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Roped with a Twist Ottoman by Desi Jugaad

Creative Entrepreneurs Shine In India

Creative, quirky and classy 2016 is all about innovative minds.

From once being dominated by big-box retailers the home décor scene in India is undergoing a serious change with few creative minds leading the charge. As The Inside Track Celebrates its 10th Anniversary, we present you with a list of best creative entrepreneurs and their brands which have created a buzz in the décor industry.

 Desi Jugaad

The idea of ‘jugaad’ highly ingenious re-use or re-purposing of ordinary, everyday items into useful products has long threatened to become a trait ubiquitous to India. Candid street photography by travellers exposes this truth with regular frequency.

Guess then, it is the spirit of jugaad itself which makes entrepreneurs in the country take up this impluse and transform it into an art form! Owning the old crude upcycling trend and giving it expert finishes of colour, texture and multiplicity of use, taking it from the low-end of aesthetic scale to the chic point.

Desi Jugaad: House of orange chest upcycled from set of old drawers
Desi Jugaad: House of orange chest upcycled from set of old drawers

Desi Jugaad, born in 2015, is a resident of this realm. The team is perennially inspired by the local spirit of jugaad, blending it with a globally-relevant capability at transforming the idea into visually stunning, professionally-polished products. The firm’s collections of lamps, furniture pieces, pouffes, ottomans, framed mirrors, storage chests, stools, clocks, magnetic boards, and photo frames, all belong to the earthy, distinctly-Indian-motifs design trend that took over popular consciousness in the country a decade ago.

It has, in fact, become a market that is difficult to stand out in. Desi Jugaad does so by sticking religiously to its core idea, and joining it in happy matrimony with delectable patterns – think floral, fish, birds, tartan, paisley, chevron, and more. It is a deft game of balance they play, thankfully really well!

A great example here is the ‘Roped with a Twist Ottoman’, created out of old tyres and wrapped in a tight jute sari, now a piece so fashionable it is easy to forget where it came from. The ‘Wok The Talk Stool’ and the ‘Balti Stool’ highlight the team’s talent with visualising basic-shaped regular home items as having more purpose than intended. Throw in high-sheen bold colours, slickly-polished base materials, and a great ergonomic manoeuvre, and voila!

Beyond the environment-friendliness of the upcycling, Desi Jugaad products’ colour scheme is a stand-out. The schemes celebrate vibrancy and hue-specific psychological benefits at home settings. So the ‘House Of Orange Chest Upcycled’ is a mellow drippy orange, pink and cream, a perfect bedside companion to de-stress with. Or the old paint-brush lamp, the bristles still soaked in different oily paints, shooting out wisps of whimsical rays that can perk up any corner of a home or store.

While its colourful, patterned upholstery-fitted pieces are the epitome of quiet elegance, its upcycled metal creations stand strong without falling over on that precarious edge – products created out of greasy old metal parts. Take, ‘Motor Away – Floor Lamp’ – “with the headlight aesthetically amalgamated with the body of a bicycle, adjustable height, a speedometer and a bell that goes ‘Tring Tring’”. It is a fantastic piece that showcases the team’s vision with restorative design as well as its keen eye for aesthetics.

Desi Jugaad creates original products sure, but it also offers to restore old furniture items, or even make-over segments of a home.

Its motto, after all, is ‘Restore. Reuse. Re-love.’

Desi Jugaad is a perfect playing ground for fashion merchandiser, Kritika Gattani, and former IT research analyst and permanent jugaadu-expert, Ishita Gupta. Together they channel a mutual love for fabrics and colours in a handcrafted universe, along with a fond belief in ‘yesterday’ – “What we see is what we can relate to hence we can proudly say, Desi Jugaad has been conceptualised from yesterday.”


Amidst the international community-based bonhomie of Auroville in Pondicherry thrives Light-Fish, a firm that aims to “lead sustainable design in India”.

Started by Samvit Blass and his brother Rishi in 2009, the team works across a fluid work portfolio that mainly includes product design (with a heavy tilt towards lighting products, including street lighting) and product animation, though the team is always up for “anything else that might come up while running a company.”

