Designer Tejal Mathur started her studio in 1998 and since then has been spewing exceptional work. Self-proclaimed ‘excitement junkie’, Tejal’s eclectic vision finds place in all her projects-case in point being the Pali Bhavan restaurant for which Tejal scouted the corners of the country to bring out a universal yet cosy appeal.
An artist at heart, Tejal designs spaces with somewhat erratic disposition occasionally giving into the whims of an artist, so there is little surprise that when in a space designed by Team Design your eyeballs fight to stay glued at one point. Lately, she has acquired the title of the queen of ‘post-modern vintage’ owing to her several assignments with the “rundown appeal”.
Tejal’s firm recently diversified into furniture design with her brand Ironworks, that brings back the charm of industrial rustic. Each piece coming out of the studio promises a little bit of drama and exclusivity to your space which is otherwise killed by the mass produced almost drab furniture offered on the Indian market.
‘Explore and innovate’ seems to be the default setting at Team Design and through this interview we hope to pick the pulse of this creative rush.
When did you realise design was your true calling?
Quite gradually actually… A short stint in architect Ajit Shilpi’s office greatly made an impression on my own aesthetic which was getting further informed and then I quit abruptly to paint- my first passion.
But over time the subtle learnings continued to play on my mind like simple geometry and when I got my first apartment to design for a friend, I realised I had made the shift.
A project you designed that finally brought recognition and was the turning point in your career…
Would love to think it was Pali Village Café, but it was really the restaurant Pali Bhavan that made a difference.
The product was a long culmination of taking spontaneous trips to scout antique/ flea markets in the South, visiting remote places and endlessly discussing ideas over Chettinad food and finally putting it all together onsite.
You have worked on few projects with a “rundown” appeal, what are the highs and lows of working on such assignments?
“Rundown” or pared down feel as you call it that I have lent to restaurants has earned me this ‘post-modern vintage’ designer tag.
I guess it all stems from where you were and what you are always changing to be-the only downside being the constant explaining that the organic nature of such projects are time-consuming, unpredictable and definitely expensive.
Things that inspire you (apart from design/architecture) that eventually also stimulate your design cells.
Several things actually but if I need to specifically list them down then I would say fashion and fashion photography in a visually graphic way, Jeanloup Sieff’s vintage photography sits on my coffee table, seminally, an underground vibe in some parts of the world where the best music, food and racial mix thrive. For example; the Cuban influence in Miami or the night markets in Goa closer home.
A structure designed by another architect which continues to have an impact on you every time you visit it…
I am always in awe of Frank Gehry’s rolled metal bands almost ribbon-like and playful that go to make the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Chicago. And the iconic Brooklyn Bridge built in the late 1800’s to me symbolises the evolution of New York.
In today’s times, women in the design field have achieved great highs; however, it is still not a cakewalk to make it big in the architectural profession. Your comment…
So it would seem, women definitely have to try a lot harder to upscale in any profession at the apex considering the balancing act. Having said that, hugely successful architects like Zaha Hadid, Brinda Somaya and Shimul Kadri do poke holes at this assumption. So, I am guessing it also has to do with equal measure of talent and management acumen at an individual level and India is not a country with the most conducive infrastructure for the same.
With changing trends, occasional fanciful patrons and ever evolving design perceptions how does a designer manage to maintain his/her individuality in their designs?
After a certain level of experience and age of course, designers do develop a stronger individualistic lingo and become more self-indulgent. Happy to feed off our own and other people’s experiences like parasites too.
I think most patrons would realise that within the first half hour to see where the chemistry goes. And honestly without effortless understanding between ‘strong’ heads, projects hardly take off.
Tell us something about Ironworks-what led to the introduction of your own product line?
Ironworks was born as an extension of my work in interiors. Each piece of furniture has been made from natural wood grown in cultivated forests and is handcrafted embodying traditional carpentry along with industrial techniques. From coffee tables, casegoods trunks, lamps to wine chillers, Ironworks will continue to cover our mundane use of furniture as gracefully.
What are you currently working on?
An apartment with heavy industrial elements, a breezy designer store to feel like a conservatory with a sunken coffee garden and a restaurant in an old mill with a history.
On a ‘serious’ lighter note…One thing which you want to do, but you feel you can’t?
Organic gardening – this fanciful space of cultivating the regular to exotic variety and packaging them in cartons with jute rope and selling them at a farmer’s market. Think hunting boots, miles of green, a small vinery, homemade cheese, baguettes popping out of my bicycle basket, woodcutter’s chopping table and picture-perfect outdoor dining settings with fragrant insect repellants. Sigh..maybe someday!
Interview by Shweta Salvi