“Home is where the heart is”, a quote that has made its way and has been etched into our lives from very early on. However cliché it may sound, there’s something very surreal about the same. Our homes or spaces in general, where we spend most of our time are a reflection of our personality and unique characteristics. Call it a safe space; we are our most authentic selves out there. Probably, that’s why there’s so much thought and effort that goes in making an apartment or a house a home. You make memories, achieve and celebrate several milestones, make mistakes and learn from failures all while living there- you see, there are many associations to it.
As society and humans evolved, our tastes too became more refined and exquisite. That’s where interior designers and stylists came into play. Over time, design psychology too, rose to prominence, and is an integral part of the whole design process. Ask yourself this- have you ever entered a bar or a restaurant, or some other place, filled with undeniable character and charm that left a lasting impression on your mind- be it a structure, an art décor, or any other feature? The aim was to evoke positive emotional responses, which compels us to go back there.
Psychological research suggests that when one is in a particular environment, their emotional experiences can be restrained or enhanced, along with their interpersonal relationships, productivity and performance.
We asked several interior designers, stylists and influencers about their views on how this works in conjunction. Be it from the colour of the year, design tips, art décor for home, luxury home decor, such as the 1920s home décor, to the mood lighting for a room, several insights were brought to the fore. All successful women entrepreneurs in their own right, they are here to stay and change the game. These are the excerpts from the interview:
Q. How does one’s space portray their personality? Can you please give some examples?
A baker by night, and lead architect and interior designer by day, Anusha Nanavati is the founder of Anusha Nanavati Design Studio. Her firm specialises in various residential and commercial projects including schools, restaurants, shoe studios, baby nurseries and furniture, gyms and offices.
She strongly believes in calling one’s home an “expression of yourself and should reflect your personality”. Educating us through her experiences, she says that homes “with a lot of storage and simple designs mirror individuals who are more logical, organised, efficient planners and enjoy a minimalist house design. Those who enjoy outdoor spaces such as being amidst nature bring that to their homes by using a lot of plants as part of their modern house interior design strategy. Colours also play an important role. Bright colours are associated with being extroverted and outgoing, while neutral colours project quietness, introverted and warmth exuding behaviours”. She signs off saying that ‘travel also can be noticed’ through the choice of home decor and accessories used. Giving an example of the Heel Hustle studio, which is a niche footwear label, the wall frames used indicated the ambition of the founder.
Upcoming interior designer, Tanvi Sekhsaria, who is the founder of the Little Miss Designer, is a creative and an enterprising 27 year old, whose firm provides and executes unique design solutions to commercial and residential projects. Having worked with reputed firms such as Talati Pantakhy Associates and Gauri’s Design Studio, her venture has successfully delivered more than 40 projects such as the ‘Pop up Hut Café’ and ‘Lodha’ among others.
She holds a similar view and believes that it is important to study the nature of their clients and inculcate their preferences while designing elements of a room. She abides by the quote, “It’s not just a space, it’s YOUR space”, which is also her company’s tag line. “People who are more cheerful and artistic prefer brighter and pop up colours like orange and yellow in their upholstery or their accent walls, whereas book lovers prefer interesting bookshelves and wall arts with inspirational quotes. Dancers may prefer more open spaces and moveable furniture such as a murphy bed or a sofa cum bed. Large mirrors and good lighting increases one’s comfort levels”. She also gave some interesting DIY hacks to enhance one’s space and bring out your quirky side such as hanging the curtains rod higher than the window top, closer to the ceiling and sticking a bunch an ice-cream in a form of a hexagon or squares with glue to create open shelves.
Janvi Mehta, founder of Janvi Mehta Interior designs is famous in her social and business circle for her love for colours, patterns and styles, and has been in practice since 5 years. A super passionate entrepreneur in this field aims at bringing out the space owner's personality though the principles of designing, execution and styling. Always looking tall and strong is what she stands and lives by! Her philosophy is as follows: It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
She believes that “a space can be beautifully decorated, but the added personality touches makes it one’s home”. She tries to strike a balance between the two by developing an emotional link to the same, and loves playing with the lighting, fabric and colours. Giving instances from her past projects, she explains, “For an introvert, I’d go for natural lighting that would elevate moods and evoke positive feelings. For organised individuals, I recommend a more functional space with neutral tones and natural spaces.”
Q. As an interior designer, what is your personal favourite style? Can you please lay out some of your top tips to keep in mind, while designing a space, be it from the arrangement, colour selection, artefacts, upholstery selection, and lighting- all while keeping in mind the personality of the client and catering to their sensibilities?
