Formal education can at times take the term ‘discipline’ to another level. However, excessive disciplining in a creative field shackles originality – a lineal archetype can construct obtrusive professional boundaries, restricting creativity to precast moulds. Eliminating these very boundaries and celebrating intuitive design is Mumbai-based designer Ravi Vazirani.
A natural aesthete, Ravi has the ability to bring in a spurt of freshness in his every project – there is no marked signature that his craft is based on, and that is his biggest strength. After exploring space design for seven years he finally set practice in 2010.
Ravi Vazirani Design Studio’s (RVDS) adept sense of space, function and style has earned the firm a distinguished oeuvre of residential, retail and hospitality projects. There is a certain intimacy in the studio’s projects that shines through the purposeful detailing that goes in their every design assignment – exclusively fashioned furniture and fittings bring it all together giving the space a distinct narrative.
Ravi’s natural ability to learn and find inspiration in the mundane allows him to conceive his projects with a special sense of quirkiness. Through this interview, we try to pan in on the secrets of what makes Ravi Vazirani’s work so organically stylish.
Tell us about your journey as a designer. How has your practice evolved?
Being self-taught, I am continuously evolving as a designer. There’s so much to learn, so much to see that one can never really stop absorbing/learning. I believe the lack of a formal/structured approach to design education, makes it a lot more exciting because you have no preconceived ideas of the field. From when the studio started to now, I sense a strong focus on creating quality design as opposed to just designing spaces because it’s required. Over the years, the studio is beginning to appreciate details and indulging in them. That includes customising almost everything or investing in products that have that element of detail in. We appreciate the nuances of design, something I believe one needs to have a keen eye for.
Things that inspire you (apart from design/architecture) and support your ideation process…
Everything inspires me, which is a bit overwhelming sometimes. The dressing style of my domestic staff, which is so beautifully rural, to the kitschy fabric of a taxi, to the streets of Spain, to the chaos of Dharavi. I love observing people in their spaces, spaces that have not been designed, but are a natural evolution of their style. It fascinates me to see someone’s inherent personality take over a space, regardless of the final effect being good or bad. I would never imagine a space with electric blue walls and metallic floors, but nevertheless it is definitely interesting to observe someone in that space.
Metros like Mumbai are increasingly facing the predicament of ever-shrinking square footage. What are the dos and don’ts that you follow when you design for small spaces?
Don’t follow trends. Don’t be overly ambitious. Be realistic. You cannot have everything, so define your priorities. For example, if you like colour, make choices that compliment your need for colour. You can’t do colour, oversized furniture, patterns and prints all in one space. It doesn’t work.
You pay great attention to detail as is evident in most of your projects. Tell us about the significance of art of accessorising and choosing suitable artwork for a project.
We try and imagine a space as a whole before we begin the actual process on site. This helps the studio understand; rather than define what is priority and what is not. So as opposed to “needing” artwork, because we have proposed it, we look at art that inspires us when we conceptualise and revolve the space around it. That way, you’re not accessorising the house, because it needs to be done, you’re building a house around things you actually like and would love to live with. You can replace art with stone that I may have spotted on a recce or a particular piece of furniture, the idea is to imagine the space as a whole. We really enjoy seeing a project through to a point of completion where the smallest aspects are taken care of. If that means commissioning china to match the décor, so be it.
A project which is very close to your heart…
Most projects are, but I guess my first coffee shop I ever designed called “The Stolen Coffee Room” is very special.
With changing trends, occasional fanciful patrons and ever evolving design perceptions how does a designer manage to maintain his/her individuality in their designs?
Simple. Don’t follow trends. Be aware, but don’t blindly follow something because it’s in vogue. Design must be timeless. Every designer has a style, but it’s important to challenge that and step out of your comfort zone. Attempt that and surprise yourself is what I believe. That helps me understand what I do best and how do I get better. It helps me adapt and add to my style and maintaining an aesthetic that is still mine and not borrowed or trending.
Can you name one country (not India) whose cultural heritage charms you and has great design potential?
I found design in Istanbul, Turkey to be a beautiful combination of the old and new. The heritage is so beautifully evident everywhere and blends into the new with great ease.
What are you currently working on?
A range of projects that involve high-end homes, bars, stores and some private offices. We just finished our first international project for Atmosphere in Singapore.
Could you list a few design practices across the globe that inspire you, and why?
The list is endless. Autoban from Istanbul. Their work is very inspiring. Beautiful combination of old and new. Language is continuous, but there’s always an element of new.
Vincent Wolf, New York. I love his style. It’s organic. Spaces he creates feel real, they don’t feel manufactured. They are timeless. I love that.
Greyhound, Thailand. As a design house, they are more into fashion and less into architecture and interiors, but I love how beautifully harmonious the brand communication is over several platforms.Be it food, fashion or home products.
Roman & Williams. I love their work.Great design, great style. Beautiful industrial spaces with an amazing blend of old and new.
Bijoy Jain, India. I am a great fan of his work. Reinforces my belief that design is all in the details. You don’t need to be ornate, simplicity can be beautiful too.
What immediate goals have you lined out for the practice?
I’d love to see RVDS grow as a brand that is synonymous with good design. We are working on a range of lifestyle products which we hope to launch soon. I don’t plan for the studio to be a very large studio. I like it being intimate. I’d rather our body of work grow through collaboration with other designers and artists.
If not designer what profession would you have loved to take up?
Considering I have already been that person who used to do something else before I took up design, that’s a wee bit hard to answer. However, on days when I do feel I’d like to change professions just for the joy of it, I think I would have been a baker.
Interview by Shweta Salvi