connection is only cemented upon learning that she’d spent almost two decades of her life in the Philippines.

“For me, the Philippines feels like home, and you can see it in the countless number of mother-of-pearl items that we’ve collected over the years,” she confides. “Our cook is Filipino, and she was the yaya (nanny) of my son when we moved there 18 years ago. Both she and our helper from Myanmar, who is the green thumb behind the beautiful blooms and plants in the patio, are basically family.”

Having moved to Thailand a year and a half ago, due to her husband, Asad Alamgir, having been posted here by his employer, a multilateral bank, Bushra reveals that they’d only been in this new flat for around six months, a fact which astonished me because of how curated and complete it felt. There’s a different look and feel for each section, and yet the whole is beautifully brought together by a single thread: that of a journey through all the places that have made an impact on Bushra’s and her family’s life. “Many of the basic items you’ll see are from Pakistan,” Bushra says, “but all the individual items are from different places, and tell a story of my travels. For example, these are from China of course,” she says as she points out two Terracotta Army warrior replicas in her foyer, “and this sculpture is from Italy,” – here my eye is drawn to a woman composed of flowing lines, holding a bouquet.

As I take in all the items, carefully presented with love, I’m beginning to get an idea of the kind of woman who Bushra is – someone who lives life to the fullest and embraces every placeandopportunitythatcomesher way – and her style, which I would call classic with modern touches. She’s excited to tell me about the pieces that mean the most to her: a table from Thailand made from a solid, uncarved root of a tree; an intricate lamp from Bali in soothing pastel shades; a silver, brass, and mother-of-pearl chess set from Turkey; and more, with anecdotes behind each that bring a smile – and occasionally a laugh – to both our faces.

To the right of the foyer, the aforementioned- patio greets me, verdant and sun-kissed; a place of solitude that I can easily see Bushra and her husband spending many an evening in together as they bask in the cultivated greenery around them. Beyond are two sitting rooms, each with its own energy. On one side, you’re beckoned into a chic space done up in shades of calming blue and dark brown wood, with burnished silver accents on the pillows and furniture, and a magnificent teal rug that I wanted to dig my toes into. “This side represents modernism,” Bushra says. “The colours are relaxing, and I picked them out for their cool and peaceful mood.” By the window is an eminently- comfortable sunken rattan seat which catches my eye, a fact that gives Bushra no end of amusement as it was shipped all the way from the Philippines and is also a particular favourite of her eldest son’s, Haad Asad, who is now in Singapore.

“He’s claimed it as his own!” she reveals with a laugh. “He used to sit here and work till the day he left the Philippines, so I told him he can pick it up any time!”

The other living space has a much more classic feel, and the influences from Bushra’s Motherland of Pakistan are clear here. “It’s very ethnic, from the lamps, to the chairs, and the tables, and the way the space is laid out,” she says. “We always aim for welcoming in every aspect of ourhouse, as that’s a big part of our South Asian culture.” And indeed, beyond the living room I catch sight of a beautiful spread in the dining room that she’s laid out for us, a tantalising glimpse that is only beaten by the mouthwatering aromas that have filtered through the air.

On one side of the living room is a shelf of magnificent proportions holding precious items from their travels, while facing it are different works of art, two of which are particularly striking. The first is a painting from Vietnam, of a woman carrying a yoke with baskets of flowers on either side, facing a cracked and broken wall. It’s evocative and painted with a remarkable amount of skill. Beside it is a framed wooden door, which Bushra tells me is from Ohio, made by a Bulgarian artist, and is a piece of art dedicated to her younger son, Mohaid Asad, who helped her bring it from Ohio, to Ontario, then Toronto, and finally the Philippines.

It hints of possibilities beyond, which she reveals is exactly why it called to her: “I did a project during which we had to portray a piece of art in a different way, and I chose to do one of the Vietnamese painting, but with a woman standing in front of this door. I chose this subject as I can’t thank Allah enough for His blessings – for some people, life’s burdens represent a dead end, and they are crumbling under its weight; but for some others, an attitude of gratitude allows us to see doors of hope instead.”

When I ask about other framed art pieces in the space, particularly a few pen drawings that show a unique and confident hand, she answers demurely that they are her own pieces, a fact, I realise, that explains the artistic eye behind the design of her home.

“I’ve always liked drawing and design, and my sons, who are my best friends, pushed me to continue my studies. They always told me that I had two fortes that I could pursue as a career: teaching, and design. For 15 years, I’ve taught the Qur’an to anyone who’s interested, and I still do this via Zoom, and anyone who’s interested is welcome to join. But I also attended the Philippine School of Interior Design, and did a full degree programme there. I couldn’t complete my last semester as the school temporarily shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m hoping to transfer my credits and join an interior design school in Thailand and complete my degree,” she tells me. “I also use my drawing in my own jewellery venture, called Bushis (Instagram: @bushisofficial), which started with pearls in the Philippines and now in Bangkok, has expanded to precious stones,” she continues.

“In class, there were two Filipina ladies who noticed the way I draw is very different because it’s been culturally impacted by Pakistan – with curves, and arches. They had asked me to draw for them in the jewellery industry, and the rest is history.”

As Bushra walks me through her design choices through the rest of the house – red shades in her eldest son’s room to symbolise the energy that he infuses into every room, with golf and body-building accoutrements to show his passions; yellow shades in her younger son’s room to symbolise his positive and joyous spirit; and soothing shades of cream and classic furnishings in the master bedroom, with a separate living area in which they can relax or pray – I ask her how she’d describe her style. “Its impacted by my culture, and I don’t go for rococo or baroque techniques,” she says. “I prefer carvings, with a touch of modernism.

Nothing gaudy, but modern with cultural elements. Every piece I have collected has its own story because before I visit any country, I research what I should buy, and I pick something that symbolises that country to me.”

And indeed, from the wall of carefully- curated plates in the dining room, one from each of the countries they’ve visited; to every story and item she’s collected over the years; it’s true that you can trace their progression from Lahore, to Karachi, to Manila, and finally to Bangkok, with everymeaningful stop along the way through the years. Bushra emphasises to me, however, that this collection was the result of decades of careful work. “We weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths,” she says. “My husband doesn’t work for a family business, he had to work his way up in his job. My advice to aspiring homeowners, therefore, would be to take time to curate your living space. You can’t have it all in the beginning, it comes with time.”

Of course, she says with a laugh, nothing would be as it is without the complete support of her husband: “My husband has given me a free hand to decorate our homes however I’d like. Even when I’m bringing large pieces from abroad, which isn’t easy – my luggage is always overweight!” she adds with a laugh. “Of course, now he enjoys it too! Now he asks me, ‘Begam, people are asking where this is from!’ because he, too, takes pride in filling our home with memories. The one element I want to project in our home is gratitude for all the blessings in our lives, not the least of which are my three precious men; my husband and my sons. My eldest is a chartered accountant and is great with numbers, while my youngest is a talented communicator and is planning to be a lawyer, and is currently doing well in the marketing industry. Both of them, and my husband, are the reason I am who I am today.” And as I look around at their home, I realise that the space is indeed infused with this aura of gratitude for all the memories that they’ve been blessed with over the years – and that makes all the difference in turning a house into a home.

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