The Farm, Jaipur review: Palace refit for a king

Read our writer's views on this property below

Amrit Dhillon inspects a load of royal junk reborn into a tribute to noble lineage.

What do you do with the stuff that's been lying around for years because your dad's palace had to be hastily dismantled when the waters of a new dam were about to flood it? You store it until you want to create a resort in the serene countryside outside Jaipur, in Rajasthan, which you will name The Farm.

The father in question is Surya Singh's father, Pratap Bhanu Singha, a member of the Rajput warrior-caste nobility whose family lived in the century-old palace for generations.

When Surya and his wife, Ritu, began building The Farm, they pressed everything into service doors, windows, girders, old bolts, screws, massive teak beams, bits of a vintage Dodge and a Victorian pram in a great outburst of recycling. It has given their small hotel a touch of quirkiness while preserving the family's heritage.

The Farm is off the beaten track, surrounded by fields and villages where elderly men in turbans sit and gossip over cups of chai while the women, in outfits of flaming orange and lime green, work in the fields in this semi-arid area that marks the beginning of the Thar Desert.

"My father-in-law is always surprised at finding the old things from the palace," Ritu says. "We used old bolts for the numbers on the rooms and he was thrilled. He actually recognised them."

The Farm is a labour of love. The focal point is the raised swimming pool, which has rooms off it. The other rooms are on a lower level, looking onto the undulating lawns and trees. Beyond the lawns are wheat and barley fields and orchards.

In the mornings, pigeons coo and frisky parakeets soar and swoop in the babool and khejri trees, found throughout Rajasthan.

Nothing is standardised at The Farm. The recycling gives it an unpredictable and eclectic feel that even boutique hotels can sometimes lack. The wooden beams from the palace, for example, have been used for the poolside bar and for shelves and counters.

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"The older and thicker rosewood beams, which could not be sawed, we have used as plinths for the canopied side of the pool," Ritu says. "The girders we turned into iron 'trees' with the addition of branches crafted by local artisans who thought we were mad to make 'iron' trees."

In the Automobile suite, the Dodge's steering wheel is a towel rail and its front grille has been turned into a lighting fixture.

In the decades before India's recent economic boom, frugality and a refusal to throw anything away was a hallmark of the middle class. No matter how old, everything was used and reused, reconfigured and reworked, until it was conclusively and utterly beyond repair.

The Singhs have given a new twist to that frugal ethos by recycling with style cutting and sewing jute bags, in which basmati rice is sold, into cushion covers and turning waste leather shavings into funky retro rugs.

They gave the waste threads from "dhurrie" factories to village women who have created the fabulous "charpoys" (traditional string cots that villagers sleep on) that are used as striking sun loungers.

The cafe they are building in the resort is to be made entirely of scrap. Asked whether that can be done, Surya replies: "Of course. We have even a pile of used bhattis [a sort of pumice stone used for polishing marble] for creating pathways. We've used old strips of bubblegum as shower curtains and piled up my father's old ammunition trunks into tables."

Some touches have not worked out but overall, the Singhs have created a small, comfortable hotel where, whichever way you turn, the eye rests on interesting designs, shapes and textures.

A good place to stay on the popular Delhi-Jaipur-Agra Golden Triangle, The Farm is a green and peaceful six-hectare retreat only 20 minutes away from chaotic and congested Jaipur.

The Singhs arrange cars for sightseeing and shopping in Jaipur, along with trips to a polo club and picnics at Nahargarh, a nearby village, to see the ancient step wells.

Not surprisingly, the hotel's stationery is made from elephant poo, from the droppings found outside the grand Amber Fort in Jaipur. While Sri Lanka and Thailand have been making paper from elephant dung for years, it is comparatively new in India.

Even the local painter has been roped in to display his skills in the reception area. The Singhs persuaded a dubious painter of road signs to depict a scene from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, on the reception walls.

The effect is arresting. "He's been busy ever since," Surya says. "People are asking him to do similar work in their buildings. So apart from reusing waste, we're happy when we can get local craftsmen to earn extra money."

Amrit Dhillon stayed courtesy of The Farm.

Delhi is the nearest international airport. China Eastern charges $1113 with a change of aircraft in Shanghai. Fare is low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney and includes tax. The Farm has eight rooms, six luxury suites and two restaurants. Rooms are 8000 rupees ($218) a night. See thefarmjaipur.com.