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What design lessons have we learnt from two years in lockdown?

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It is already a month into 2022, yet many of us are still reeling from the sudden halt 2020 brought to our lives that continues in a different form. While we pivoted and adapted to the new normal, it hasn’t been an easy ride. With the pandemic still ongoing, we look back at past two years of surviving lockdowns, being homebound, setting up WFH, and spending more time indoors than ever before. We asked several professionals to tell us about their design journey during the past two years.
 

NEW PATHS

For architect and new mother Aparna Miten Patel, March 2020 marked the beginning of a new phase in her life. She’d welcomed a baby boy right at the onset of the pandemic, and needed to make certain changes to her room for the new member. “We added a crib, some new furniture, and a traditional Gujarati swing made of wood and cloth called ghodiyu in our room for the baby,” she reveals. Living in a joint family in Surat with four generations under one roof meant a lockdown filled with love and support that helped her a great deal with her newborn. “Having a baby during the pandemic was overwhelming but my family came to my rescue. I’ve certainly bonded more with them and my home during the last two years. Since we couldn’t step out, my favourite spot became my backyard where I would sit under a mango tree in the evenings to get some fresh air and some peace and solitude,” Patel adds.

Celebrity interior designer Rupin Suchak who has extensively worked on designing film sets, moved to decorating homes during the pandemic. He says, “The pandemic in a way opened a new discipline for our company and gave us an opportunity to venture and spread our wings in the field of interior designing for homes. The production design on the other hand, shut down completely as film shoots and the set design work was reduced dramatically. 

A bedroom with large windows

Set designer Rupin Suchak moved to designing homes during the pandemic and successfully completed projects for leading Bollywood celebrities. Image courtesy, Rupin Suchak Design

When one door closed, another opened. This period gave me the time to polish my sense of design in this competitive world. In a way, it has been a boon to improve and work on my design sensibility.” Suchak is currently putting together celebrity home projects of Kangana Ranaut, Aparshakti Khurana, Sunidhi Chauhan, Anubhav Sinha, and recently completed a few projects for Alia Bhatt, Neetu Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

For interior designing firm The KariGhars, led by Abhishek, Aashita and Vinayak Chadha, the pandemic led to them designing prefabricated homes. “These days, no client wants to wait for a long time before moving into their new home with a demand for open floor plans. So we started designing prefab homes in order to cut down on the transportation time and costs while expediting the speed of the homes that have been built. Furthermore, there is also an impulsive demand for home automation amongst clients. Thereby, most home interior designs done by the firm constitute the technological requirement and make the functioning of automated technology seamless,” they add.
 

WORK AND PLAY

In order to accommodate work-from-home policies adopted by offices and colleges, many clients ask for a dedicated space to work or study. Today, interiors need to be more comfortable and cosy so that a family or an individual can spend a long lockdown in their comfort zone. Families also look for entertainment spaces like media rooms where they can sit and relax as a unit, play a board game, or bond over a TV show.
 

A living room with accustomed mural on the wall

Zahabiya Gabajiwal, founder of ZA Works, creates custom murals in homes but the pandemic forced her to pivot as being on-site wasn't possible. Image courtesy, Talib Chitalwala/ZA Works

While most of us were stuck at home, there were few who had to step out for their job. Arati Nair, an HR professional, was one of them. Being in the healthcare sector in 2020, her workplace was a hospital in Gurgaon. In the past two years, she moved cities, changed jobs and redid the decor of her home. “At the beginning of the pandemic, my husband and I were based out of Gurgaon where we lived in a sprawling 3-BHK. We converted one of our bedrooms into a home gym to manage our daily exercise routines. Since I went to the hospital every day, we kept our guest bedroom ready for isolation in case there was a need. We also set up a home office for my husband, and filled our home with indoor plants. We spent a lot of time in the balcony since that was the only outdoor we could access. So from coffee dates to candlelight dinners, we had them all here.” But in August 2021, Nair moved to Mumbai into a cosy 2-BHK. She says, “The overall decor was not compromised even though the transition was from a 2000-sq-ft apartment to an 800-sq-ft one. It, however, demanded that we give the must-haves a priority over the ‘good to have’. Also, since I changed jobs, we needed to accommodate a WFH setup for me too. The dining table now doubles up as my workstation,” she says.

Painting murals and creating art installations that can transform interior spaces is at the heart of what ZA Works does. Reveals Zahabiya Gabajiwala, the founder and principal artist, “Our work primarily requires our team to work on-site physically, but due to the pandemic, this task became difficult. We switched to 

smaller projects, usually on canvas, to sustain ourselves. We roped in clients who wanted us to design and illustrate their wallpapers, decals, etc. As a founder, I had to re-think and re-strategise our operations while ensuring that my team continued to be inspired. We definitely felt the weight of everything that was going on in the world, but the good part is that we didn’t let the pandemic blues take hold of our creative soul. We adapted, experimented, and overcame the crisis, together; unlike most others, I never let go of my team.”

Looking at design changes that the pandemic influenced due to the lockdowns, Rohit Suraj, founder and CEO of interior designing firm Urban Zen, says, “The pandemic has had a lot of people look inwards, reminisce about the past and connect with their childhood. The trend is vernacular design reinterpreted as a hybrid model using modern materials. Open-air family spaces like interior courtyards and indoor gardens and greenery are certainly playing a larger role in design than they did a few years ago.”

While we wait for the disruptions to end, there is no denying that the pandemic gave us a few good design lessons that have made our homes a more beautiful sanctuary.

 

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