To the casual observer, the idiom of Mumbai-based architect- decorator Ashiesh Shah’s work, by his own admission, “classical –meets–distinct–modern-meets-luxury”, might seem a trifle confusing. But Shah himself is clear about what he’s setting out to do, which is to extend Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s (one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture) pithy observation that “God is in the details”, to most of his work.
“Detailing is undoubtedly the most important element when one sets about to design any space,” says Shah. He sees his forte as creating designs that are drawn from traditional Indian motifs or materials while at the same time investing them with an international and contemporary feel.
Shah graduated in 2001 from the Academy of Architecture in Mumbai, worked for a brief while under architect Nozer Wadia and then struck out on his own. “I see myself as a complete design solutions man,” says Shah. “I like to experiment and I like to create. I feel a compelling need to re-invent myself and push my creative buttons at every given opportunity and I do just that, be it with furniture, textiles or even art.”
In the Mumbai apartment designed for JBL storeowners Mithu and Aruna Sadarangani, nothing is clichéd. Shah admits: “It does help to have a well-travelled, aesthetically sensitive and creative client.” However, he feels that detailing doesn’t just imply putting together accessories, it is achieved through different elements such as coordinating textures, illustrated in this house, for instance, in the copper-clad wall in the passage leading to the bedroom, which has been left untreated and natural.
The 2,000sq. ft house in downtown Mumbai, off Gamadia Road, originally catered to the needs of a family of five, but now it’s only used by the couple, their daughter Amrita and their two dogs Dil and Khush. Aruna’s candid acknowledgement that the house “is undoubtedly an extension of my personality” is borne out by Shah, who broke down all the walls along the centre of the house and restructured the layout.
The apartment opens into a narrow passage, giving the visitor a view of the console in the living room atop which a set of six musical Ganesh idols are placed beside a lit incense stick, giving the room a lounge-like feel.
The house has a large living room and dining areas, which can be separated by sliding slatted doors. A high-tech den is divided by a seven-foot-long door on a pivot, easily connecting it to the living room when required. Two bedrooms and an oversized kitchen make up the rest of the house.
Aruna’s collection of Ganesh idols coexist with other memorabilia, greenery and bric-a- brac. The overall look is minimal yet distinct and the décor style eclectic Indian, by virtue of the furniture, artefacts and artwork. Shah’s meticulous detailing is evident in everything, from the materials used to the finishes given, and the space is enlivened and given a distinct character by Aruna’s personal touch.
Windowpanes were imported from Germany, buffers added and the ceiling insulated to make the spaces soundproof. Shah has used mainly natural materials for the interiors. The teak wood has been left unpolished to lend character to the floors. “Even the copper sheets used on the wall in the passageway have not been polished,” says Aruna. “I love how it tarnishes over time”.
“Since the floors are dark teak wood and the passage copper-clad, I have chosen to just treat the living room walls with plaster and simple whitewash,” explains Shah. The furniture was sourced from various stores in Mumbai and some pieces were designed in Shah’s own furniture studio.
Keeping the spaces minimal and uncluttered helped Shah play with patterns and textures. The Malabar chair in the master bedroom, with its poppy patterned upholstery, makes a graphically elegant statement. The master bathroom has a stand-alone tub in pristine white, around which are scattered river-washed pebble stones that create a spa-like feel. The taps have been sourced from Chor Bazaar and blend perfectly against the jali-like motif on the wall and, together, the elements blend and define the space, making it an entity in itself. “The house, in more ways than one, has been like a larger-than-life canvas for the architect and he has painted it just the way I had imagined he would,” says Aruna.
The same attention to detailing is evident in the JBL display store at the Atria Mall in Mumbai, also designed by Shah. The walls in the multimedia lounge have all been insulated, and the ceiling is fashioned from a fully stretchable, imported vinyl called newmatt. The store is divided into three sections—the multimedia lounge, the rocksy lounge and the grand room. “I don’t see any reason why a high-end multimedia store cannot be a design statement,” says Shah. “For the rocksy lounge, we have a couch that looks like a rattan, but is actually made of plain leather twigs woven together to form an interesting pattern. The grand room, in keeping with its name, has a couch in golden beige in front of a silk brocade wall and is framed in between leather panels with studs from the new Burberry collection, and on either side there are copper-coloured wallpaper panels.”
“Even stepping into a store should be made an enriching experience,” says Shah. “In the end, design is all about the experience and the effect it has on us. And yes, by inference, God is in the details.”
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