At first glance, it’s hard to spot any common ground in the design aesthetic of Rij Eappen and his wife, Arshiya Fakih Eappen. Rij’s White Lounge, newly opened at Phoenix Mills in Mumbai, screams minimalist and technological savvy. The restaurant plays with colours only through shifting LED lights that occasionally bounce colour off the white furniture, white walls and white uniforms of the staff. Arshiya’s fashion line, Araiya, on the other hand, is an exuberant, colourful over-the-top range of western and Indian wear.
But their new Colaba apartment manages to merge the flair of Araiya with the minimalism of White by a playful use of funky light fixtures, animal print touches and lots of open space.
“We are quite similar in our taste, actually,” Arshiya explains. “Our basic philosophy is clean, modern lines.”
Rij agrees: “We like this white open feel to everything. We wanted light colours. We wanted to play with lots of lights and we knew that everything had to be really clean and functional.”
The couple has managed just that in their home in Colaba, south Mumbai.
After living two years in Dubai, Rij’s childhood home, the couple moved back to Arshiya’s home in Mumbai and set out looking for spaces. When an apartment opened in Arshiya’s parents’ building on the fourth floor, the couple knew it was perfect.
“When we saw it, we knew it had potential. It had the space and the height we wanted. An apartment in Colaba this size is pretty rare unless you join two apartments,” says Rij.
However, structural changes were required. The couple hired architect Ankur Khosla to help rearrange the floor plan. The first order of business was to knock out the entry wall and create floor-to-ceiling windows.
Now a dramatic entryway greets visitors, with a long stretch of gauzy white curtains letting in light and air. It opens immediately into a living room that is sparsely furnished.
Rij explains that the furniture they owned was somewhat bulky. They found large comfortable leather couches and a bigger Mediterranean-style dining room set in Dubai that they loved. To offset the heavier furniture, they opted to hold back on decorations. “We wanted to keep everything else really light.”
Another important design element, the couple explains, was their choice of material. “A lot of people go for Indian furniture that uses a lot of wood. We chose metal and leather and glass.”
Before the couple left Dubai, they went on a shopping spree for furniture to bring back with them. Rij says that they would spend hours at stores such as Roche Babois, Huzaifa and Marlin Furniture, picking out pieces.
They found particularly unique light fixtures in Dubai that they brought back as focal pieces for the rooms. Even their bathrooms have modern, wiry light sculptures. The bathroom of their den refracts the light off a walled mirror mosaic, sending light shooting through the room.
The only major colours in the home are the browns and golds of their couches and beds. “We could have gone with either black or white, but we wanted a warm shade to add a bit of colour to the house to make it more of a home,” says Arshiya.
There are also flashes of colour in the animal print accents placed around the home, such as a leopard-print rug in the master bedroom or the tiger-striped lampshades in the main room. “We added the touches to make it a little bit more funky and trendy,” Arshiya explains. “I love animal print, but only in interiors. And just as an edging.”
Small accents also add warmth to the home, like the Venetian mask the couple picked up in Nice during their honeymoon, or the blue water feature in the master bedroom that Arshiya loves to listen to while sketching at night.
“We wanted a clean, open space and that’s exactly what we have.” Rij says.
MAXIMUM FUSS: MAKE THE MOST OF MINIMALISM
Alex Davis, designer and founder of the Delhi-based Indi Store, explains how to introduce the design concept into your home
Bare your walls: Wall decorations should be kept to a minimum. Instead, play up the lighting. Lighting is very critical to minimalism. The placement of a window with a particular view or a window that gives a side-lighting effect to one wall can have a very dramatic impact.
Cut out the colour: Colours should be toned down to whites or natural hues. Use unbleached fabrics. This comes close to a Zen look. But some people use one colour to adapt the space to their personalities. For instance, you can offset the space with red accents. Just red for a monochromatic look.
De-clutter the furniture: Use very simple forms of furnishings. Choose one plain piece of furniture that has an interesting sculptural quality to it. Use low seating, such as floor mats made of natural fibres. Conceal anything that is not immediately in use. All cabinets and wardrobes should be built into walls and treated like plain wall space to hide anything extemporaneous to the eye.
Learn from the masters: Minimalist space can be the most painful space to live in, because it requires you to keep it clean and orderly, but it is the most beautiful space to meditate and work in. For examples of the best minimalists out there, look to John Pawson, Claudio Silvestrini, or Álvaro Siza. They are strict minimalists, but have developed their own personal style within that.