Light Glows collection by Light-Fish
Light Glows collection by Light-Fish

In its creative process, Light-Fish channels an almost spiritual reverence to substance, running an idea through exhaustive sketching and 3D modelling work, before refining it further through rendering and prototype-building (with a special talent for glass and metal finishing). The team’s core focus is on building highly-functional and environment-friendly products, with the L-F lightning collection being the firm’s representative product line.

Blass’ “love, peace and design” life motto permeates the demeanour of the firm he helped found. His life journey has spanned Pondicherry (Auroville), Boston (the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in pursuit of a degree in Industrial Design), Shanghai and Mumbai (at both places as teacher of Design at Raffles University), and back to Auroville (where Light-Fish moved to from Mumbai in 2010).

The Geeks collection by Light-Fish
The Geeks collection by Light-Fish

Co-founder Rishi heads the Kamataru Forest Project under the aegis of the firm, helping supply wood sourced only from naturally fallen trees to be used to create the products. Bengaluru-based Vyom, a furniture concern begun by another great believer in sustainable local design, Deepak Johhari, partners Light-Fish in the creation of furniture pieces strong both in make and contemporary minimalist aesthetics (cue ‘Flamingo’ chairs).

Light-Fish’s method is best exemplified by ‘The Geeks’ and ‘The Cones’ lamp collections. Crafted out of (acacia) wood and aluminium, and fitted with high-efficiency LED bulbs, the lamps effuse a simple but sturdy aura that can find a place on a work table as well as a party wall.

Like the firm, the lamps seem to have come alive through an amiable alchemy of calm but sharply-detailed design sensibilities. They stick to tall or stout conical forms, with the hinges across which they bend to the user’s command. The wood’s gradient has been polished even, but it retains its natural etchings, curiously according the lamps a disciplined, clean-lined look.

The Cones collection by Light-Fish
The Cones collection by Light-Fish

For whimsy, approach ‘The Grappa Collection’ – populated by aluminium-corked upcycled wine bottles, now exuding diffused, mysterious streams of light. The elegance of this collection is centred on the even monochromatic hues of the lamps, their shiny smooth finish setting them apart from cruder versions of used-bottle lights.

Light-Fish expresses its appreciation of layered design through aluminium-acrylic-and stainless steel marvels created under its ‘Metal Art’ collection. The deceptively slender, nature-inspired designs are held together by design genius (and interlocks), as opposed to adhesive or screws.

Light-Fish, with its fun fish logo seemingly inspired by a happy Coelacanth, wants to be a force for good design. And it is delivering on its promise, brilliantly!

Sylvn Studio

Modern homes today often wish to include environmentally sustainable elements in their design, both foundationally and as part of the interiors. This green revolution has been such a solid architectural and design trend that it has come to define the practices of entire firms, and some very dedicated professionals the world over.

One such professional is Mumbai-based Bandana Jain, alumnus of Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, and the owner of Sylvn Studio, which specialises in producing earth-friendly home décor and furniture items crafted out of recycled materials.

Grille Wall Sconce by Sylvn Studio
Grille Wall Sconce by Sylvn Studio

Jain’s impressive journey began from her own home. “After a lot of experimentation with designs and colours, I was able to create a beautiful unique look for my lounge. The appreciation that I received, inspired me to take it up on a bigger scale and this became the root of Sylvn Studio,” she stated in an interview.

Sylvn Studio’s latest addition to its impressive repertoire of handcrafted lamps is the ‘Stellar Wall Sconce’ collection, comprised of four pieces that are in true style, inspired by nature.

The lamps – Constellation, Estrella, Galaxy, and Grille – are typical totems of Sylvn Studio’s design style. When looked at closely, they give off an impression of being rough-hewn, but when we pull back and flick the switch on, they morph into little lakes of elegant diffused light. These pieces are subtly glamourous enough to be on the walls of a lounge or a villa with a pool. But they also sport a proud earthiness that is reminiscent of a hippie commune, or a stall at a flea market.

Sylvn Studio is indeed proud of this multifarious character of this collection. The shapes and the forms of the lamps, all rectangular shells and brown in colour, are generally inspired by the cosmos. ‘Constellation’ is just what the name suggests – a happy collection of stars that emanate light. Estrella (the Spanish word for ‘star’) is seemingly born out of this constellation – with the stars now bigger and somewhat afloat, and wedged between semi-circular discs on the two longer ends.

