When Art Becomes the Hero

We put the spotlight on two extremely intelligent designers, Disha Bhavsar and Shivani Ajmera, behind Mumbai-based interior design firm Quirk Studio, who joined forces quite by luck but began designing with passion, diligence and an understated creative streak that is admirable. We take you through the design process of one of their recently completed South Mumbai apartments. By Sindhu Nair

There is an interesting story behind the formation of the Mumbai-based boutique design firm Quirk Studio. Disha Bhavsar and Shivani Ajmera, the creators behind the Studio worked as interior stylist and writer, respectively, with Elle Décor Magazine. The two professionals met, shared their design enthusiasm and style ethos which prompted them to embark on a professional path to create an interior studio, together.

“We were destined to be together,” says Shivani.

Now the Studio has completed 10 years of design practice with numerous accolades to celebrate with projects and experiences. From being the I-Gen 2020 Awards (ITP Group) in the residential category; being in the Forbes Top 30 under 45 Architects and Designers list to being chosen as Jurors for the Dezeen Awards 2023, Quirk Studio and the two designers have made a mark in creating people-centric spaces and environments.

We met the designers at their quaint studio within a residential complex in Bandra, a space that reflects the duo’s restrained design sensibilities.

“It has been extremely gratifying and humbling,” says Shivani Ajmera, reflecting on the 10 years gone by, “We began with no backing in the industry. Our parents were not in the same profession, so we learnt the art of running a design business all by ourselves. Figuring out, falling, failing, coming out of it, and then learning through all this and rising even more strongly, the ten years have been surprising, gratifying, and a humbling experience for us. This journey has also been fulfilling in so many ways; our highs and lows have been truly ours, and that is very satisfying.”

Looking back at that one project, which spiralled the success map for the Studio, Disha says, “About four to five years back, we had few projects like the Office with a View, Fluid House, etc, which took off well and were picked and published in many design magazines. We got noticed and that took us on a trajectory of success.”

We put the focus on one of Quirk Studio’s recently completed residential project – Sea House, located on the 6th floor of a South Mumbai apartment. The Sea House gazes out at the lush green garden lined with tall palm trees and the Arabian Sea beyond while its interiors pay homage to the serene beauty of the outside. The 1500 sq. ft space is home to a young couple who are ardent art lovers and collectors.

“The house was inherited from the clients’ grandparents. The clients did not have a fixed budget but they had a requirement that we spend responsibly to reflect their sensibilities. They wanted a home not a showpiece,” explains Disha, “When a client gives such a brief, we are overjoyed coz it also reflects our choices in décor, minimal and classy.”

The new-age art loving clients had recently embarked on their art journey and wanted their house to reflect this passion.

The living room is a fun symphony of monochromatic textures created through an ivory sofa, a pair of lounge chairs and a marble coffee table from Eter Collective complemented by an eclectic art piece by Bhuwal Prasad.

“They had acquired a captivating, colourful, eclectic, large Bhuwal Prasad and we decided to make this art piece our hero, to spin the design around this work of art,” says Shivani, “We designed everything in a neutral palette to celebrate the art. The walls were simple lime plastered grey, a non-fussy marble for the living room and wooden floors for the bedrooms. In a simple, yet classy canvas we added layers through the artworks and the accessories. Every accessory had a part to play to creating the whole.”

The dining space is bounded by a sleek table supported on two cylindrical stems paired with a classic stripe upholstered chair and signature sketches by Sakti Burman and Krishen Khanna’s, along a wall plate from Fornasetti. The bar console becomes a pause point, made with a fluted stem supporting a black and white textured marble. Right behind it are two paintings by Shamshad Hussain and Bose Krishnamachari.

The master bedroom has a beige bed with a minimalistic linen bed backed with art frames by Art Chain India. However, the ensuite bathroom holds the element of surprise through the magnificent black and white textured countertop.

The interior was created as a backdrop to enjoy the sea views and the greenery while the owners basked in art that elevated the space in quiet, understated luxury.

Luxury is a benchmark that interior designers constantly fall back on to define their spaces. We try to find out what luxury is for the Quirk Studio designers.

“We try to constantly redefine luxury,” she says, “Luxury is not about expensive products, large marble slabs and heavy chandeliers. We have constantly been educating our clients that luxury is being yourself. It is about coming home to be yourself within the most comfortable setting. So, most of the interiors that we take on reflect the clients’ sensibilities with our take on it. What resonates with them and for us that becomes luxury. Creating your haven is luxury. The new generation of homebuyers would rather spend on subtle forms of luxury like a fully automated sound or security system than an opulent sofa. What can be more luxurious yet understated than finding comfort in your own home.”

Before the designers go back to their next project, we ask them to give an advice that they wished they knew at the beginning of their career.

“Anyone getting into this industry needs to understand that this is the most personal job that you will be doing; you need to eat, drink and sleep design, at least during the formative years. Another important lesson to the newcomers that I wish someone told me earlier would be to keep your backend work, the admin work, the contracts etc, in order. This is one advice I wish someone gave us in the beginning of our career. The journey becomes more easier if this is taken care of,” says Shivani.

Disha adds, “Give it your all, for there is no short way to success.”

Photography: Courtesy the designers