A tiny little store located on the ground floor of a 1940s art deco building takes on the task of introducing and amalgamating the ‘Various’ aspects of design and creativity.
‘Various at Dhobi Talao’ works as a platform for creative association. Through the production and exhibition of furniture, objects, art, and a bit of food, it brings together collaborators in craft-carpenters, weavers, fabricators, metal smiths, designers, architects and cooks. This is a big brief for the tiny 400 square feet store. But, the store executes its purpose well, making the space work for it.
“Because we aim to share the platform, we wanted a neutral name. Various at Dhobi Talao – it is one that leaves the door open for others, and that celebrates diversity, yet is still rooted in its place, at Dhobi Talao,” explains Melissa Smith, who is one of the key designers involved in the project. Sachin Bandukwala is also a curator for the store, that is owned by Chirag Shah and Monica Sampat.
Every true design store has an interesting story captured in its décor. At this store, all one needs to do is face the door and look at the huge wooden fins that surround it. A closer inspection reveals that these ‘fins’ which work as shelves for display, seen in their totality, actually form the logo of the brand! “The logo came from the wooden fins installed in the store, and not the other way round,” says Smith.
These fins create a transition between the street and the interior space, negotiating the changing geometry. The curved profile both slims the wood for material economy, and also recalls the arches of the Mumbai arcades, in a simplified, elegant and contemporary form that keeps the wood close to its natural state.
They chose this transitional façade for the logo because they felt that it conveyed the spirit of the store, an open approach with one foot grounded in the wealth of knowledge that history has taught and the other as a base for innovation as one responds to contemporary needs! Looking at a store where the design is linked with the philosophy of the brand makes the experience more meaningful!
Simple and elegant wooden furniture is on display and evokes the painstaking craftsmanship and finesse that lends each object a special aura. The furniture here is especially known for the finger-joint technique and the special oil and water polish. The joints used in the wooden products are designed to improve the strength of the material and reduce the amount of wearing on the material.
When wood is joined with other materials, like brass or mild steel, they assemble the joints, to delicately treat the different materials with different thermal expansion rates, different strengths, and different hardness levels. A tel paani (oil and water) polish is used on most wooden products – this involves an alternate application of linseed oil and water to treat the wood. This is a traditional method of polishing, and rather than coat the surface of the wood, it penetrates deep into the wood’s veins, which allows the material to breathe, while still protecting it from weathering.
The unique partnership has led to several collections and products that inhabit the shop. The brass track lights were developed to illuminate the space, and the frame series sits together in living formation, with the screw table and chairs rounding out the room.
The system chest of drawers and study table also occupy their own corners, and the chameleon table makes a great stop for a coffee! But best of all, the teakwood fins hold objects on display over the busy street, inviting onlookers to experience the ‘various’ forms of creativity!
Text By Dhanishta Shah
Photographs Sachin Bandukwala & Saurabh Shah