Islamic cut motif windows in palaces and fortresses, delicate embroidered screens of the imperial harem and intricate carvings on large stone surfaces creating a superfluity of patterns and textures – jalis have been a long standing symbol of royal exuberance, giving an otherwise rigid surface a fragile beauty.

Nalini Jali 3 e

A touch of royalty. Home of Nalini Malhotra

When carved or cut out in stone, wood or metal, the repeat patterns of Ajrak, arabesques and geometry, create a three-dimensional effect, giving the space a charm different from all others. With a slight hint of depth, the shadows formed by the light passing through and the half-hidden view of what lies behind – the use of jalis in interior décor creates a play between spaces.

Indo Fusion Jali e

Jali work separators. Designed by Indo Fusion

For homes that are large and spacious, jali screens can act as room dividers – using them to partition space without boxing off areas completely when the need arises and placing them against a wall as an object of design otherwise.

My Beautiful Life Jali e

A play of light and shadows, patterned room divider. Designed by My Beautiful Life

The image above opens the door into an entire realm of patterned design ideas – railings, staircases, cupboard panels and wrought iron window grills – the otherwise linear, geometric and plain aspects of a home can be given an edge of sophisticated intricacy.

The patterns to choose from are endless, from Persian architecture all the way to M.C. Escher’s famous tessellations. Modern technology has made laser cutting a breeze – so if you’re looking for a cut-out screen, then you can pick pretty much any pattern and have it cut with precision on all sorts of material.

Nalini Jali 2 e

Staircase with a twist, jali railings. Home of Nalini Malhotra

AVT Architects Jali e

Modern take on jali screens. Designed by AVT Architects

You can even create your own patterns! Many software and simple programmes and applications on the internet allow you to repeat, tessellate, modify and get kaleidoscopic renditions by just feeding in an image. Play around with the possibilities and get your pattern professionally transferred to your preferred surface!

The possibilities don’t exist only in terms of pattern – materials also extend far beyond metal, wood and stone. Glass etching and glass paint can create some beautiful screens, as can acrylic panels. If you want to personalize it further, screens made of acrylic etching can make a great DIY project!

All you need is a sheet of acrylic – at least 5mm thick, thicker if the piece is large, to prevent warping or bending – and a sharp needle. Either trace the image off a print or just draw free hand with the needle as a pen and scratch into the acrylic surface. If you chose to trace, print the image to size and fix it behind the acrylic, copying its contours in scratches.


Once you’re done, remove the stencil image and use thick ink of any colour – ideally rotring or printing ink – to cover the scratched side of the acrylic, consequently wiping it off with a soft cloth. The ink will fill in the scratched surface and the acrylic will function as a lovely personalized screen for any part of the house!

Nila A Jali e

Jali work cupboard with carved seating. Designed by NilaA

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