These discs come full circle in ‘Galaxy’, whose highly textured face apes the concentric circles of the Milky Way, and all other universes we don’t know about. ‘Grille’ seems to be hinting at something fundamental, something cellular -it is composed of a tight network of thin horizontal bands with wavy details between them, laid out like the grids of a brick wall.

Like in the cosmos itself, all these lamp pieces are stand-alone show-stoppers, but deep inside are borne out of each other, or formed when some of their parts amalgamated. You will find them still holding parts of each other within their forms. “It’s rough, it’s uneven, just like nature,” the teams re-iterates on the collection’s page.

Galaxy Wall Sconce by Sylvn Studio
Galaxy Wall Sconce by Sylvn Studio

The beauty of collections like the ‘Stellar Wall Sconce’ is in their talent for converting basic geometry we see almost everywhere into something special. These lamps do what lamps should ideally do, let just enough light to pass though, and create some drama on the walls!

It is all also quite unsurprising, considering that Sylvn Studio is already an old hand at creating statement lamps. The start-up’s recycled décor collection features lamps that hold up, rather than hide, bulbs with great pride. The shades are more wreath (‘Fringe Collection’) or base (‘Faravahar’) than just dull encasings.

What the firm does is in effect ‘manoeuvre design’ – using natural material, shapes, light, and shadow, and smartly moulding them into attractive props that are chic and earthy at the same time.

The Retyrement Plan

Mumbai-based entrepreneur Anu Tandon Vieira is a fan of the works of legendary Catalan artist, Antoni Gaudí. It is an unsurprising point of inspiration for her, given the preponderance of colour and the force of original, nature-inspired vision that defined Gaudí’s architectural creations In Barcelona. Vieira, passionate about sustainability and on a mission to narrow the boundaries of what we deem as ‘waste’, works her passion through her venture, The Retyrement Plan.

The firm’s business statement mentions repurposing junk from the “urban jungle” and transforming them into weather-tough, colourful décor items. A major part of this junk raw material, so to speak, are discarded automobile tyres. These tough rubber rigs become the base of the designs that the firm realises. They are cleaned and given a solid woven-cane covering before being draped over by colour-soaked, detailed ‘ropes’ created out of discarded cloth scraps sourced from looms in Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as from plastic wrapping material that is considered factory waste.

The Retyrement Plan: Discarded automobile tyres turn into beautiful seaters
The Retyrement Plan: Discarded automobile tyres turn into beautiful seaters

The shape of the tyres naturally lend themselves to cushions, pouffes, ottomans, low-seating upholstery, and even cosy seats for house-pets. And though The Retyrement Plan’s product line is not limited to them, they sure have become emblematic of the firm.

The sturdy rope binding of the products is reminiscent of the rough weave of the traditional Indian ‘khatiya’. While the recycled provenance of the materials accords the final products greater respectability, their overall charm is not just about that. Their careful finish and pleasant aesthetics mean that they can effectively fit into multiple interior schemes, and not just at sustainable homes and stores. Their long-lasting viability and weather-proof character elevate their charm further.

Aside from seaters, the brand also creates swings and hammocks, magazine-holders, and lamp-shades out of the same whimsically-planned ropes of cloth and plastic.

The Retyrement Plan: The sturdy rope binding of the products is reminiscent of the rough weave of the traditional Indian ‘khatiya’
The Retyrement Plan: The sturdy rope binding of the products is reminiscent of the rough weave of the traditional Indian ‘khatiya’

The Retyrement Plan’s sustainability model is closely tied to the welfare of the highly-skilled artists who realise the designs. These artists work out of their own home or workshop environments, are given generous timelines, and with the marketing model cutting down any unnecessary overheads, are assured respectable earnings. “I love Mumbai, but the city has a way of just swallowing the highly skilled migrant workers who come here, and transforming them instead into watchmen and liftmen for its urban spaces,” Vieira mentioned in an interview.

The textile design alum from the National Institute of Design also takes a hands-on approach to the training of and interactions with the artists attached to the brand, and even prefers to conduct sales through personal reach-outs rather than from retail store shelves.

Vieira promoted The Retyrement Plan’s vision at the London Design Festival in September 2016 through a showcase of Kastro seaters at the ‘Transformation’ exhibition.


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