Celebrated interior designer Gauri Khan, who will turn mentor to those who wish to learn about dressing up spaces this month, claims her love for her profession is not a vanity project.
Her interest in arts during school and college culminated in her becoming one of India’s leading designers. So naturally, the wife of Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan is unwilling to be classified as an ‘accidental interior designer’.
“I was heading in this direction all my life. Being an interior designer wasn’t some accident because there was a lot of thought behind it… Design and design curation, I felt, came naturally to me,” said Khan in an interview with Gulf News.
On May 26, her virtual course on ‘The Gateway To Interior Design’ will go live. Khan, who has designed the homes of A-listers like Ranbir Kapoor and Karan Johar, claims her course will help all those who are keen to have a deeper understanding on how to spruce up their spaces without the help of a professional.
Excerpts from an interview, which was strictly limited to interior design questions, where she talks about her latest venture, her love for travel, and her artistic sensibilities …
You are a self-taught designer, so do you believe that designing can be learned or is it a skill that you need to be born with?
Design is for everyone and it’s unfair to say it’s limited. There is no limit to design and my masterclass is open to anyone who wants to know about it. But you need to have a passion for design and for creating beautiful spaces or experiences with products. While some people are born with a knack for design, it doesn’t mean that you can’t pick it up. With designing, it’s important to be disciplined, resourceful and have that constant focus. And remember, we are not talking about taking up interior design professionally here. So, nobody can just get up one day and become a designer. But when I say ‘design is for everyone’, it means this [masterclass] is for those people in homes who can’t afford designers or professionals but are keen to make a beautiful home that’s cosy and inviting. All I am saying is that you don’t need to necessarily hire someone professional. For instance, if you like neutrals or reds, we can tell you how to go about it.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
A: Through the years, I started with spaces that were all about glamour and OTT [over the top]. When I was younger, I loved bright colours and bling. But, as you grow older you retire towards neutral shades and calmer spaces. You begin leaning toward plants and organic or sustainable materials and that’s what attracts me more at this stage of my life.
Design trends are always changing and as you grow older, your design sensibilities evolve with time. I am growing every year. When you go to the Milan [Furniture] Fair, you will see more trends, colours, and styles. I like to imbibe all that in my current projects.
You are also well-travelled, and you are acquainted with the architecture around the world. Do you bring them into the spaces you design?
Absolutely. Travel is one of the key elements which helps you create new spaces. I tend to imbibe everything around me when I am travelling. I take it all in and when I come back to my country, I utilise whatever I have observed during my travels. Being well-travelled and having exposure to different types of architecture has helped me tremendously. I capture it in my thoughts and in my head… I love to capture the ideas from the West and use it in my country. It’s a huge plus if you can travel to different countries. It adds to every single project you take up … My designs are always a blend of what you have in your country and elements which I have picked up when I travel.
The pandemic has pushed us towards virtual classrooms. Do you think the world has shrunk and masterclasses like the one you plan is the way forward?
A: Yes, 100 per cent. Virtual classrooms and masterclasses were a great way to learn, especially during our lockdown times. They helped us use our time in a correct manner even though we were at home. It’s now become a lifestyle. If you need to get inspired and or follow a certain course, such online classes and courses helped you get inspired. There are huge pluses to any digital platform learning.
What were your thoughts when the masterclass was pitched to you, and do you consider yourself a great teacher?
This project is informative. I am not calling myself a great teacher, but I think I am a great informer. I will be giving you lots of information that I have seen and imbibed from different travels. Try to take it all in as I am giving out all that I have within me and sharing it with the world.
You have worked with celebrity clients all over the world … What’s your process like?
Firstly, I understand what my clients really want because eventually they are the ones who are going to be living in that space. I always take down points about what they want and then try to mould them into my design sensibility. But the clients must be happy with what I give them. I can’t change their thought process. If they want a certain modern design, I work with that. You should never try to force your design sensibility onto their heads. I give them my concepts based on what they like and I love to collaborate on that level. At the end of the day, I should be happy with my design sensibilities, and they should be happy with their home.
What kind of a design moment are we having right now in India?
The design sensibility of those in India is very different from the West. There’s no question about it. Our homes are different from the West. For instance, when I travel to LA [Los Angeles], the homes there are minimalistic and follow straight lines. There’s a lot of glass because of the weather and the seaside. It’s all larger homes done up in neutral tones. But when it comes to England or France, you see loads of traditional homes, old buildings, and their interiors reflect that. They have not changed over time. Each country has its own pulse and strengths in design.
Would you describe yourself as an accidental designer?
A I have always been inclined towards arts and crafts. I had done my Master of Arts in college. I have always been interested in charcoal and graphic designing. All of that is connected to interiors. I have always been fascinated by colour schemes and palettes too. All those years doing arts in school and college along with gathering knowledge have really paid off. I am an artist myself and I love to spend time sketching. I have been doing this for more than a decade, actually it’s been two decades. I was heading in this direction all my life.
So this is no vanity project …
When you are designing somebody else, you should know who the end-user of that project is. You can’t design a restaurant with materials that are not hardy or sustainable … Practical knowledge in design is important
2. Paintings and artworks
3. Chandeliers- small or big
How to be a part of the online course:
Go online to the official website of The Designers Class and enrol into Gauri Khan’s interior design course, which goes live on May 26. Courses, depending on the modules you choose, range from Dh130 to Dh480.
A: I’ve always found happiness in something creative. Design as a concept has fascinated me and education is also something that I have been passionate about. I thought for a long time that India needed to radically change its educational structure, which has finally happened now with the NEP [National Education Policy] coming into play.
For a long time, I’ve been researching the idea of a design institute, but traditionally it had to be a brick and mortar structure and according to me brick and mortar has its limitations in the amount of people you can add value to. In the last couple of years, however, the world has drastically changed. As is common knowledge, the willingness and acceptance for online education has grown exponentially. Through our surveys, we realised that there are plenty of platforms catering to traditional forms of education in the online world, but no one doing anything in design, while the issues in design education were larger. We also realised that design as a career choice is viewed differently today than it was a decade ago. Today design is a legitimate career choice with good earning opportunities.
Q: What are your own metrics and criteria that you use to curate celebrity mentors for the platform?
A: We were keen to bring onboard industry stalwarts and those who shattered glass ceilings and redefined the world of design. We wanted people who had the gumption to set out on uncharted paths and have something to teach. They can provide students with perspectives that no university or traditional academic system can. The second criterion was the designer’s willingness and enthusiasm to teach and to give back to design societies that help them grow into who they are today. All the faculty members we have onboard currently were enthusiastic about teaching. They were actively involved in the process of building the courses, right from the get-go. The third criterion was the aspirational value of the faculty that we had onboard. The one challenge that the design world has constantly faced is the perceived inconsistency of income. This inconsistency doesn’t actually exist anymore, but the perception of it needs to change at a much quicker rate. An aspirational person has the charisma to convince you to take a chance on yourself.