A wordsmith plays with words and a interior designer with the finer aspects of beautifying a home; just like a wordsmith can turn out to be a lawyer, speaker or a script writer similarly the interior designer too can redeem himself into a home accessory designer or still better a furniture designer. Today we profile one such couple.
More than often the interviews I have conducted for this section primarily began with the designer narrating their design analogy which formed the basis of the products they designed, but this one began on a different note. “I was delighted by Prime Minister Modi’s Red Fort speech where he mapped out his 10 plans for change over the next 5 years. Few of them such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill Development’ and ‘Adopt a Village’ gives a very special resonance to us patrons of the industry who value our great craft culture,” began Preeti.
Considering the fact that over 45% of India’s exports come from the Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE’s) and the majority of this is craft based; being a furniture designer/maker is not a bad idea. As Mike points out, “It is our great joy to eulogize the skilled crafts folk we still have and to work hard to maintain their jobs.”
Mike and Preeti Knowles are equally well-known for their defined skill sets in interior design and designing furniture. After over 40 years of a collaborative experience in professional practice and education besides consistently working with many leading London designers, Mike setup his own practice with his wife Preeti. Incepted in London in the mid 80s, he christened it as Mike Knowles and Associates.
A passionate believer in the societal value of design and craft skills, the couple shifted to India few years ago. The idea among other things was to develop jobs in the local market and highlight Indian design sensibilities. This led to the origin of The Hidden Gallery which apart from offering interior designing solutions caters to bespoke furniture needs.
Speaking about her experiments with wood, Preeti says from intricate wood carving to traditional polishing methods and finally the new procedures in furniture design, she likes to engage with the past, present and the future. The karigars at Hidden Gallery too are adept at this aspect of creative time travel.
“My signature piece, the Kahaani chair,” says Preeti, “really does tell the story of my design thinking. Based on a classic bergere chair with traditional barley twist legs and a part cleft arm, I found myself reworking the piece by leaving off the top arm rail. The team thought I was mad. But it’s proven to be a great success and still performs all the major tasks of a chair, comfort being paramount.”
The Kahaani chair is just a small part of a bigger story. One look at the pieces of furniture showcased at the gallery is good enough to validate the fact; pieces of reclaimed wood have been put to use in a number of products and the end result is as grand as it gets.
Mike designs dramatic one off pieces using reclaimed and new wood whereby wax and oil finishes are preferred rather than synthetic sealers. Having started their careers in the UK, both Preeti and Mike have a strong European sensibility in their designs.
Mike and Preeti are proud of the team of karigars they engage with. Mike cites, “We have the best polishing team on the planet! We can take five days to polish a piece to perfection unlike most manufacturers but it is worth the time and patience.”
At the Hidden Gallery, Preeti and Mike still design sofas and fabric chairs using age old upholstery techniques. The solid wood frames, webbing and hand tied springs make way for the best pieces possible.
Adds Preeti, “Everyone has their own ideas when it comes to comfort; we invite clients to try out the sofas before the final fabric is applied. Customised service is what it’s all about, and we most certainly can do that.”
So you may want to rev up your interiors or add a bit of bespoke furniture, Hidden Gallery is a good place to take a look at. And since the gallery is hidden, a telecon to set up an appointment prior to your visit would be a good way to unearth the secret.
Text By Vikas Bhadra
F 322A, Adarsh House
Lado Sarai, New Delhi-110030
tel: 011 41006803
mob: 91 9810124917