Shirt-sleeve Design

Using strategic infusions of gentle hues and striking patterns, MuseLab celebrates the structural site features of Bombay Shirt Company’s 4,000-square-foot office in Mumbai.

Text: Rupali Sebastian
Photographs: Suleiman Merchant, courtesy MuseLab


When your heart is in the right place, success is bound to follow. So it was with this office, a workspace for young entrepreneur Akshay Narvekar and his Bombay Shirt Company (BSC), which was seeded in the simple idea of creating a happy environment for the team, something that would replace Monday Blues with Monday ooohs! Mumbai-based design studio MuseLab’s principal architects Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani’s reaction to the 4,000-square-foot site at Mafatlal Mills in central Mumbai was one of astonishment.

The central part of the office is designed along the lines of a living room, familiar and welcoming. The presence of greens add a dimension of comfort to the setting. The grey shell (concrete of the coffered ceiling and distressed walls) is animated through gentle, albeit striking chromatic insertions via hard and soft furnishings.

 “Our jaw dropped on seeing the space and we were more than sure that we wanted to be a part of this process,” they tell us. “The space was a large, gutted volume, 13 feet in height, with a beautiful waffle slab ceiling and an array of gorgeous arched windows along the periphery bringing in tons of natural light throughout the day.”

For team BSC, the move involved a shift from a typical start-up-style basic set-up within which they had operated since the company was established in 2012, to a ‘headquarters’ suitable for a brand on the upswing. But the vision for the new office wasn’t making it a typical office at all. “Akshay had a very clear vision of how he wanted the space to look. He wanted a large and open office, with the vibe of a co-working space sans hierarchy. In addition to this, he wanted a central transformative zone with a library/breakfast bar, a large conference room, a quirky pantry and lots of plants,” says Huzefa, adding that they functioned more as “facilitators/editors” in this project. The company ideologies of honesty in design, transparency in operations and an immense respect for its human resources also informed the design of the new workspace.

The proximity of the desks to the window openings creates workspaces that bask in the glow of natural light.

The spatial programme was set rolling by the idea of pushing the workstations towards the walls with windows. “The distance between the existing windows somehow also helped in creating bays for the desks,” informs Jasem. “Akshay’s cabin and the pantry were assigned the south east and south west corners respectively, while the two phone booths (spaces with more privacy within the open office) in the north east and north west corners bookend the length of the office.” The open central space formed by this articulation houses a conference room and a living room-like setting complete with a ten-foot-long bar which doubles up as a library. The company’s emphasis on transparency was embodied as an open work area with insets of glass partitions that created visually-connected and aurally-isolated pockets.

The arrangement of the windows created bays in which workstations could neatly fit in.

The colour and material palette, too, reflect the spirit of the brand: vibrant, youthful and grounded. A large part of the flooring is lined with a grey cement-coloured tile, while the walls have been given a distressed finish. The waffle-slabbed ceiling was retained, cleaned with a grinder and topped with a coat of sealer. Wooden accents — such as the teakwood frames of the partitions and the workstation tops with a laminate of a lighter wood — temper the industrial feel of the shell. Striking patterns and gentle pastels of the central ‘living room’ decor weave in a thread of interest in the spatial narrative. “The central space has a quirky patterned tile with blue sofas. The bar clad in pink tiles offsets the patterned tiles,” elaborates the duo. “The pantry colour scheme is playful with light greens and greys. Tall area palms in white planters were sprinkled in the office space to complete the palette.” Where lighting is concerned, the dependency on artificial light is minimal thanks to the large windows. All the workstations have been provided with pendant task lights. Suspended lights are seen, again, above the transformative space, the pantry table and in the phone booths. Track lights highlight artwork on the walls in the reception area.

The pantry, with its cheerful palette of deep blue, a shy green, wood and grey patterned flooring.

The ceiling design, the architects tell us, was the most challenging part in the assignment. “It was a melee of services — electrical, HVAC ducts, fire-fighting systems, plumbing lines for sprinklers, light fittings and fixtures, network boosters, amongst other things. We had to ensure that the sanctity of the grid of the coffered slab was retained — and hence we had to design the various layers of services accordingly,” explains Huzefa. “Apart from that,” adds Jasem, “the other challenge was to adays. We missed the deadline by 10 days, but we succeeded.” Both the challenges were overcome thanks to the quick decision-making by the client, and a great team of designers and contractors. In fact, therein lay a lesson for the principals at MuseLab. “Projects can be completed in unimaginable timelines provided the client has a clear vision, and the architect and contractor are able to execute that vision crisply,” declares the duo. “We love the vibe of the space. It is an office we would love to go to every day.”

To create a happy workspace, one that people would want to come back to on a Monday morning.

Floor: Laminated flooring (conference rooms and cabins) and full-body vitrified tiles (rest of the space) and vitrified printed tiles
Walls Ceramic tiles and distressed paint
Ceiling Sealer on the existing waffle slab
Partitions Teakwood and clear and toughened glass

Project: Office for Bombay Shirt Company
Location: Mumbai
Area: 4,000 sq ft
Principal architects: Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani
Design team: Aishwarya Lakhani and Mariyam Pardawala
Agencies involved: Impact Interiors, Yasmin Airconditioners, Lightecture, GoodLuck Glass, Sajavat Inc, Squarefoot and Saibaba Tiles