The projects realised by Mumbai-based Kavan Shah Design Studio (KSDS) are composed of simple layers that come together beautifully to create a profound and unique aesthetic language.
Kavan Shah Design Studio (KSDS) is a consummate user of the restrained material palette. The team exhibits an academic preoccupation with a building material’s natural properties and strives to employ, enhance, and celebrate them wherever possible. The result is that even a common, everyday substance like concrete comes alive, so to speak, in the team’s design schemes. Such restraint also fits in well with the clients who constantly ask for exclusivity in their projects.
The following three works highlight KSDS’ diversity of thought and deep-thinking simplicity. The common thread of ideas was to juxtapose uncomplicated surfaces with the natural to create homey spaces. Everything responds to the surroundings and at the same time also elicits a response from it.
Aside from architecture and interior design, the Mumbai-based firm’s interest extends to craft revival in addition to product and landscape design.
The Verandah, Kihim
This house is one of those beguiling creations – that both blends in and yet stands out in its surroundings. Located in the lovely beach village of Kihim in Maharashtra, the home keeps it simple and, quite literally, breezy. The material palette is decidedly frill-free – wood, concrete, bare bricks, and utilitarian blinds. The house seems primed for loners, forest folks, and people wanting to escape the noise of civilisation.
There is a roof and there are walls, but the layout is linear and open, even on the inside. The idea is to let the wind, the light and all the views of the garden remain uninterrupted. The couch cushions are blue/green and brown and conjure visions of the earth and the sky in an elegant sweep. The lounge furniture preference extends to an informal seating area right outside where low, leaning chairs sit around.
The kitchen and dining area can be accessed and shut off from the living areas using partition doors; this section is simple too, with a small table, a lovely main shelf, and lots of drawer space establishing a neat outlay. “A rough concrete portico encircles the main portion of the home, offering generous connections to the forest beyond,” adds the team.
The bedroom, with its wall display arches holding pottery and a highly-patterned art frame, is a delicate breakaway. The overall feel is still restrained, but there is a deliberate movement here. With this project, KSDS is right on point in understanding that a home needn’t only conform and perform; instead it can remain restrained and choose to grow old with the surroundings. The Verandah does that with no apologies.
The Tattoo Studio, Mumbai
KSDS walked a tricky line of mixing subtlety, edginess, and informality to realise this project. “The main consideration was to divide the zones and create an elevated podium which was visible from the outside,” says the team about the dismantling and re-imagination process.
The client brand is admittedly restrained in its approach and the design team was careful about keeping up with that ethos. This art form has a bit of theatricality and quite a lot of sterility involved, and in a space like this which looks like a tropical café; it gets an unconventional thriving ground.
The team has peppered the studio with terrarium plants that stand alongside scuffed teal doors, smooth floors, prim white upholstery, benches made out of cement, mesh partitions, and sand-blasted granite surfaces. The art pieces work the range from eccentric to abstract to more conventional forms, with contemplative busts of Buddha standing by in many places.
But the less obvious clincher in establishing a unique aesthetic is the lighting scheme – it seems to travel in waves through the space, lighting up and dimming down the segments to create a satisfyingly brooding but welcoming space. Regarding the design on the whole, the team has seen to it that every piece of art merely compliments the space and not overpowers it.
Hygroscopic Morphology is a research thesis (by the University of Michigan, USA) which is an effort in understanding if a material can be made to respond to external changes/shifts and, if possible, how that fact can transform the landscape of design in general. As part of this premise, KSDS opted to delve into the hygroscopic properties of wood coupled with textile in relation to changes in relative humidity.
“The hygroscopic property of wood is a process of absorbing and releasing moisture to match the humidity content of its surrounding environment; this fact causes the wood to swell and shrink. This process is completely reversible and the wood will regain its original form once the humidity level is back to normal,” states the team.
This level of interaction between a material and the immediate elemental conditions is fascinating. The expected direction here is towards a composite structure that is capable of altering its form as experiences around it shift. The study enters with an aim to understand the fundamental characteristics of the material that responds to stimuli and moves towards adding a mechanical structure to this response, in this particular case, a water collector.
“A deformable water collector that would adapt to the humidity conditions by changing its shape: exposing the collecting textile during high humidity and concealing it when the environment is dry,” the team adds.
Text by Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy Jesal Shah / Sean Alqhuist