As much as we love Charleston, we believe that getting out of our comfort zones is the best way to find design inspiration. In February, MDI interior designer Alexis Wilks had a fantastic opportunity to travel through India and Nepal with family.  Her stepfather founded an eye clinic in the area that serves the poor, and she was able to do a little humanitarian work as well as sightseeing.

Her journey took her through iconic cities such as Mumbai, Calcutta, Agra, Jaipur, Katmandu, Delhi, Durgapur, Khajuraho, Udaipur, and Varanasi.

She loved meeting kids in the area, had a great time teaching them to play basketball. Their joy and resiliency moved her, and as the mother of two, she came away with a new depth of gratitude for everything she has. The creative innovation of the culture also moved her. In fact, one of her most striking memories was seeing a beautiful temple in a slum village dedicated to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, made only out of sticks and bags of colored water.

Alexis got to see another temple that fueled design inspiration. Yes THAT temple. “We went to see the Taj Mahal at sunset and sunrise,” she says. “The stone changes color as the sun is setting and rising; it is truly a color experience. It was incredible to witness.”

The color experiences just kept coming too. “Jaipur was my favorite city. It’s called the pink city because it’s still required for everything in the old city to be painted pink. I loved it. Everywhere you look everyone is selling textiles, jewels and spices, and it’s all a million fabulous colors,” she says.

She was also impressed by the intensity and longevity of the colors and materials used in art, textiles, and architecture. “In so much Indian art and textile printing, they’ll use paint made from minerals,” Alexis says. “The temples and palaces have art that is original and holding up because the colors were made from crushed minerals and stones. They don’t fade; all of this art is holding up to pollution, sun, and monsoons. Their materials have lasted hundreds of years.”

Alexis loved Nepal and was surprised at how much earthquake damage was still apparent (an 8.1 earthquake centered in Barpak struck in 2015). “Nepal is beautiful, and Katmandu has an interesting history,” she says. “The city is huge, so much better than I thought it would be. There’s much more of a Buddhist impact. It wasn’t as planned as other cities were, so we just wandered. Everything is built around itself. Things are squeezed in, and there are surprises around every corner.”

Her final stop was Mount Everest, where she got to take a helicopter ride to Base Camp. Alexis’ favorite thing about Indian and Nepal, however, were the people. “Everyone was so kind. There’s beauty everywhere. There’s so much happiness,” she says.


Welcome home, Alexis – we can’t wait to see how your adventures inspire this year’s design!