Ashiesh Shah is one of the most keenly followed architects and designer in Mumbai today, thanks to his all-star client list and high profile projects. His repertoire is a veritable who’s who of Bollywood (Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Jacqueline Fernandez) while some of the toniest fashion and fine dine spaces now bear his signature. An art curator and collaborator, he has also curated a special edit with Le Corbusier’s historic pieces of furniture from the Chandigarh project.
Chandrima Pal is a journalist and author, whose second book At Home in Mumbai (Harper Collins) is a collection of stories about negotiating the city’s myriad living spaces. From chic bungalows in South Mumbai to Bandra’s star homes, the immigrant colonies of the suburbs to the many ghettos and fading chawls, the book follows the questions - what is it really like to feel at home in Mumbai?
Shah and Pal have known each other for nearly a decade, following each other’s work in their respective fields. So what happens when the author who has explored spaces and the way they are occupied, meets the architect who creates spaces? In this conversation, Shah offers a glimpse of his world of five star homes and celebrity style.
Chandrima Pal: You have been a very busy man Ashiesh. Could you take us through some of the most creatively challenging and satisfying work in recent times?
Ashiesh Shah: (Designer) Sanjay Garg’s Raw Mango stores and The Daga House ( a private penthouse in Mumbai’s Cuffe parade). I like the stark difference - Raw Mango is Indian minimalism and The Daga House is where we used everything international and infused contemporary Indian art for effect. One is designed keeping the space and clothes in mind, and the second is a statement house where everything is curated.
CP: You have been inside some stunning celebrity homes in Mumbai. Is there a trend you have observed, in terms of interior and styling?
AS: I think more and more, people are realising that homes are not about showing off, but a personal space. It is about bringing out your own personality. It’s not about aping someone you aspire to be. So these are homes of people who are already so evolved that they know exactly what their style is and it becomes an expression of their thought process and an expression of who they are. It literally gives me perspective on how important it is to have a voice of your own with your home and how you project who you are through the spaces you build.
CP: In my book I mentioned Hrithik Roshan’s bachelor home that you designed. It’s interesting that a 40 something male star was living on his own for the first time. What was the brief that you worked on?
AS: It was a stark contrast from his parent’s home which was all about layering and heaviness and ostentation; a picture of luxury in the Bollywood sense. But now came this home, which is all white, open and airy, very modern and talking about color in a primary way. Not using pastels but making it bold. It was a very masculine approach to a house.
Actually Hrithik had seen Ranbir and Katrina’s house that I had done and he wanted me to do his pad as well. He said, ‘Listen I am new to this’ and we had lots of conversations. I realised that he loves white and openness and likes big clean spaces.
CP: At the launch of the book, you had made some very interesting observations about how for many Bollywood stars, who are not from the industry, a home is all about creating a sense of belonging. Given that you have worked with the likes of Jacqueline Fernandes and Aditya Roy Kapoor, could you elaborate?
AS: I just think that they are lonely in a way. They don’t have family here. So it’s all about finding attachment through objects, finding memories and nostalgia. It’s like – oh I was here when I picked it up or my family gave me this. It is not about showing off an expensive piece but displaying what is closest to their heart. So the homes have become their autograph of their space in a special form.
CP: The other observation you made was about the telescope - that every star home apparently has one.
AS: (Laughs) Telescope and a piano!
I think the idea of the telescope is somewhat like this - they all want to gaze at the stars or into the lives of the people through a small aperture. So it’s the idea of focusing on something small through the lens. It’s like being a director in your own house, looking through the lens of a camera. And piano is something they all find very calming and soothing to play.