From a young age, I have been a planner and maker of small things. I picked up dexterous hobbies like crochet, painting, knitting, paper-craft, beadwork and such craft work at home owing to my family member’s home projects. I was always interested and keen on learning to create new things.
On the other hand, along with my brother I would partake in activities of deconstructing broken watches, video games, binoculars, etc. to satisfy our curiosity of what things looked like inside.
This curiosity only grew when I graduated from school to college. My mother saw an artistic fold in me very early on, and a possibility of a successful career in design. Due to this, I was never nudged towards the conventional study of commerce or the sciences. My research into design schools during my pre-university days only re-enforced my mother’s belief in me.
My four years at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, nurtured my capabilities and exposed me toward the right direction that I soon became passionate about. I graduated with a Bachelors in Furniture and Interior Design.
Furniture is what developed my interest in structures and construction. I believe furniture is construction in small scale and is pure structure. Secondly, it opened up a world of possibilities for me in terms of materials, processes, form and my love for wood. My nascent career revolves around wood and engineered wood, and hence that is what my collection of professional work is mostly concerned with.
The Shady Ray is a shade that I developed to be installed at city centres with open parking plots. It is designed to work as a parking port around where people come, park and enjoy small meet-ups. This was a practice seen in local Ahmedabad all through the day.
Poh was part of a small lighting workshop in college. We had to make a lamp for Diwali and could use any material for making it. My concept was inspired from a South-Indian oil diya that was lit at temples.
The product is made with a plastic spice box procured from the local market, white plastic spoons, a polystyrene infill for it to balance in water, an LED switch operated circuit and a laser cut ethnic paper cutting for a decorative look.
My first exposure in the industry was an internship at a furniture design and manufacturing company – Quetzel Designs, Bangalore. It was like my second school for furniture studies. I was under the mentorship of Sandeep Mukherjee, Director at Quetzel, who is an NID Furniture alumnus himself.
Here I was exposed to a lot of knowledge and practice about manufacturing processes, hardware, wood detailing, wood construction, etc. My project there was to develop a set of living room furniture, which comprised of a large 3-seater sofa, a single seater and a centre table. I included different processes so that I could learn and at the same time create a unique product.
Tropic of Canara was my final college project. The name is after the solid wooden houses that were built around the South Canara district, which was my inspiration for this furniture range. The three-seater sofa has three varied processes explored: wood work (base structure), bent ply lamination (armrests) and weaving (backrest).
After completing my internship, I went to work with Furlenco, a startup based in Bangalore, where I currently am a senior furniture designer. Furlenco is the only organised rental company of premium home furniture. My CEO was always keen to make premium furniture in wood accessible to the masses by means of rental. It was a very exciting brief as I had important rules to play with while making the furniture: flat pack, mass production friendly and easy assembly. This, for me was the most interesting brief that I could find.
This is where I was given all the liberty to design my first range of home furniture called Pico that includes 13 solid wood products. They are already a part of 500 odd homes in Bangalore, and this is what has given me the confidence and an immense joy as a Furniture Designer. Pico won the CII Design Excellence Award for the year 2014 in the Architecture and Interior Products category that was held in Delhi.
Pico is made in European steamed beech. The furniture is dual toned in teak to accentuate its construction and form. The range comprises of the most basic pieces of furniture for four spaces in a home – living room, bedroom, dining room and a study. The words to describe Pico would be tropical, breezy, wide and lean.
My journey so far in furniture has been very exciting and fruitful. We are tackling to understand how people live at homes in the urban scenario. This helps me understand the dynamics and functionality a piece of furniture can play in the everyday life of a user.
In the future I would always want to design for the masses as well as for specialised needs. I am looking to stretching my boundaries and I would want to explore and design varied products for changing times.
Text By Naina Shenoy