Of Pastels and Fairy Tales…

Interior designer Saniya Kantawala creates the enchanting and surreal Vidhita Raut Fashion Store in Mumbai… a perfect cocoon to inspire the creative process of the young fashion designer.

Text: Deepa Nair
Photographs: Darshan Savla, courtesy Saniya Kantawala Design

The store as seen from the entrance. Undoubtedly, the spiral staircase is the piece de resistance of this entire space.

When the young fashion designer Vidhita Raut discussed her initial design brief with interior designer Saniya Kantawala, the latter easily understood the excitement, expectations and aspirations she had for her new store. Having started on her design journey at a tender age too (read 17 years) whilst pursuing a B Com degree, and later diving into the sea of design after studying at Rachna Sansad in Mumbai, today, Saniya is the principal at Saniya Kantawala Design and has completed a little over 35 projects pan India. One of them was a boutique for Yogita Kadam in Mumbai, which Vidhita happen to visit and came back highly impressed. “She contacted me the next day as her own store was in the pipeline,” quips Saniya when quizzed on how she met Vidhita.

Vidhita’s only brief to her designer for the 1,000 square-foot space in suburban Mumbai was a setting that would inspire her to create. Besides that, she wanted two dedicated trial rooms, plus space to showcase the bags and jewellery she designs. When Saniya visited the site for the first time, she encountered a duplex layout in a narrow rectangular shape. “The odd structure meant that we’d have to acquire and use all given walls to their optimum for the placement of racks and hangers to hang her attires on.

A view of the reception cum cash counter. You can see the dramatic acrylic mirrored ceiling which doubles the height of the ground floor clearly here.

Since the store was structured as a duplex, it meant that if we would have to connect the two floors with a staircase cut through along the wall side, then we would have lost a lot of space for her garment display. Hence we thought of reating a fairy-tale like spiral staircase right at the centre of all the activity,” explains Saniya. But constructing this staircase was not an easy job. “Since it was a PCC (Portland cement concrete) slab we couldn’t cut it anywhere we liked. We wanted the staircase to divide the space equally. We waited for almost two months to get the required approvals,” says the designer.

That the staircase is a labour of love can be witnessed the moment you enter the store, or rather, right from the entrance itself — its design makes it look like an art installation, and to the left and right are white walls that have rose gold racks looping down from the acrylic mirrored ceiling which doubles as the height of the ground floor. The effect is almost fairy-tale-ish as the client ordered. To add to the story, Saniya consciously included fabrics created by Vidhita as an extension of her work within the overall design scheme. “She works a lot with block prints hence, we took wooden block print moulds and hung them (behind her reception and cashier desk) from the ceiling and had them trailing down the white walls in pastel fabrics that had a similar print on them,” explains Saniya.

One of the two trial rooms on the upper level. A chandelier made of bright strawberry and  salmon pink and another wall art in lemon yellow threads are design talking points in each room.

Another design highlight on the ground floor is the bespoke reception/cashier facia which got divided in grids — with each having embroidered brocade and lace work in powder blue and peach, with gold and silver embroidery over it. To add to the charm, mid-century knobs were used over these patterns to make them look like traditional Indian embroidered drawers. As you go upstairs along the white-laced staircase, which has a brick-etched glass railing attached to it, you enter the top floor of the boutique which consists of some more garment displays to the left. To the right is the jewellery and bag collection display. The two trial rooms are accommodated on the top floor and they each feature a chandelier made of bright strawberry, salmon pink and lemon-yellow threads. “The reason why we decided to have it made in thread work is because it’s the main raw material used in the clothing industry and we wanted all these elements to be extensions of Vidhita’s field of work,” Saniya says. For storage, the designer created decorative cabinets within the trial rooms. A mini pantry falls in line with trial room doors, so that they all look clean while fulfilling the typical requirements for a store. “We eventually succeeded in creating a fairy tale-like space for Vidhita as that’s what she wanted and that’s what she got, but most importantly somewhere she could visualize… a space for inspiration and creation,” says Saniya on a parting note. No wonder the saying goes… art inspires art!

To create a fashion boutique which would inspire the designer in her work.

Walls: Paint
Floor: Michealangelo white Italian marble
Spiral staircase Ivory lacework over white PU polish, brick etched glass railing
Ceiling: Acrylic mirror
Shelves: Wooden moulding in white
Hangers: Wooden
Display units: Rose gold plated metal rods

Project: Vidhita Raut Fashion Store
Client: Vidhita Raut
Location: Bhandup (West), Mumbai
Area: 1,000 sq ft
Principal designer: Saniya Kantawala
Design team: Sakshi Mathur