Furniture and interior designer Neeta Kumar’s new 7,000-square-feet store in Delhi, Inhabit, opened last month, will transport you to a world of carved wooden pillars, eclectic pieces of furniture, intricate iron screens, and ornate floor lamps.
Located in Delhi’s Design District on Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, the charming store is reflective of Kumar’s design philosophy – striking, elaborate, and environment-friendly. Kumar’s first store is in Hyderabad, which opened in 2004. The store exhibits her bespoke series of furniture and interiors, which spans three styles of design – Modern Mediterranean, Classic Luxury and Couture Interiors.
They have luxurious and quirky accent chairs, maximal and artsy hanging lights and floor lamps, exceptionally detailed and themed dining tables with chairs complete with several décor pieces and mirrors.
Designer Neeta Kumar talks about it all.
Why did you open a new store during the pandemic?
The store was originally going to have a grand opening in March, but because of the pandemic and lockdown, we had to postpone it. Nonetheless, the pandemic forced people to spend a lot of time at home and comfort themselves by adding missing pieces of furniture and decor to their spaces. Now that things are getting back to normal, we felt like it was an appropriate time to open the store.
What has 16 years of Inhabit’s journey been like?
Our journey started with an idea to create everything from scratch. In the early days, I tried to outsource work for almost a year and find skilled craftsmen for woodwork. That was very challenging because I demand best craftsmanship. I am a stickler for
details, great quality and fineness.
These were hard to find in the craftmanship then. I surely knew that the road ahead was going to be tough. Just like every design has a thumb rule, mine, as a designer-entrepreneur, was to invent, experiment, innovate and be unconventional and fearless.
Inhabit started out with a few carpenters, lining men and polishing people, and today we have a 25,000- square- feet factory with more than 100 inhouse skilled workers.
The entire entrepreneurial journey felt like giving birth to a baby who needed to be cherished and nurtured every day. It, nevertheless, gave me the freedom to follow my creative path. I have always wanted to create products locally. We strived for ‘Make in India’, even if it’s sometimes challenging. And sustainability has always been at the forefront. We use reclaimed teak wood because of its durability and moisture resistance, even if it means having to deal with the challenges of teak wood, in terms of its maintenance and wastages.
I am also a tree hugger, so I have never had the heart to order wood from a timber depot. Every day is a challenge when you create something from scratch, but the job satisfaction it gives is immense. We are our own competition when we design and produce.
What, in your opinion, is the most distinguishing feature of Inhabit as a brand?
Inhabit’s strong philosophy and vision play a vital role in making it stand out from other brands. We have about 40 designs cataloged with us in each product category, which totals to more than 500 designs. Every detail from the fabric, the hardware, the stitch to the pattern seen in the designs is standardised over the years through a design and photo template of the product. We are also very proud of the fact that Inhabit’s in-house design studio can offer end-to-end solutions to a keen homemaker.
Why did you open your second store in Delhi?
Inhabit has made its presence felt in the design industry over the past 16 years. Now that people trust us with our design instincts and execution, coming to the capital city made a lot of sense. Also, the Delhi Design District enjoys a lot of attention from homemakers across India. Hence, it felt right to begin our new venture in Delhi.
What was the thought behind picking the locations that you did for your Delhi and Hyderabad stores respectively?
I believe that choosing the right location is singularly the most important marketing strategy for any retail brand. Both our store locations reach a certain clientele that the brand seeks. Delhi’s MG road is the ultimate destination for interior and home décor enthusiasts. So, the Design District is an ideal location for Inhabit to mark its presence in the Capital. In Hyderabad, the store is nestled in Banjara Hills, which is yet another popular location.
Tell us about your Bespoke Luxury Series.
The most thrilling part of designing the Bespoke luxury series was to keep it timeless. The challenge was to blend in classical characteristics and silhouettes with modern designs across styles and moods while paying attention to detail and not compromising on quality.
The biggest accomplishment is the development and use of varied materials. It took almost 12-14 months to generate this line of luxury designs. The vision is to promote ‘Make in India’ products, which are as good as imported ones.
What is the design inspiration of your Delhi store?
The design of the store embodies the world’s finest architectural styles – be it the glorious confluence of Islamic structure with Hindu ornamentation in the Charminar, the austere grace of the Gothic quatrefoil or the mesmerising vectors of Art-Deco.
The store is an amalgamation of classic values and contemporary mores, sprinkled with design influences from around the world, to evoke a quaint, grand vibe. At one end, you see highly embellished walls full of details, on the other hand, you have exposed brick walls, juxtaposing a rich look with shabby chic.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is not what you pick. It is the thought that makes you pick that product. It could be aspiration or the product’s edgy or dramatic design.
You were one of the very early advocates of environment-friendly furniture, how important do you think sustainability in home furniture and décor is?
It is very important in today’s era. How we live will dictate the future. Products by Inhabit are created using world-class materials that add to your home without taking away from nature. Conversations around sustainability have been getting a lot of attention, with respect to the rising concern over climate change. However, sustainability has always been pivotal to the design industry; be it using the space efficiently or using construction materials that pose negligible threat to the environment.
In the current times, sustainable materials are gaining a lot of attention in interior design interpretations. Their long life and value empowers any space.