Home Decor, People, Interview | Supreeth Sudhakaran

Beyond Design: Interior Designer Sachin Gupta votes to bring alive vernacular designs

Sachin and Neha believe in the maximalist approach by employing scaled up accessories, complex textures and multiple elements leading to spaces that unfold like grand tapestries.

After setting up Beyond Design around 18 years ago to focus on luxurious, richly layered and elegantly furnished interiors, designer Sachin Gupta brought onboard his partner Neha. Reminiscing about how Beyond Design took shape, Sachin says, “Having started my design career in 1998, I founded Beyond Designs in 2000. I did a project for designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, where they asked me to execute their couture store in Delhi. It gave me the confidence to take up projects of a certain scale and complexity that I was not used to till then. After my marriage to Neha in 2003, I got a work partner as well. Together, we have built the brand Beyond Designs to its current status.”

The Sachin opines that it was the penchant for experimentation, a love of art and antiques, a preference for fusion and an eye for the extraordinary which drew him and Neha to the world or interior décor and furniture design.

In a market that was cluttered with several designers vying for the spot, the foremost necessity was to build a vocabulary that could define them easily to their customers. The result was highly individualistic and exquisitely finished residential projects, many of which were executed for well-known personalities.

Sachin describes his style as an alchemy of disparate styles, genres and materials culminating in iconic environments. These spaces are bound in neutral and enigmatic backgrounds and stand-out foregrounds coming together in harmony. The vibe is predominantly contemporary peppered with ageless aesthetics.

Sachin and Neha believe in the maximalist approach by employing scaled up accessories, complex textures and multiple elements leading to spaces that unfold like grand tapestries. The idea is to truly make ‘more’ seem cool and chic.

Sharing his thoughts, Sachin says, “With such a rich art and design heritage, it would be foolish to go for a minimal look. Moreover, today’s well-travelled customers would want influences from around the globe to enliven their homes. So you will see eclectic influences from around the world, creating new connections with the Indian culture, and merging them with another time and place encouraging an emotional, as well as an aesthetic response in the onlooker."

Since during the interaction, the stress was on Indian designs, we couldn’t help but ask that a lot of homes are now designed using more non-Indian designs and brands. Today, when there is a trend for vocal for local, what can designers do to bring back Indian designs to a common–man’s dream home?

Sachin feels there are no obvious shortcuts. “If we want customers to back Indian brands, we have to pay utmost attention to quality, finishing and smallest details, without taking any short-cuts,” he says adding, “We need to offer international level products. Also the designs must stay true to the contemporary ethos. Today, there are a lot of Indian brands that can stand up to global brands in terms of the high standards they offer. There are modern machinery and technology available to every manufacturer so most of them can confidently produce excellent furniture. So the only way is to keep doing good work and customers will take notice.”

Local Indian craft Design Dekko

Which bring us to one of the biggest challenges of Indian or vernacular design – scarcity of skilled workforce. And due to the pandemic and the resulting exodus of the migrant workers, and crippling of cottage industries, the situation has worsened.

Though Sachin echoes the views “India has been home to a lot of traditional craftsmen, who have moved on to other vocations as there had not been much work for them. Some traditional artisans available do not have the expertise or experience to do fine work for which they were once famed.

However, my experience is that with proper inputs and insistence on quality and finish, they are capable of delivering excellent work. During the pandemic, a lot of them have gone back to the village, but once things get back to normal, when people are able to exercise their buying power and the manufacturing process improves, they will return to work.”

He adds that there exists no thumb-rule to follow. “We go by the aesthetic appeal, and whether we can reinterpret them to suit the contemporary sensibilities. For example, if something is deeply rooted in religion, it can become a bit difficult to adapt it to general consumption. But a lot of folk and mythical art forms lend themselves beautifully to be reimagined for the modern space. We have given a new lease of life to antiques found in remote areas by mounting them on interesting frames.”

But he insists that there are pitfalls one must avoid. “When someone presents Indian / vernacular art in a very Indian or traditional way, it can look too familiar and outdated. Every art form needs to be adapted to the current sensibilities for it to strike a chord with people. It needs to have a freshness and novelty element. So we need to reinterpret it with a modern twist to make it relevant and fit into the modern vocabulary,” he concludes.