Saket Sethi of ADPL designs a 2,200 sq ft office for himself in suburban Mumbai with an informal feel, accessorised by a personal collection of art and artefacts collected over the years.
Cognisant of the fact that his office was located in a bungalow, Saket Sethi was careful to maintain an informal feel, in sync with the volume of the space. The expansive Sanjay Gandhi National Park unfurls outside the windows, making the view rather special, being located in Mumbai. The outdoor spaces include a courtyard, side yard and a rear courtyard which is a private, meditative space.
“The studio is an experimental think-tank, where I want my staff to be happy to come to every day. We take on only a few projects every year, and our work is modern as well as classic. I wanted the office space to reflect that,” he says. “People come from different parts of the world to work in this office. From Spain, France, London, Los Angeles and even places like Jharkhand and Vidyanidhi Academy. So the atmosphere had to be comforting for all of them.” Looks like it has worked.
Instead of a to-do list, one board breezily declares in a handwritten script, ‘You don’t have to be crazy to work here…we’ll train u.’ Says Saket, “I didn’t want anyone to feel alienated. Moreover, in the US I worked in a loft, so I’m happy that this office has a similar feel.”
Saket is also an artist. And of course his works hang on the walls, rubbing shoulders with an MF Husain gifted by his mother. The latter, strangely, has been displayed rather unobtrusively.
Distressed walls add a gravitas to the office, with their ‘always been there’ aesthetic. Dark green and brown could be used for the finishes, because the space was a large open one. Saket discloses, “I have surrounded myself with artwork which inspires me and there are bits and pieces of my favourite things all around. It could be a detail in the fabric, or a remnant from a site which I’ve worked on.”
Saket explains that he habitually retains some left-over objects from his projects and displays them in his office, rather like memorabilia.
A wall was pulled down to half its height and voila, the office is loosely divided into a section which deals with architecture and another which handles interiors. The lighting is basic, mostly drop lights sourced from Chor Bazar.
In-your-face is the quirky picture of a pug in uniform, painted by Chinese artist Naka, which the staff has fondly dubbed ‘Chairman Mao.’ A vintage wooden Irani cabinet with a marble top and sunburst carvings on its shutters, is painted an eye-popping lacquer red and stands below ‘Chairman Mao’, subliminally Oriental in its imagery. The same red is echoed in the upholstery of the chairs at the work desks.
A charcoal study by Saket hangs over a single-seater table meant for quick sketches. Above the sketch, a wall bracket holds aloft a single book by JRD Tata. An antique carved panel and even Aloe Vera plants have been displayed much the way one would in a home; this adds warmth to the space. In the stairwell, a Buddha shrine with mirrors occupies pride of place, flanked by suspended wooden ‘dwarpals’ and Balinese masks.
A painted section of Diocletian Roman baths and Saket’s own certificates add an official authenticity to the otherwise informal space.
Saket repeatedly uses the word ‘comfort,’ when he talks about his design for his office. Clearly, that was a priority, rather than creating a slick showcase filled with the spoils of a frenzied shopping binge.
This space is filled with objects that recall fondly held memories, associations with places he has lived in and with important people in his life. In essence, Saket has created a home away from home, enveloping in its warmth. Blurring the boundaries between work and relaxation, one could curl up with a book as easily as design an edifice within the walls of this office.
Like the famous song from the glorious 1965 Hollywood blockbuster musical starring Julie Andrews – ‘The Sound of Music’ – these might not be, ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,’ but these are a few of Saket’s favourite things.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Ishaan Raghunandan Courtesy The Architect