I was born and raised in New Zealand and studied at the Victoria University school of Architecture and Design. I came to Mumbai at the end of 2008 to work for Rahul Mehrotra Architects. I also worked at the Busride Design Studio, and after some time I joined a design branding agency so I could learn about how to develop a design brand and start out on my own.
I made a piece of furniture in 2011 with a friend out of interest to see where it would lead – and then left it for about a year when things got busy with work. In 2012 I decided to really get involved with local artisans and make some pieces of furniture – there seemed, to me at least, a huge gap in the market for contemporary product design from young designers.
I started working slowly on designs, and thus Bombay Atelier was born. I wanted to highlight the fact that everything is made in Mumbai, using local talent – but there is also a bit of an old school charm to the brand – hence I thought using the name Bombay made a lot of sense.
Working in Mumbai has its challenges. Bombay Atelier works wherever we can find a square foot of space. Friend’s basements, workshops, or on a existing site. In the near future I would like to collaborate with textile designers and graphic designers to create vibrant designs for furniture – uniquely Indian. I also want to explore different Indian crafts that each region specialises in and incorporate those styles into new pieces of furniture. I have also started working with karigars in Jaipur to create architectural pieces of jewellery that tell a story of Indian heritage.
The Winnow Stool I designed is inspired by the traditional rice winnow baskets that women all over rural India use to separate the rice grains from the husks. The baskets are also used in a traditional Parsi ceremony known as the “Mado Solo”. During a family wedding, when this ceremony was taking place, I thought about combining traditional weaves and textiles to create a stool would follow the forms of the winnow basket. The stools have a metal framework over which upholstery/cane can be woven onto.
The “Console Me” side table is sleek and compact – again making use of teak wood and cane. The cane drawers give a sense of lightness to the form and balance to the tapered legs. The table to leg connectors are custom made in stainless steel so they can be removed and the whole piece can be easily transported. The table comes in 2 finishes – a natural polish highlighting the grain of teak, or a jet black matt/gloss finish.
The idea of creating multi-functional pieces of furniture, an essential need for most people in Indian cities considering most live in small apartments and with extended family, gave birth to The Bombay Deck.
This piece can be used as a recliner, a 3-seater bench, or a deck chair at the pool side. I worked with carpenters, cane weavers, metal fabricators and polishers to create a piece that is contemporary, but still has an Indian vibe to it. The wood used is recycled Burma teak, we use recycled timber on all our pieces as not only is it eco-friendly, but it is also the best quality of wood you can get.
I want to nuture the relationship between Indian craft and contemporary design and get it out there on a global platform. Many of the carpenters I work with often tell me that they don’t want their children doing the same thing. I feel that if we appreciate the dedication and skills required for such work more, they would be encouraged to keep the crafts alive for future generations.
It’s sad to know that they would rather their child work in an office; unlike overseas, where carpentry skills (in fact anything that involves handmade skills) is in high demand. So why can’t it be the same here?
Bombay Atelier is also about having fun – I work together with the artisans and it’s a team effort – it takes time figuring things out neither person has done, but we love what we do and try our very best to be original, and make things that we like and would want to own.
We also undertake custom orders – but I like to work with people that believe in doing something new. We are not a workshop where we produce knockoffs and copies. We spend time with our clients to development something special!
I want to get rid of the notion that furniture in India is not up to an international standing. I truly believe we have a chance to offer something unique being Indian. And if the rest of the world is watching India, I don’t see why India can’t. People need to start supporting designers locally for growth in the industry!