The art of it all

A central Mumbai apartment by Kunal Shah Designs strikes the right balance between contemporary and period interiors.


Interior designer Kunal Shah

It’s easy to peg a Kunal Shah project as ‘simple’ or ‘frugal’. To the naked eye, it usually is just that. The interior designer’s ten-year-old body of work however, illustrates otherwise. His purist philosophy, while seemingly strict, actually works towards encouraging diversity of character. Kunal likens it to having a fit body that will ensure you rock just about any look out there. In design terms, he says, “If your shell is strong and sorted, that’s all it takes. I’m getting more and more briefs where the work is simpler, more refined. And then the incidental pieces are not so crucial — mid-century modern, futuristic, it’ll all fall into place.”

The palette for the living area was drawn from the client’s inherited carpet collection.

A case in point is this house in Central Mumbai. Part of a Planet Godrej project, the residence was as cookie-cutter as cosmopolitan real estate properties go. A stark contrast to the couple’s previous dwelling in one of the city’s most stunning art deco buildings. “I knew where they were coming from in terms of lifestyle, the sort of aesthetics, things they’d collected or inherited. The whole idea was to make the transition not feel very, very dislocated,” states Kunal.

Before that, there was the task of melding two apartments (2BHK and 3BHK) into one 2,000-square-foot abode. To begin with, the common wall between the living rooms was axed to create an expansive squarish living cum dining area. A similar process led to two bedrooms forming the master bedroom with its en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet. “The interesting part is that the client is an audiophile. He bought this particular flat because he needed certain proportions in the music room. There’s no video,” he explains, referring to the audio room that’s the summation of a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

Traditional Indian art is central to the home’s unassuming personality. An intricate Mata-ni-Pachedi, a painting of the Mother Goddess by Gujarat’s Rabari community, forms the focal point of the dining cum living area. In the far corner, a Madhubani composition anchors the bar unit.

Skeleton in place, Kunal then decided on a restrained material palette. Wrapping itself along the periphery of the house, Burma teak reigns in beige Italian marble that flows underfoot across all spaces — except the audio room. The former is also seen along window frames and doorways. “I wanted to bring in a period touch without going very old-school. So we did a wooden band along the floor and a high skirting. The marble almost seems inserted into this as a carpet. It automatically takes away from a very modern aesthetic,” Kunal elaborates.

The meditative audio room marches to a different beat; one that was composed in collaboration with a sound engineer. That being said, its interiors still needed to be expressed in the home’s overall design language. What emerged was a “split personality” of sorts. Odd triangular protrusions are masked in linseed oil-polished Burma teak for a seamless appeal; acoustic wall panels take the form of screen-printed abstract artworks on linen fabric stretched across wooden frames. “It was more intellect driven to make it seemingly less engineered. It is one of the most technically sound music rooms in the country — something the sound engineer certified,” he adds.

The study area, part of the master bedroom.

The clients’ keenness on colour was schemed with hues from their inherited carpet collection — burnt olive, cobalt, maroon and cream. This also inspired the art deco, mid-century modern style of furniture which includes mostly custom pieces from antique and colonial furniture store, Camelot at Kemps Corner. Brass and frosted glass lights were specially fabricated by a local manufacturer. During the day, mull-lined chick blinds filter harsh sunlight from the west. A smart fuss-free choice given the huge mass of windows and dust involved.

With the exception of the Gond painting, the little girl’s room was designed in sync with the rest of the space.

Infusing personality into the space is the couple’s inherited and collected art. “I advised them to acquire a Mata-ni-Pachedi by the Rabari community in Gujarat. That’s a focal point of the largest wall in the living room, above the dining area,” says Kunal, stealing a moment to talk about his work with the tribe, and share his appreciation of the narrative cloth paintings depicting the Mother Goddess. Also in the living cum dining room is a Madhubani painting from Bihar, an inherited stone sculpture from Maharashtra and Sanjhi paper art from Mathura. “Compared to most, they’re very proud of Indian crafts. That helped me a lot because I believe in it and found a client who would subscribe to it, and let me do my thing.”

The homeowners’ and designer’s love of Indian art is best witnessed in the kid’s room that is animated with a fairytale interpretation of Gond art. “The artist brought so much to the table… Gond has a lot of muted colours; we wanted something brighter. He wove a whole story around it. Working with a traditional craft has a feel-good element, and you get something really unique,” smiles Kunal. And we can’t help but smile back in agreement.


To combine a 2BHK and 3BHK apartment into one harmonious home with special emphasis on a technically sound music room. The clients’ love and respect for traditional Indian art was subtly woven across spaces.
Flooring Italian marble and Burma teak Ceiling and walls Broken-white paint Furniture Teak wood with linseed oil polish (custom-designed pieces from Camelot, Mumbai)


Location Mumbai Area 2,000 sq ft Principal designer Kunal Shah Design team Riddhi Doshi Project duration Five months


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