According to architect and design education coach, Sejal Mittal who started the Alcove Studio, one must not go for a conflicting design. She began her professional journey in Baroda in 2015. Having graduated in architecture and design from one of the premier institutes, she has created a niche in the interior and furniture design department and soon started her independent venture in Baroda before shifting base to Mumbai. She has grown from handling smaller home projects to larger residential and commercial projects, specialising in various allied services.
She is a fan of “ luxe contemporary design”, she loves to incorporate opulence and luxury in her work. While classic patterns are more traditional and intricate, it is the checkered pattern that she believes are more sophisticated. Giving an example of one of her latest project in Navi Mumbai, she tells us, “I opted for natural soothing colours such as pastel shades of cream, mint green and pink. To add a bit of flamboyance, she either used a vibrant colour or a gleaming metal artefact. The furniture was arranged in a manner to keep the place clutter-free. The client simply loved it!”
Luxury interior designer, Niharika Saraf, who started the Polka House in the year 2015, an interior design firm believes in combining art and functionality with some quirk. She abides by the concept of transforming a space, while retaining the feeling of transportation. She has designed several offices in buildings such as a 15,000 square feet call centre in BKC. In the residential sphere, she has done up luxury homes, while specialising in baby nurseries. In her spare time, she loves to bake.
She personally loves the mid-century classic designs, as it is timeless and historical. She further feels that the vibe can be accentuated with the use of cane, suede, printed wallpapers and warm wooden tones. Some of her tips to create an aesthetic space are simple- Sit with yourself, and understand what caters to your sensibilities and makes you the happiest. When it comes to choosing a colour scheme, have fun with it, but strike a healthy balance in the colour palette. Upholstery again differs for each individual and is very personal, since it has got to do with the feel and the warmth of the fabric. She believes in evolving and coming up with relevant ideas, but also being responsible towards the environment.
About her recent project and expressing her love for artefacts or personal memorabilia, she tells us, “The client wanted an opulent dining area with the look of leather but was completely against using real leather. Since faux leather was not something they wanted, I suggested using a deep maroon velvet chair with a marble top dining table. This retains the richness, whilst being extremely environmentally conscious. Being an avid traveller, there was a really nice collection of artefacts that had been collected over the years from different parts of the world, My team and I helped them curate spaces using those accessories all over their home. These pieces have so much emotional value and meaning attached to it”
With an experience of about 16 years, ace interior stylist Jasmine Jhaveri (Jasmine Jhaveri Design Studio) is one of the forerunners in her field. She noticed a void and sought to bridge the gap between architects and clients by using her expertise and talent. She works closely with the former to add the final touches to a client’s home and spruce things up. In all these years, she has styled homes in different parts of the world such as Amsterdam, London, USA and across India.
She abides by the philosophy, “Design should be celebrated every day, and should not only be reserved for special occasions”. She further opines that through her profession, she can add a ‘soul’ to just any space, which is very satisfying. To become cognizant of her client and their needs, she begins the process by visiting their home or work spaces to pick up finer nuances of their personality and their lifestyle. Whenever her clients are a little hesitant of experimenting such as mixing styles, playing with prints and patterns or offbeat colour combinations, she tries to push the envelope by exposing them to various possibilities for design. While she does not have major style preferences, she is inclined towards a blend of “the architectural beauty of a Spanish sanctuary or a 17th century Tuscan Villa” with its traditional details, and the sophisticated Parisian chic décor with its sophisticated oomph. Consequently, this gives rise to an effortless confluence of the rustic and glam.
While dishing out her expertise that she picked up through her plethora of projects, she adds, “Character is everything! Layer an area with wallpaper, chandelier, well-constructed drapes, a built-in well-edited bookshelf, a gallery wall, tapestries, all while paying fine attention to floor rugs. Create interesting vignettes in your home with objects, memorabilia and other artefacts which tell stories of your travels and you as an individual. Being the finer elements to add to your homes, one must, therefore, not compromise on them while being over budget at this stage”. Like some of the other respondents, she too believes that having as much natural light as possible is a keystone to the design process. Lastly, an accurate balance of colour and scale are imperative as you want your home or office space design to look organic rather than staged.
A set decorator and the founder of a Bohemian Interior Studio called the Attirail, Purva Aggarwal, stands by the ‘You are your muse’ concept. She has worked on a number of advertisements and films over a course of 7 years and learnt that understanding the character of a person from his life story, his preferences, dreams and the place he lives in, is of paramount importance for decorating a space. Creating a character sketch and trying to understand the personality type to create colour palettes, style and function for the space are key.
