House of Screens

Kabul's rich interior decorative traditions in one of Murad Khani's historic houses

By Turquoise Mountain

Kabul, Afghanistan

House of Screens courtyard (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Through the Doors of Murad Khani

Murad Khani’s houses often display a stark exterior with a few plain windows or the occasional carved door decorating the earthen walls. Yet within, houses host a variety of colours, materials, surfaces, and shapes. Many houses have private family courtyards at the centre filled with flowers and trees.

House of Screens kitchen window (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

House of Screens Patayi (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Wood Panelling in the House of Screens

The walls of the House of Screens are panelled with pata, which are traditional wooden shutters. In the summer, the panels are raised, opening up the cool, shadowy rooms to the courtyard and creating a deep colonnade. In the winter, the shuttered panels are closed and keep the warmth in.

Room of screens windows (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

2017_house of screens 12.jpgTurquoise Mountain

2017_house of screens 9Turquoise Mountain

The Interior

The inside of a traditional Murad Khani house, such as the House of Screens, is often filled with decorative plaster decoration, deeply recessed niches and elaborately carved timber panels. 

Room of Screens (2014) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Blending Traditions

The rugs, embroidered cushions, and fine metalwork which often decorate such spaces represent the nomadic traditions of Central Asia, while the calligraphy and ceramics on display are examples of Persian influence. The decorative woodwork found in these rooms often blends the regional influences of Central Asian, Indian, European, Himalayan and even pre-Islamic traditions.

2017_house of screens 4.jpgTurquoise Mountain

An Eye for Detail

Looking closer at the decorative detail in timber or plaster reveals a complex mix of shapes and patterns. While symmetry may not always be exact and carving slightly uneven, every detail fits into a school of design or a decorative tradition. Just as every functional element has a reason, so does the decoration.

Drawing of Screens, Turquoise Mountain, 2008, From the collection of: Turquoise Mountain
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Carving details, Turquoise Mountain, 2017, From the collection of: Turquoise Mountain
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House of Screens courtyard (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain


In the decorative design of these homes, you often find that a single feature is highlighted. A geometric pattern may be repeated, or a central floral motif may stand out against a simpler trim. These refined and crisp surface finishes on the inside of a Murad Khani home stand in contrast to the sturdy earth walls and roofs on the outside. 

Carving details (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Original peacock carvings in the corners of the building.

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