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Set in the quiet seaview end of a Mumbai suburb, this small studio apartment does justice to its owner: a water-loving globetrotter and an artist.

Designer Shabnam Gupta seems to have taken inspiration from these lines by William Blake, which are painted over the breakfast bar in the kitchen:

And heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour

In this modest space, she has combined art, cooking and cinema—the owner’s three great loves—seamlessly, with nature at the heart of it all.

The vertical garden in the sitting area was the first element Gupta and the apartment’s owner agreed on: Inspired by Patrick Blanc’s Parisian installations, particularly the Musee du Quai Branly, it is the focal point of the flat.

Together with landscapist Neelam Sagar, Gupta chose composite soil as the base, in which she planted anthuriums, orchids and ferns with their roots balled up. They are watered by a special sprinkler system, all of which is boxed into the wall so that the moisture can’t ooze out. To frame the greenery, a natural local stone, in shades from yellow to black—deliberately roughened for a “raw" texture—clads the wall.

It is complemented by a jigsaw-like coffee table which sports an embossed blue crocodile. Each piece of the table can be moved for versatility.

In the bathroom is another simulation of nature: a cascading waterfall of a shower hewn from kota stone—a hundred times cheaper than the expensive products Gupta saw in the market.

The doorway too is guarded by art: An ocean-themed Savia Mahajan painting adorns the door, on the rear of which the artist owner has sketched her own sequel, replete with sea creatures.

They pop up in unlikely places all through the apartment. On the overhead beams above the passage between the kitchen and bathroom swims a shoal of steel fish. It started with a single piece crafted in Europe, and was replicated by a local blacksmith. More critters in glass hang in the window grilles.

The apartment is a studio in name and in function too, full of shelves and nooks for painting, printmaking and photography materials. Heavy blinds convert a neutral-toned working area readily from sunny studio to darkroom.


Area: 550 sq. ft

Designer: Shabnam Gupta

Duration: Three-and-a-half months

Materials: Natural stone cladding and plaster on walls; river-washed kota in bath; granite, cobblestone and Burma teak flooring; agglomerated stone on kitchen counter

Also See More photos

1) Dark cantilevered shelves and cabinets, a stone tiled floor and white plastered walls in the artist’s work area provide a low-maintenance, neutral background for work in progress, with storage that keeps art materials ready at hand

2) Stained glass sunflowers and raindrops from the artist’s own range of products add an element of whimsy to the sunny sitting area.

3) The mild steel grill over the door is a feature of many Indian apartments, letting residents interact with outsiders from safety. This one, though, is distinctive in form, to suit the owner

4) An assortment of textures adds interest to this small, multifunctional space. Neutral colours unite the various work areas, from studio to kitchen; However, distinctive and arresting textures come from a shoal of metal fish overhead, faux jaali shutters, William Blake’s verse etched on the wall, an array of mirrored raindrops lining the side of the under-counter cabinet, wood and stone flooring, jute upholstery, and a plastic-and-steel bar stool.

5) The wall-mounted “vertical garden", inspired by Patrick Blanc’s Parisian ones, forms a focal point.

Photographs by Rohan and Maithili

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