Speaking with passion and zest about her brand, she quips, “ ‘Attirail’ means paraphernalia in French, which connotes various objects related to a particular activity or a thing. Here, we believe that your space and the things that surround you is your paraphernalia that defines you. Priding myself in being a space stylist with a bohemian outlook towards aesthetics and adornments, I am an advocate of being one’s authentic self and letting our spaces flow with a unique energy. At Attirail, we curate and design interiors that are quirky, eclectic, idyllic and plush, but most importantly defining you! Our bohemian sensibilities allow us to exhibit various personality types through unique design languages - whether you are a Minimalist Scandinavian or a Maximalist Glam, a Vintage Rustic, a Mid Century Modern, a Monochrome-er or a colour lover.”
A special feature about Purva’s brand is that they make their potential customers take a quiz to understand their sensibilities and artistic sense. In case of catering to a couple, they are made to take the same individually to understand their distinct tastes and preferences. Visual cues are expressed through this questionnaire, which helps the designer comprehend their accord towards different styles, colours and age. These cues tend to be more accurate than verbal ones. On the basis of the open-ended questions that are asked, the colour pallets, functional layouts, various mood-inducing features and one of a kind collections or areas are delineated. Right from their perception of what a home means to an individual, to their entertainment, activity and down time needs to their travelling escapades and collectibles; all aspects are taken care of.
Proficient in the field of Interior Design, Studio Wodehouse creator: Shonali Mahajan, has a profound love for all things interior, and runs a diversified firm in the same arena. Having being exposed to international ideas while studying in Milan and working under several stalwarts, she has broadened her horizons over time. She started her firm in 2014, and has extremely talented employees on board. She has worked with a vast and prestigious array of clients such as Mr. & Mrs. Sanjiv Bajaj, Isprava, and Palmore developers among others.
Letting us in into her favoured approach she says, “My personal favourite style is a mix of contemporary, tribal, eclectic pieces that have a certain natural, earthy, raw texture to it. I don’t like anything that is too shiny, barring hints of brass luck elements. I think understated, elegant, wood and natural textures due to the rarity of natural resources are the way to go! When you style a space and pick up things from your travels, and then sort them out, it feels more luxurious. Luxury to me, personally, is to have the time, capability and capacity to create accordingly. "
In terms of arrangement, openness, good lighting and natural ventilation are important, so bigger windows can serve the purpose. Being simpler in colour selection such as white, pastels, greens or blues sets a tone of a neutral pallet to which one can overlay a layer of furniture and accessories. I am also a fan of colours such as black, white, grey, olive green and rust - a combination that I generally move towards. Bold patterns are very fascinating- they have an origin in art décor or tribal culture such as cane work done in Nagaland.” Shonali puts a very striking point across that as designers, we intuitively get our own modus operandi to the fore, while respecting the client’s boundaries. In fact, she believes that her customers come to her for her niche sensibilities as well and it is a two- way street. Giving an example of one of her recent projects, she executed her signature taste by blending modern and antique through juxtaposing materials such distressed walnut wood which is raw against a leather finished granite floor with an extremely modern, glossy lacquer cabinet, amongst other things.
Q. As a décor blogger and enthusiast, I see a sense of pride through your instagram page, which speaks volumes of effort gone in re-decorating your home. How is your home a reflection of your personality? What are the elements that you used to style your house and make it your safe space?
Popular home décor blogger and content creator for social media, Rati Chaudhary is an ex-Journalist turned communications professional. She is currently heading the communications vertical of a leading multinational firm. She lives in Mumbai with her husband and 4-year-old daughter Maya. She often asks herself, “Is my home a reflection of my personality? Why do I choose a particular print or colour in my décor?” She strongly believes that we tend to imitate our personality or experiences, such as something she saw while travelling and it stayed with her in her subconscious. An organised person by nature, she hates clutter, which reflects in her minimalist and simplistic styling and products. She further continues with pride, “I love quaint cafe vibes so that is something that I try and incorporate a lot in my decor. Some of these decor choices are
hereditary too, I believe. I have always seen my dad loving plants and I do that too. I like neutral backgrounds to show my creativity with colours and design”. Her creativity at work can be discerned through her affinity towards neutral backgrounds and sustainability in her aesthetic choices, and loves to keep everything cosy through her use of textures, rugs, upholstery, cushions and comforters. In terms of lighting, she prefers lamps and yellow lighting. She loves to scout for old furniture, and designs them, giving a new look.
