" An exclusive interview with the brains behind the creative design studio studioHAUS & the design brand KOY, Kunaal Kyhaan Seolekar. The designer talks to us about both his ventures and how they have evolved with time." - Editor
For our readers, could you tell us about studioHAUS, its philosophy and approach to design?Especially, could you guide us through your own design process?
Our studio is a melting pot, a passionate team of designers, architects and craftsmen who collaborate with artists, experts and master-craftsmen from around the world to create meaningful spaces for our clients. The power to influence someone’s lifestyle and provide them with objects that emotionally stir is probably the most important thing to me. Our tailored experiences affect the senses in a multitude of ways from furniture and art to emotion and interaction with an innovative approach.
The design process starts with creating moodboards, translating them for my team’s working using hand rendering, computer aided models to play with scales and design elements, simultaneously work on material library and then finally present the unified concept for the client to experience their space.
After completing architectural design from Parsons, why did you decide to come back and settle down in India?
At Parson’s, one requires to work with tight deadlines yet generate quality content. My creative juices were overflowing with each passing semester, sketch books full of designs that needed to be let loose. By the end, I knew I had to have my independent practice to be able to execute them with a free hand. This vision to create things that bring people joy and confidence and to be admired for my own confidence, uniqueness, creativity and expression overtook all other.
Infact, the decision to be in India was the easiest one. My design draws from the country’s eclectic heritage combining global influences with traditional materials, techniques and culture. The brands hybrid identity is inspired by this philosophy filled with a world of color, myth and emotion that permeates Indian contemporary aesthetics.
As per our research, it was your bad experience with incompetent contractors that led you to establish studioHAUS into an amalgamation of not just a firm that practices interior architecture, but a community workshop that uses in –house carpenters, fabricators etc. How did you set this up? What challenges did you face initially? How is this incorporated into your projects?
It’s not a bad experience that led to this but more a limitation of external practices. I designed my spaces with creations that spanned multiple materials, skills and hardship levels, it was necessary to have a space that provided me with the tools necessary to visualize my creations before I could get it replicated. By using this method, I had a stronger control on aspects like the final finish of products and the material variations and possibilities of the designs that make up a majority of the KOY family. Setting up a production unit comes with a set of challenges but the rewards of being able to push your creativity to the max and produce what you imagine is next to none.
What is the story behind KOY? What was your motivation behind it?
KOY is my natural progression from an architect to an interior designer and furniture designer. My love of creation and appreciation of our local resources lead me to channelize my energy towards an idea that enabled me to extend my skills to smaller products. When I approach interior design, I address it as a blank canvas that needs to be filled with important strokes of color, all carrying the same amount of importance and weight but blending with each other in harmony to create a bold masterpiece. These bold strokes of color were the motivation that led to KOY, a family of unique, bold pieces that are related.
Tell us about work and life at studioHAUS. What is working at your studio like?
I have created a little world of design around me. A design Studio and showroom housed in a 4000 sq.ft retail space and a production workshop in a 7000 sq.ft Scandinavian style white shed. Mornings commence at the workshop, reviewing all the prototypes being developed for future collections followed by production reports. Then to the studio, where I spend most of my day juggling different elements of business activities.
Having both of them located close to one another, it’s extremely convenient and efficient.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any contemporary architects or designers you look up to?
Inspiration for me comes from simple things around me, mainly through travel. The most significant influence in my design comes from my material exploration visits around india, it is a treasure of hidden jewels. A lot of my design revolves around materiality, I appreciate designers and artists who push boundaries with their creativity with materials. Designers like Leah Ring , Valentin Loellmann, Damian Gernay, Kelly Wearstler, Emma Donnersberg, Faye Toogood and Jacquemus.
Apart from being renowned in the field of interior architecture and design, you are also a part-time actor, if we are correct. How did that happen? Is acting more like hobby or a definitive passion maybe?
My inclination towards art and drama started from my days in school in Kodaikanal. Alongside architecture at Parson’s, I indulged in various acting and theater programs including the Stella Adler Academy of Acting. To keep up with the rhythm I would act in short films for friends and participate in dramas. After moving to India, I began auditioning for various commercials and movies. Initially, I got a lot of modeling work, I appeared in commercials and print ads and acted in two movies, Fireflies was my first role after which I was cast in Fitoor in 2016 where I played an interesting, suave young character. I think most of my dreams revolved around the art space, I always wanted to be in a creative field professionally. So, being creative is what drives me, movies or design, I would like to keep exploring both in any form I can.
What advice would you give emerging architects and designers about setting up their own practice? Dos and Don’ts? When is the right time?
I believe in work satisfaction and being true to yourself. Take pleasure in your work, being creative is extremely satisfying, and more importantly recognizing. I have always created objects that make me feel proud and allow me to create beauty. I don’t think there is a right time, but definitely one needs the right resources and infrastructure to support your creativity.
A: Kunaal Khyaan Seolekar