Phantom Hands, a webstore for antiques, is barely a few months old and is already generating quite a buzz. Promoted by Deepak Srinath and his wife Aparna Rao, this is a delightfully curated online space. The duo source their inventory from across the country and pool in their formidable in-house talent to ensure the pieces they sell are as close to mint condition as possible.
Rao, an installation artist who works with wood, metal and fibreglass, oversees the fine restoration details. Srinath, an investment banker, manages the site and close friend Balaji DJ pitches in as a consultant. “I first developed my love for antiques through Aparna whose family had made furniture for decades. We filled our home with beautiful things but there is a limit to what you can buy for yourself. Sharing our love for finely worked pieces and the stories behind them by turning from hobbyists to dealers, was the next logical step,” explains Srinath. He has a penchant for art deco pieces while Rao’s style is clean, uncluttered and minimalist. Fine workmanship is the deciding factor and there are no rules or limits on what they stock.
Most of the stuff they source comes from private collections and trusted dealers who specialise in niche categories. “Places like Pondicherry, Jew Street in Cochin, pockets in Ahmedabad and Bangalore are great places for potential treasures. Even Sri Lanka has some wonderful colonial furniture,” he says. Over the years, the duo have discovered rare finds in unexpected places. “Like a beautifully crafted four-headed terracotta Brahma statue (most statues of Brahma are three-headed) we discovered in a designer apparel shop in Pondicherry,” he shares.
Srinath believes that interest in antiques and collectibles is growing amongst a wider base of people in India. “We find younger people are becoming collectors of specific antiques such as lights or ceramics. We are also seeing collectors showing interest in say, English leather bags or Afghan carpets,” he signs off.