Most of these pieces are upcycled from old wood. Finally, Rati left us with some interesting suggestions to further accentuate and bring life to one’s space. Making us aware, she says, “Indoor plants need some sunlight once in a while, so take care of that. Secondly, never use blinds on big windows or doors. Eventually, they will create gaps and one’s privacy will be compromised. Thirdly, think of the planet. If you can repurpose or upcycle, please do that. In terms of upholstery, go for dark coloured ones, especially if you have kids, lest you want to end up dry cleaning every 6 months. One can also use different textures to create interesting spaces. And lastly, indulge in and encourage plants to grow at home. They are one of the cheapest décor items.”
Q. According to you, what are the implications of lighting on your client’s mood?
One of India’s leading luxury lighting and installation designers, the young and uber-talented Rhea Mehta of the Rhea Mehta Designs is a force to be reckoned with. Having studied Product & Spatial design from ÉSAD Orléans, France and Interior & Furniture design from MIT, she pays great attention to detail. She has also trained under Susanne Khan, after which she ventured out on her own, and handled some prestigious projects, lighting up spaces for celebrities like Hritik Roshan and commercial hotels like Taj, Marriott and the likes, creating large scale installations for them. Sharing her detailed expertise on the topic, she lay down all the psychological effects of lighting on an individual’s mood and energy level.
Drawing links from a correlational study between lighting and our life functions, she shares that while the adequate amount of lighting increases our levels of energy and mood, the lack of it can poorly affect our concentration, appetite, productivity, and is associated with negative emotions and irritability. Giving us further examples, she quips, “heightened exposure to blue light during daytime can enable an individual to become more focused and alert. Yellow lighting puts us in a relaxed state because it affects our circadian rhythm, which basically is our 24-hour internal body clock that directs us to sleep and awaken. Its primary cue comes from the environment, more specifically the natural light emanated by the sun. Explaining how in today’s day and age, humans take cues from artificial sources too, she adds, “Blue light and cooler colours, in general, suppress our bodies from secreting melatonin, thereby making us more vigilant, while warmer hues put us in a tranquil or a peaceful state. I personally believe too that we should, therefore, use cooler or neutrally coloured white lights in office spaces and educational institutions, while dimmer lights can be used in restaurants or bedrooms.”
Results of a 2014 experimental study showed that volunteers associated with bright light judged a person’s character as being more aggressive, while women were seen as more desirable. Their reactions in terms of positive and negative emotions were stronger. Rhea, while signing off also gives us a key takeaway of how the lighting in a place has a direct effect on how much and how fast we eat, our perception of the texture and the flavour of the food. “As a designer, I do have all these aspects at the back of my mind, and I also draw from my personal experiences about the same. I mean think about it- we do tend to eat lesser and at a more gradual pace in restaurants or lounges with little lighting. Studies have also proven that at such times, we tend to indulge in more junk food. Another thing to keep in mind is that softer lighting makes us more relaxed and easy-going, thereby making us more susceptible to eat at a leisurely rate. For each project that I do, it therefore becomes more essential for me to study the purpose and come up with a plan accordingly.”
Conclusion: To end this piece, we now know several noteworthy insights from the aficionados in this field. We can truly decipher two things- first, that your personal space exudes your innermost characteristics and secondly, in today’s times it is extremely significant to come back to a place where you feel safe, secure and congruent with your real self. All these broader and narrow aspects of home making through interior designing tend to leave a lasting impression on our subconscious which plays up in our lives without us even realising it- a definite fusion of creativity meeting our psyche!
1. Anusha Nanavati: https://www.instagram.com/andstudioofficial/
2. Tanvi Sekhsaria: https://www.instagram.com/littlemsdesigner/
3. Janvi Mehta: https://www.instagram.com/janvimehtainteriors/
4. Sejal Mittal: https://www.instagram.com/alcovestudio.in/
5. Niharika Saraf : https://www.instagram.com/polkahouseinteriordesign/
6. Jasmine Jhaveri: https://www.instagram.com/jasminejhaveridesignstudio/
7. Purva Aggarwal : https://www.instagram.com/attirail.shop/
8. Shonali Mahajan: https://www.instagram.com/studiowodehouse
9. Rati Chaudhary : https://www.instagram.com/ratichaudhary/
10. Rhea Mehta: https://www.instagram.com/rhea.mehta/
Article By: Bhakti Parekh
Having recently completed her Master's in Counselling Psychology, Bhakti is fascinated by the workings of the human mind and several related modalities. However, being an inherently creative individual, she has always been drawn towards art forms, especially, writing, music, and fashion. She is a trained singer and also comes out with her own covers from time to time, and is currently developing her fashion and music blog on Instagram. She has a flair for writing poems and has recently started a page on Instagram, which goes by the name of @midnightmusingsbybhakti, which allows her to express her innermost musings.