Young Guns of Design
From high end interiors to customized furniture and pop-up art, the young generation of designers are starting something new and leaving their mark. Sapna Srivastava speaks to two such young design entrepreneurs.
It is usually said that second generation businesspersons don’t have to work that hard or that in this age of information technology and internet, establishing a start-up is not a laborious process. More so in the field of design where age is equated with experience and better design knowledge, establishing themselves has been quite a challenge for these young designers. But, they have not only proved themselves but also created their own niche in the world of art & architecture.
Sarah Mohamedi Sham is the fourth generation entrepreneur to take forward the heritage of Essajeeswith her interior design boutique firmEssajees Atelier founded in 2014.On the other hand, Arjun Thomas and Amrita Thomas Modi after being in the interior design space for a couple of years realized that it was next to impossible to customize a sofa set. This was the beginning of setting up ‘Create your Couch’.
Sarah Mohamedi Sham
In the year 1890, Abdul KadirEssajee Sham started a store in Bombay that especially catered to Indian Maharajas who wanted to collect the finest and rarest goods from all over the world. In 1970, the flagship heritage store Essajee and Sons store in Colaba was opened with patrons ranging from the expat community to the royal families of Dubai, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Having garnered experience in high-end furniture manufacturing and production during a five-year stint with Essajees, Sarah realised that interior design was her calling after which she went on to complete a two-year degree on the subject from RachnaSansad.She completed her undergraduate degree in Art History from Duke University in the US and Oxford University in the UK.
There’s a lot more scope now for all kinds of design because the client is now well travelled Designers need to work extra hard to make sure they are keeping up with global standards and this is changing the way we do business as an industry.Sarah Mohamedi Sham
Though it is not an easy task to live up to one’s glorious ancestral legacy, since its inception four years ago, Essajees Atelier has successfully completed 25 residential and commercial projects covering the entire gamut of interior designing, right from styling bachelor-specific apartments to taking on projects of houses with no walls, plumbing or ceiling – setting up spaces from scratch, literally.
Sarah’s projects include health care centres of celebrated nutritionist, Anjali Mukerjee, wine bar and fine dining restaurant, a holiday home with the property developer Ipsrava in Assagao, Goa, a 10,000 square feet holiday home for a Bollywood director in Pawna and a 5000 square feet home space in Breach Candy, Mumbai.
But, the most challenging project for this young designer was her own home. “The clients were my parents and the brief was simple – make sure you open up the space and make it look bright and fresh. My father, who owns and runs Essajees wanted the entire house to be filled with things from his store. I, however, had a different vision and wanted the space to have a nice contemoprary feel to it,” said Sarah.
She started with partially enclosing the balcony to make the living room bigger and removing the false ceiling. She created false beams across the ceiling to house all the lighting and added a mirrored wall, some custom rugs from The Weaver and a whole bunch of collectibles from Essajees and their treasures. Sarah added, “We custom made brass and mother of pearl inlaid coffee tables, hung prized art on the walls and hand carved armchairs from teak and cane. We also manufactured a mid-century glass dining table with chairs to match and large display units to house all the various antiques.”
Arjun Thomas and Amrita Thomas Modi
Arjun Thomas is an accomplished Product Strategist and has been a Product Leader in companies like Nokia, Dell, Perot Systems and Mphasis. Amrita Thomas Modi, an architect from the prestigious design school of CEPT, Ahmedabadhas spent last 6 years designing multiple homes in Chennai & Bangalore.
Starting out as a pure play online company, first year they only focused on ensuring consistent production quality and the operations infrastructure to manage significant customisation. It was in the second year that they partnered with high-end boutique stores to allow customers to experience their products and work with fabric specialists to choose fabrics that were right for them. “Given that most people really put a lot of thought into choosing the right design and fabric we felt a scalable solution using technology could bridge the gap for people who did not engage with interior designers for these specific decisions,” said Arjun
According to the designpreneurs, they faced challenges in every aspect of the business. They said, “Our ability to be nimble and react quickly has proven to be an asset and we feel we’ve come a long way in the short span we’ve been around.We focus heavily on involving customers in the design process. To aid the co-creation process we’ve opened up various avenues for our customers to make subtle changes to polish finishes / accent work to make each piece truly unique at our boutique stores. This makes the process far more satisfying for the customer.”
“What we’re seeing today is a slight shift in this relationship when you look at projects being run at scale. While personalisation continues to exist (in interactions) there is less time available to really design something that is as personal for the customer.”Arjun Thomas and Amrita Thomas Modi
“The company’s designs are very contemporary& modern and clean lines and elegant silhouettes ensure a very strong foundation upon which to customize. So what you see on our website isn’t a hundred different products but carefully selected ones that they can be used as a base to customize further, explained Amrita.
Which is why, right tools become critical to allow designers to mix and match elements to provide customers options to choose from. Thus, the company’s platform provides designers access to an accent template to customize upholstered products. “We’ve worked on a number of projects – directly with builders, with high end clients and with designers. Each project brings a unique design perspective however it’s the individual customer order that brings us the most delight given the wide range of aesthetic elements we see being created,” the duo added
The client – designer relationship is a very personal one and it takes carefully crafted mutual understanding to put together an ensemble that reflects client’s individuality. These designers are charting their own path and in the course of their journey are creating new benchmarks for the design industry.