The Question of Identity In Indian Interiors.

India, a land of diversity and assimilation, a land of continuity and change, of tradition and innovations is a mirror of ancient culture as well as a major society of the modern world. The climate, topography, local customs and traditions, eating habits, dressing styles, languages, festivals, rituals, lifestyle as well as architecture, interiors, arts and crafts are distinctly varied in different regions of our country. But these variations beautifully weave together making one exquisite carpet called INDIA.

India is a place where all of its past is still alive and the people here have embraced the contemporary with as much ease as they follow its eclectic traditions. Our cultural heritage prove to be everlasting sources of inspiration to Interior designers who attempt to embody identity and meaning in their design.

But in recent times homogenization of images, designs and looks have resulted into the concept of GLOBAL STYLE. Imitation of the west, negligence of local climate and culture, an increase in the standard of living and the desire to be a part of the generic world culture has caused the loss of stylistic variations. Globalization has made the world a smaller place to live in, but at what cost? On one hand where easier means of communication and travel and improved access to information technology have facilitated a greater exchange of ideas there has also been a constant diminution in diversity amongst varied countries. We now accept and adapt to the foreign obliviously.

Today the world of interiors is that of standardization, mass production and prefabrication, where individual identity and aspirations are overlooked. Prior to the Modern movement in design each house, each interior space, each element narrated its own story. Personalization was clearly evident right from tiniest detail, to the most modest element and to the absolute space. It was possible to look at an interior space and identify which region or which culture it belonged to. One could just glance at a house and easily distinguish it, as a Parsi house from Navsari with its squat wooden furniture and mild colors or a pol house from Ahmedabad with intricate wood carvings adorning its interior columns, doors and windows. We have since centuries integrated craft and technology together to achieve unique results. But with the misunderstood notion of global appeal within the mass, personal spaces are duplicated today by use of the identical pieces of furniture elements, light fixtures, window fittings and so on. In what manner is a contemporary -house in Mumbai any different than the one in Chennai, Delhi or Calcutta? Why do we allow our homes and our offices to be cloned? Against this wave of standardization there are professional interior designers who are constantly striving to create spaces which in their totality belong to their time and place.

Interior design is often misunderstood as an act of decoration, or an act of simply beautifying the space. But in practice it is much more than an act of assembling various components together. The challenges are far greater than merely, getting the furniture layout right in place, deciding the colors which will adorn the walls or choosing an attractive light fixture. Instead a designer is proficient to transform into reality the fancies of one’s imagination. A space is a shell for us to dwell in, it should be a reflection of our persona, a manifestation of the traits of our environment and an extravagance of spatial experiences. And hence interior designers consider it their responsibility to create spaces which mirror the client’s milieu and illustrate their relevance to the context and culture they belong to. Being trained professionals they perceive the interiors in response to its architecture, create a concept which compliments the user’s aspirations and integrate the diverse aspects of lighting, plumbing, air conditioning, furniture, colors, texture, materials and graphics together to achieve a holistic expression.

Somehow India surprisingly is able to retain the balance between mechanization and customization of elements. Population explosion in the field of outsourcing, cheap and easily available labor, presence of skilled craftsmen and an eye for arts among people has turned out to be a boon for custom made designs. In India where on one hand industries aim at gaining larger output with minimum given time and labor, immense time and efforts are put in by master craftsmen, weavers, potters, painters and sculptors to create exquisite pieces of art and custom made design elements like doors and window fittings, light fixtures, furniture and other accessories which can lend the designed space a unique identity and character.

The crafts men in India have inherited their skills through ages and the field of interior design aims at integrating, assimilating, innovating their rich knowledge to suit and adapt to the contemporary styles. Where THE IMPORTED is placed on a high pedestal and the local beauty and genius is ignored, this process becomes inevitable because in the absence of this transformation the future will witness the death of the hand skilled crafts.

Indian interior design today is a built expression between the global language and the local culture, between the place and its past and the constantly changing and emerging trends of the 21st century. We stand at the crossroads in time where the future visage of Indian Interior design will rely on the decisions we make in the present time. As for the designers like us, the quest for identity will never cease!

About Author

Preshita Shah Gupta (B.Des) the founder of The Design Chapel is an alumini of the Centre of Environmental Planning and Technology, (C.E.P.T University), Ahmedabad. She graduated from the Faculty of Design (FID) with a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Architecture and was awarded the Vastu Sh­­­­­ilpa Foundation Award  for the best graduating student from the University. She was also awarded the Baden- Wuttemburg Scholarship to study design at the Hochschule Fur Technik (HFT), University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart, Germany.

The Design Chapel is a multidisciplinary design studio established in 2014 and which creates inspired works in the fields of Interior Design, Architecture and Art. The motto of their design practice is to create and curate bespoke spaces which touch, move and inspire its occupants.

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