Preoccupied with Perfection

Meticulous planning, attention to detail and stylistic distinction, all signatures of a Rajiv Saini & Associates project, are stamped on the aesthetic rejuvenation of this old Mumbai apartment.


Interior designer Rajiv Saini

This could have been just another city apartment of an affluent family based elsewhere in the country. After all, this wasn’t their primary residence, so where was the need to slave over details? To ensure a conscientious mix of different brands of furniture? To agonize over the shade of a carpet? To specify the colour of the wire of an imported lamp? But you sign on Mumbai-based Rajiv Saini & Associates (RSA), and you sign on a design firm that is fanatical about elements, both macro and micro, never mind that the space is used for ten days in a month.

Like a lot of RSA’s other projects, this one, too, was sparked by the need to accommodate the growing requirements of a multi-generational joint family. Right at the outset, two things made the exercise of space revitalization smoother: the family owned the 1950s art deco building and only one member was designated to interact with the design firm. Other than specifying two master bedrooms, two children’s bedrooms and a large kitchen which would be able to supply food to the dining table piping hot, the owners left all aesthetic considerations to Rajiv Saini, RSA’s principal designer.

The living room is sparsely decorated, yet communicates a sense of grandness owing to the fact that the furniture has plenty of circulating space around, and is not pushed against walls. The layout is quite symmetrical, with glass-shaded, chrome-legged lamps from Flos; Shell chairs by Hans Wegner; and two Toot sofas by Cassina. The centre of the space is occupied by Glas Italia’s Illusion tables. The matte silk carpet has been made to RSA’s exacting specifications using several shades of grey. On the wall is a striking composition created by the client’s 10-year-old son.

As the 3,500-square-foot space had nothing going for it (there was turquoise laminate on the walls!), RSA started by proverbially wiping the slate clean. “Nothing of the original plan was retained, barring the location of the kitchen and living room. Otherwise, all walls were completely reworked. Windows, too, were resized and relocated wherever possible,” recalls Rajiv. The other immovable ‘things’ were two trapezoidal ‘wells’ that ran through the height of the building. These housed various services, and the view from the apartment into these voids was, as can be imagined, quite dismal.

The 3D effect on the floor, a nod to the art deco architecture of the building, has been painstakingly rendered by assembling three variations of agglomerate stone: white and two shades of grey. While the chairs, called MM01, have been sourced from Matteograssi, the dining table is a custom-made affair, featuring a Statuario marble top and white powder-coated iron legs.

The spatial reconfiguration took into account the views around the street-facing building. “Large rain trees line the road, so that side has the advantage of dense foliage; and the rear of the apartment overlooks a sprawling garden. The areas on either side, however, are nothing to write home about,” discloses the designer. “The fact that this apartment had its own 2,000-square-foot terrace also made it possible for us to reclaim balconies wherever possible.” Vastu had its say in the entry point to the apartment (the original had to be slightly shifted) and the orientation of the beds (which now unfortunately, we think, face away from the lushness outside the windows). The wells were ‘squared’ off by arranging utility areas around them.

An Adiyta Pande looks over the second children’s room, which is segregated into sleep and work zones by a desk. Here, too, a small footprint necessitated a light colour scheme. The pendants above the stainless-steel bedside tables are Roll & Hill’s Bluff City.

As things stand now, the private lift opens into a little lobby. To give privacy to the dining section, which lies straight ahead, RSA created, or perhaps crafted would be a better verb, a screen made of thin horizontal oak slivers skewed at different angles and mounted within vertical members of 6-mm-thick polished steel. The expansive living area, which lies to the right of the lobby, overlooks a verdant public park. This room houses, what we think is, the highlight of the apartment: a patterned floor made up of three varieties of marble. “This is an ode to the art deco history of the building,” discloses Rajiv. “The design uses pieces of three varieties of agglomerate stone to create a 3D effect. I cannot think of any project in which we have done something like this. It’s a strong design statement, and one that cannot be changed easily. But it worked. This is also why the rest of the space has been kept relatively simple.” This patterned floor seamlessly flows through a clear glass partition into a TV/movie room.

The two suites for the children were fitted out in carrara marble, limed oak floor and fumed oak veneers, the material palette kept intentionally light to offset their compactness. In one of these suites, a long carrara ledge runs along the windows, functions as a desk and folds up onto the wall to form the backdrop to the bed. In the other, a study table divides the room into distinct sleep and work zones. In contrast, the two master suites have a darker palette of marbles. Here, fumed oak veneer, teak wood, tobacco brown marble (in one bedroom), yellow travertine (in the other) and accents of black come together to provide distinct work, lounge and sleeping areas. The larger of the two takes advantage of its size by accommodating a walk-in dresser of sorts.

In the second master bedroom, tobacco brown marble on the floor of the sleeping section makes way for teak in the seating area, which showcases Minotti’s Allen sofa. Teak also makes an appearance, this time as wall cladding, near the bed. The pocket behind the bed has been cleverly put to use by creating a small study. Silk curtains screen the windows.

The generously proportioned kitchen is equipped with enough store and utility rooms to ensure that the back-end functions run smoothly. From near the kitchen and in between the two wells, a single flight of walnut wood treads leads to the terrace with its wooden decking, comfortable outdoor furniture (including a bed with its own sun shade), lamps and planters.

When it comes to challenges posed by this assignment, Rajiv picks out the narrow, 3.5-foot-wide corridors created by the two punctures. Absence of windows further added to the sense of claustrophobia. “We focused on lighting as a solution to alleviate this feeling of closeness by using a combination of white and yellow light. The clients could play with it to simulate the time of day.”

The terrace is bordered by flamed-granite ledges, dotted with large planters and fitted with deck flooring. That it is almost in line with the tops of the surrounding rain trees, adds to the beauty of the view. While the pergola-like daybed is from Roda, the sofas, lamp and planters are by Vondom. The central wells that are part of the architecture, have been cordoned off by eight-foot-tall partitions made of seasoned teak.

Which brings us back to the very beginning: attention to detail. “This is what drives me as a person, and the firm as a philosophy. When it comes to furniture, for instance, what’s the point in asking a supplier to present his offering to the client and let them make a selection from a single brand? We believe in scouring the markets to create a curated mix. And it’s time-consuming… the sifting, the downloading, the presentations… sometimes, I miss the old days when we sketched out stuff and had things made.”

But all the hard work has definitely paid off in this case. The clients, who were aggressively scouting for a larger space earlier, say it will be a while before they start their quest again! And if that isn’t a vindication of RSA’s work ethics, what is?


To spatially reconfigure the apartment in an efficient manner and ensure that every room was well taken care of in terms of natural light and ventilation. Then, to layer the space using a fresh, bright and contemporary palette of materials.


Flooring Yellow travertine (master bedroom 1), tobacco brown marble (master bedroom 2), Pre-engineered limed oak (children’s rooms) and agglomerate stone (living room) Walls Stone, wood and paint Furniture Sourced from Cassina, Matteograssi, Zanotta, BnB Italia and Living Divani, amongst many others Lighting Sourced from Roll & Hill, Light Years, Flos, Yamagiwa and Wastberg, amongst many others


Project Mumbai Penthouse 3 Location Wadala Area 3,500 sq ft (apartment) + 2,000 sq ft (terrace) Principal designer Rajiv Saini Design team Lubna Shujatali and Kiraan Aggarwal


Some more images…