Creating the perfect narrative for your home with international interior designer, Charu Gandhi
It’s always inspiring to visit one of London’s most iconic buildings – in this instance, One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge; one of the city’s most expensive real estate buildings – but particularly so when you are going to meet the designer behind it. Charu Gandhi has recently completed one of the apartments, under the name ‘Project White.’
‘Project White’ was designed by Elicyon, the interior design and architectural firm which was started by Gandhi in 2014 and has since gone on to become one of the most respected design firms worldwide with a wide international clientele. We met Gandhi to hear more about the project, and to find out what inspires her creativity.
With an international upbringing that has instilled within her a wealth of knowledge and experiences, Gandhi admits to being inspired by historical references and cultural details, all of which influence her work. “I’m very interested in history,” she explains, “but I’m always realising how little I know!”
That said, Gandhi’s diverse internal file of historical references will often frame the basis of her projects, such as two recent apartments that Elicyon designed in Knightsbridge, using the “lost” River Westbourne – an underground tributary of London’s River Thames – as the inspiration. “We like to create a narrative around our projects,” Gandhi says, “particularly when we are working in a development and therefore don’t know the homeowner or end user. We delve into the narrative – sometimes that’s the history, sometimes that’s the geography, and often it stems from the branding of the client. Each time, we are looking for something evocative. We’re hoping for an emotive response that we can layer on.”
Oftentimes, however, Elicyon know exactly who the end user will be, and pride themselves on serving all tastes. “It really is a marriage of two minds,” Gandhi explains. “We don’t have a ‘look’ as a studio, which is actually one of our strengths, and personally something I’m proud of, because it means we’re very much led by the client’s brief. We spend time seeking out their interests and then we design spaces from there that are entirely unique to their family, their needs, and the way they use their home.”
The client’s brief, as it transpires, is key to every project Elicyon undertakes. “We have an extensive briefing process that’s about getting to know the client,” Gandhi explains, “and of course, we’re always inspired by the space itself. We research how the light flows through the home, the orientation of the rooms, how they are used differently by family members and at what times of the day, for example. Every aspect is considered before we begin – designing a home is often about evoking a feeling.”
She describes the whole process as “intimate,” adding that she and the client “must really get to know each other to make the partnership work.” It has certainly worked at Project White. “It’s a complete labour of love,” Gandhi smiles. “There are lots of unique features that we designed for Project White. For example, when you enter the home, you’re greeted by striking laser-cut black and white flooring, while looking up, there are 16 layers of high gloss lacquer that make up the ceiling – it almost reflects the floor pattern!”
Whilst each Elicyon project is bespoke, Gandhi is still conscious of the current trends in the interiors industry, and reckons that this season’s big interiors trend is “creating spaces for people to come together in our homes,” which stands to reason as we’ve all recently spent so much time apart. “As we move into Autumn, it’s going to be much more about hosting at home with all our friends and family,” she says, adding that “in terms of a product trend, we’re beginning to see and design furniture pieces that have the same tonality, but use different materiality across the piece. For example, the tone might be ivory, with the front [of the piece] upholstered in a boule material, and the back a matte leather of the same colour.”
The events of the past year have influenced a lot of things, interiors included, with the concept of “garden lounges” having become particularly popular. But what is the best way of creating an outdoor sanctuary? “It really comes down to the brief, and how the client is going to spend time in that space,” Gandhi explains. “Installing a temporary structure is the best way to create a secluded space – you can layer with flora and fauna at sitting level to enclose the space further. Lighting is another very important consideration if you’re planning to use the space in the evening – if you have a large garden, lighting a tree, feature wall or structure in the distance helps to draw your eye out and create the feeling of sitting in an indoor-outdoor space. For smaller gardens, balconies or terraces, think about which way the outside doors swing open, to make the best use of the space. We often design the entire indoor-outdoor space as one, so that the outside simply acts as an extension if in.”
For her part, when it comes to her own home, Gandhi is very specific about where she likes to spend time. “My son’s bedroom is my favourite room,” she says, smiling fondly. “It has a lovely forest-inspired wallpaper that’s incredibly calming – we intentionally kept it quite paired back and considered. After spending a busy day designing, I find going in there is like my sanctuary.”
Gandhi has clearly come a long way from the “cliched kid that played with Lego and origami,” although she admits that she is still “evolving.” With several exciting projects on the horizon, she confides that “the joys and challenges of being a designer is that you are never done – it’s wonderful.” Long may that journey continue!