There’s many things Mandira Bedi is known as: an actor, a sports presenter, an anchor, a fitness enthusiast, a designer, and—now—an Airbnb host. As she prepares to list Bougainvilla, her home at Madh Island, for guests to rent, the star reveals all that went into setting up the space, her travels, and more. By Bayar Jain
1. What were the deliberations and thoughts you had when you decided to offer your home to strangers for an exclusive Airbnb stay?
I’ve been connected with Airbnb since the beginning, and I’ve hosted all their events as well. In fact, when I travel, I use Airbnb extensively myself, so this association seemed natural.
I have this beautiful home at Madh island which is on the beach. Up until now, it was a shooting home. One couldn’t use it as a holiday home or for getaways. Last year, I decided to revamp the space to offer it to guests, while also having it accessible for me. It has a swimming pool so I redid the filtration and the tiles. Now, it’s a brand new home! It’s got four-poster beds and beautiful furniture in the living room. It’s like my own home, but yet it’s not since it’s slightly different from the way I’ve done up my own home. That’s what a holiday home should be like. And that was the thought behind this home as well.
When it comes to strangers, I think that’s the beauty of Airbnb. It’s a community of sorts, and it doesn’t quite feel like you’re letting it out to unknown people.
2. Do you Airbnb when you’re travelling? If so, any memorable experience you’d like to share with us?
Of course! I’ve had so many memories and wonderful experiences. Once, I stayed in Portugal—just outside of Lisbon—at a beautiful villa with a fireplace and a lovely kitchen that had a little sitting space. My friends and I brought in New Years together. All of us would sit together in the morning, wake up at our own times, get our coffee, and cook meals in the kitchen. There was even a very sweet little dog there, Peepa, who was very adaptive. He would come to sit on our laps and cuddle with us. When we left, I actually had tears in my eyes because the dog had endeared himself to me so much.
Another luxurious Airbnb that I stayed at was in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was a lovely space. It was a four-bedroom gorgeous villa done up beautifully. It even had a swimming pool. My husband, son, and I spent four or five days there. That is what I had in the back of my mind when I agreed to host for Airbnb. The home had meals, a caretaker, and toiletries—all of which will be in my home, too.
My first Airbnb stay was a memorable one, too. It was when I did my first ever event with Airbnb in Delhi. Normally, when I visit Delhi, I stay at a hotel or with my parents. This time, I was at a lovely lady’s house, which was incidentally a five-minute walk from my mum’s place. It was a massive place! It was a three-unit home with a living space, where one of the units was given away to Airbnb. The bathroom itself was the size of the bedroom. But the host made me feel right at home. She even asked me what I wanted for breakfast.
Another memorable stay in Delhi was when we were launching Airbnb Experiences. It was a little further away from the city. The home was like a little guesthouse where seven rooms were given away. Each room had a different personality, and a different look and feel to it.
That’s the beauty of Airbnb. Each experience is different from the other, and that’s what makes it special.
3. How have you decorated your home—what’s been the inspiration?
One can have the vision, to begin with, and one can also go with the flow. With this particular home, it was a combination of both. The way I had envisioned it, in the beginning, is different from what turned out, but I feel it’s better than I had imagined.
Being a beach house, you learn that there are certain things that you can do or that you need to do. You learn that sea air is corrosive. Earlier, when it was a shooting bungalow, I had used sleeper wood for the flooring, but it gave away a little bit over time. Instead, I wanted something beautiful and lasting, so I put this yellow-mustard Jaisalmer stone on the flooring and the exteriors. I even have a funky bar in black and white. Two girls helped me set it up because work has started full-swing for me. They suggested four-poster beds as a thought, even though I’ve never had them in my house. I’ve even used some glittery, sheer curtains from my saree business [Sarees by Mandira Bedi].
4. As a traveller, how do you bring elements of travelling to your home?
I’ve brought in elements for travellers and ensured everything is taken care of. I wanted to create a space where a traveller just needs to come with their clothes. Everything that a hotel would have, this place has—including hair dryers, irons, linen, towels, etc. Plus, it even has a swimming pool, an amazing beach view, and a trampoline for kids—or for me! I wanted it to be a place where a traveller doesn’t need to worry about having forgotten something. We even have a cook who can make everything you wish.
5. What are some of your fondest memories from your home?
I’ve shot there myself. My favourite photographer, Rafique Sayed, and I have shot there even in the rustic setting the house once was in. Now, if he and I were to shoot again we wouldn’t be able to recognise the space!
6. Which is your favourite memoir or trinket at your home, and what’s the story behind it?
There is some new furniture that has come in, but I’ve upcycled a lot of old stuff as well. I’ve not thrown away things and tried refurbishing them as much as possible. There are some pieces that I’ve brought in from my own home, too. There’s this one cupboard my husband and I had made together at the first home we lived in 20 years ago. It was made with good teakwood and was the central feature of our living room. I’ve had it re-polished and redone, and now it lies in the outdoor area with a sideboard to store all the towels for the swimming pool. We even have some tables that stood the test of time and are now at Bougainvilla. There are bits of nostalgia throughout the home.
My bookshelf is filled with books. I thought since any guest who visits Bougainvilla wouldn’t steal my books, I’ve divided my collection and kept one half in Madh island. Since I’ve been connected with sarees and fabrics over the last few years, I’ve taken bits of beautiful Banarasi fabrics and framed them because I didn’t want to spend money on very expensive art. I just wanted to put up things that are aesthetically pleasing.
7. With regards to design and sensibilities, how did you ensure everyone’s design sensibilities are incorporated?
I didn’t! It’s all my sensibilities. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and just two girls helped me in this. You need to have people who are in the know of things. If you present me with 10 ideas and I like only two, then I will stick to only those two and bring another five to the table. I’m sorry, I’m a bit of a dictator there! It’s got to meet my sensibilities.
8. What kind of traveller are you?
I have wanderlust. I’m very fond of big family holidays. Before the pandemic, my work took me to the most beautiful and exotic destinations. I am a very good solo traveller as well. The beauty of solo travel is when you’re walking down a street, and you think “Ah! I want to sit over here and have a glass of wine with salad.” At that point, you don’t need anyone’s opinion, and there’s never a deliberation about ‘should be’ or ‘shouldn’t be.’
I even love going on vacations with my children. I’ve already done two staycations with my kids ever since Tara [Bedi’s younger daughter] came into our lives. I love beach holidays; I can spend days on the beach.
9. A place in India and abroad, you can keep going back to and why?
In India, Goa for obvious reasons! Anywhere outside would be the Maldives, for obvious reasons again.
10. Your most memorable holiday?
My trip to Santorini. I went to Crete in Greece for a three-day event, after which I took four days off and explored Santorini on a solo trip. I rented a car and drove around. It was a lovely experience. I never thought I could drive in a foreign country where language could be an issue. I stayed at a hotel alone. I went out and bought myself a bottle of wine and enjoyed a sunset alone. It was a very liberating experience.
11. How do you ensure sustainability in your day-to-day life?
As a family, we’re very conscious about saving water. We’ve also planted a few trees outside our house. We try to keep the environment around us green and separate our waste. We do small things, but it’s the small things that add up.
Bucket list destinations: Spain, Japan, and Florence in Italy
A hidden gem in India: I like the backwaters of Kerala
One word to describe your residence: Sensational
Favourite travel companion: My son, Vir. We’ve done quite a few trips together, and we call ourselves the intrepid travellers