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Owner Karishma Bajaj displays her knack for simplifying designs and maximising functionality to open up her 650 sq ft apartment
“I purchased this apartment in 2009 when I wanted to move into a home I could call my own. After growing up in South Bombay, it was important for me to find a place that would be close to my parents’ house, and the regular haunts I’d frequent since I was a child,” explains Karishma Bajaj, when recounting how she bought her apartment in the verdant neighbourhood of Malabar Hill in Mumbai. As the co-founder of Red, Blue & Yellow, she and her team have been renowned for creating unique high-quality contemporary furniture using traditional Indian craftsmanship and woodworking techniques for over two decades. Using solid Burma teak, each piece of furniture tells a quiet story of attention to detail with striking yet simple, pared down design. As we step into her home, we begin to see this design language translated across her apartment, as well.
“I looked at several spaces in the area before choosing this one for the abundance of natural light that seeped through it. The energy in the home was also very magnetic,” she recalls. While the home wasn’t in the best condition when she bought it—with everything from the floors to the plumbing requiring rework—its potential was immediately obvious. She also had to work around a humble floor plan of 650 square feet. “A small space calls for precise planning. I also have a preference for clean and uncluttered design, which helped optimise every bit of space available here.”
Functional flexibility and maximising storage were the starting points for Bajaj’s designs, and we see this in the open-plan kitchen that looks into the living room. The multi-functional countertop here doubles as a dining table or bar, when needed; while all the utilitarian bits in the space (such as the washing machine) are concealed within the inner side. “This makes everything perfectly accessible, while still staying hidden when not needed,” Bajaj says. She also points to the sofa in the living room. “This pulls out into a double bed that comfortably accommodates guests when required. It’s this duality of purpose that I’ve used to maximise space in every room.”
Reworking the layout of the home also allowed her to create room for designs that didn’t exist in the original floor plan. One of the first changes she decided to make was to convert the only bathroom in the apartment into two separate spaces—an ensuite to the master bedroom and a powder room. And, what was the original area for the kitchen now houses the study.
“The pandemic brought with it the need to carve out a dedicated work-from-home space. So, I used a fluted glass screen to demarcate the study without losing any light or a general sense of openness in the rest of the home. While this area was part of the living room, it’s now the perfect at-home office where I get sucked into long Zoom calls!” It’s also her favourite place in the house, where everything has a designated spot—making it easier to find documents and work efficiently.
The monochrome accents in the living room— from the black-and-white art to the light fixtures—echo across in the kitchen where a checkered tile backsplash is paired with a diagonally striped floor. For the rest of the home, except the bedroom, Bajaj chose a white terrazzo floor for its simplicity and durability. To add warmth in the master bedroom, she used solid wood for the flooring to offset the neutral-toned linens and upholstery. A built-in full-length sliding wardrobe, large side tables with storage and a tall chest of drawers provide additional space for all her belongings.
As one would expect, the apartment is filled with handcrafted furniture pieces from Bajaj’s store, Red, Blue & Yellow. In the living room, the large ‘Paradigm’ coffee table was chosen for its glass top that offers ample space without looking bulky. A nest of tables stacked neatly serves as a clever trick for more tabletop space when entertaining.
Bajaj also stresses the importance of choosing quality wood for a furniture piece’s longevity. “These are legacy purchases which future generations will cherish. Most of the wood that is available today is substandard…and sometimes is not even wood! Poor quality wood will warp or attract borers,” she warns.
Instead, she advises buying pieces that will adapt to most interior styles. “You won’t feel the need to change your furniture every time you renovate. And, never over-customise something for a space available in one specific house if you’re likely to be moving homes often. Invest in a good sofa bed if you live in a compact apartment—something that is perfect for entertaining but also generous and comfortable as a guest bed,” she muses.
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