In my effort to understand the Bombay work landscape, today I met an interior architect, Kunal Shah. When I was in New York a good friend informed me about Shah and his understanding of the work culture in Bombay. Shah has his own practice, a studio set up in Santacruz(primarily a residential neighbourhood) and lives in Bandra(an area populated with restaurants, pubs, and high-street stores.)
Shah was scheduled to be at Lower Parel, which is a central developing part of Bombay. The area in the 1980s housed textile mills. Most of these mills have now shut down and developers are in the process of building high rises, malls and entertainment centers.
I was to meet Shah at Good Earth (a lifestyle and home decor store selling designer products) which is located at Raghuvanshi Mills. This mill now houses designer stores selling mid to high-end home decor products ranging from lighting to furnishing and everything in between.
As Shah was in a client meeting and running late I got to explore Good Earth. The store is located in a restored mill and has received recognition for conserving the orignal structure.
The products at Good Earth speak a contemporary Indian language and are definitely chic. Krsna Mehta’s paintings reflecting Mumbai’s street culture definitely caught my eye. His paintings ranged from about Rs 17,500 to Rs. 30,000.
At their Raghuvanshi Mills location, Good Earth also has a coffee and wine bar called The Tasting Room. I took a seat and Shah showed up a little exhausted from his meeting but happy to answer my questions. He shared his story of working with designer Rajiv Saini and then within twelve months taking the bold step of floating his own studio, Kunal Shah Designs. He now has a team of three people working for him and has a very loyal contractor and a team of sub contractors.
Sitting in a space surrounded by products that ranged from mid to high-end I had to ask Shah if he has a hard time convincing clients to spend on products. He said most of the clients these days are young and first time home owners with good disposable incomes and very well-travelled. Most clients are embracing contemporary Indian styles over a traditional palette.
Only steps away from Raghuvanshi Mills is High Street Phoenix (once Phoenix Mills) where we can see evidence of the booming real estate sector. Phoenix Mills houses malls, restaurants, pubs and a multiplex. The most recent addition is Palladium, a mall housing designer brands and fine dining. In the neighborhood developers like DLF and Orbit Corporation are planning new commercial and residential projects.
One of Shah’s current clients is young, single and willing to spend. Keeping in mind his lifestyle Shah is designing a space for him that is more open with minimal partitions. This allows for flexibility of space and creates one unified space blurring the lines between eating, sleeping and entertaining.
Before leaving Shah graciously invited me to visit him at his studio and or at the site and see him in action, an invitation I accepted with pleasure.