What do Alia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra and Kriti Sanon’s homes have in common? They are tastefully designed by Richa Bahl, the principal designer of Richa Bahl Design Studio in Mumbai. In conversation with Luxebook, Bahl opens up about her design inspiration, her journey in designing Alia Bhatt’s home, and talks about the shift in consumer trends seen over the course of the pandemic.
What inspired you to pursue a career in interior designing?
It came very instinctively to me. My father was in the army, and throughout my childhood we shifted base from U.P., the North-eastern states to Maharashtra, where I experienced contrasting cultures. I have seen so much of the country, but it was really the traditional Indian architecture interspersed with the colonial architecture of the army quarters as well as its landscaping that drew me. I think all these influences grow on you and become an integral part of your design journey.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I definitely draw inspiration from my childhood travel experiences. I love making homes that reflect a well-travelled mindset. Depending on my client, I also like giving an Indo-fusion touch to the homes I design, firmly believing that your home is an extension of who you are. A home should always be a space you can add a contemporary collection of memories rather than a space set in time.
How do you go about the process of conceptualising and designing spaces?
The first step is a detailed understanding of who the client is — everything from their lifestyle to their roots and how they’ve grown up. A lot of people have migrated to Bombay from other cities, and it’s important to understand their roots and marry that with my sensibilities. Lifestyle also plays a big factor, for instance, a lawyer’s home will have an abundance of space to work from, since they’re continuously working.
Is there anything specific you keep in mind while designing celebrity homes?
It differs from case to case, but I definitely like to bring in a lot of humility in my designs. It could be through the material or the flooring. We live in a world where we’re constantly surrounded by prying eyes, so it’s important to come home to a space that’s humbling. Since their lives are primarily spent living away on movie sets, they need to come back to a space that truly resonates as ‘home’. It is all about designing a private haven for a very public persona, a space that is theirs alone.
What was the design philosophy of Alia Bhatt’s home? Was there a design brief from Alia or you had a free reign?
I pretty much had an open hand because it’s her first home. I strongly believe our experiences shape us and better our understanding of ourselves. I wanted to create a home that went with her youthful vibe, a place where the family can come over because they are into a lot of family get-togethers and dinners. It also worked as a professional space, enabling her to conduct meetings and dress trials. I wanted to give their (Alia and sister Shaheen Bhatt) home a Parisian loft vibe, with an open layout. The sisters were very open to new ideas. But, of course, we did receive a few dos and don’ts from them which we married with our design scheme to create the home of their dreams.
How big is the house? How does her house reflect her preferences and personality?
It is spread over 2000sq.ft and was designed five years ago. It’s got a very young vibe, a great mix of interesting art, and a lot of neon signs that are reflective of her vibrant persona. She loves earthy materials and the house has an earthy feel to it. She didn’t want spotlights, so we’ve used a lot of soft lighting throughout the house. There are a lot of cosy spaces and reading corners to unwind. The main-door leading to the living room has a beautiful stained glass, which opens into an area with a lot of greenery. This imparts a sense of being away from the chaos of the city.
Which is your favourite element/space in the project?
I’ve created this reading nook for her, with lovely Shyam Ahuja fabrics. The floor is vintage, with a Parisian design. It is a very comfortable part of the house, well-suited for reading, hanging out with friends or even playing games. It’s a perfect multifunctional space.
Which other celebrity homes have you worked on and which is your most special project till date?
I’ve done Freida Pinto, Kriti Sanon, Parineeti Chopra and Dia Mirza’s homes to name a few. Currently, I’m working on Aditi Rao Hyadri’s home in Hyderabad and will be starting on Ashwini Iyer and Nitesh Tiwari’s house. All my projects are special and unique in their own way, so it’s difficult to pick one. Each client is different, with a special set of sensibilities. The real challenge is tying it all together with my aesthetics to create homes that tell a story.
What are your signature elements?
The common thread in all my homes is the otherworldly, disconnected feeling one gets. I love creating niches; could be a bookcase, or for decorative artefacts. I have a special fondness towards concrete jaalis — something I saw frequently while growing up. I also love using stained glasses and textured glasses. And I play around a lot with natural materials like stone and wood. I continuously innovate with these elements and keep coming back to them.
Do you believe in keeping up with trends or creating them?
I’m not a ‘trend person’ at all. I work with what I feel instinctively right at that moment. I like to create trends. If there’s something unique about a trend, like a colour that catches my eye, I definitely would try it. But overall, I’m not one for following trends, I’d rather create homes that are timeless and nostalgic, personal and associated with memories.
What are the changes that you have seen in consumer preferences over the course of the pandemic?
A lot of people want clean, minimal homes now. My last three clients have all wanted a minimal and open living space. The pandemic has made people realise that a sense of peace within your home is crucial. The messier your home looks, the less peaceful it is. The shift from overcrowded homes to more minimal spaces has been quite evident in my observation. WFH spaces have become a necessity and we ensure that a functional study area is incorporated in the living or reading room. There has now been a realisation that life is short, and people, at this moment want to live well. This is why even though during the pandemic labour and material prices went up, people were still not ready to compromise on the quality of their homes.
What is next for Richa Bahl Design Studio?
I’m working on reviving India’s rich mythology through our own collection. While we are constantly working on a new home and office projects, we’re also working on creating a line of our own. We plan to revive mythology with a modern outlook, a contemporary twist to connect us to our roots and make it palatable to today’s consumer. The project is still in its nascent stages, and if all goes well, we should take about a year to experiment and start prototypes.