Renowned interior designer Gauri Khan, who will become a mentor to those interested in learning more about dressing spaces this month, says her love for her profession is not a vanity project.
Her interest in the arts at school and university led her to become one of India’s leading designers. So naturally, the wife of Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t want to be classified as an ‘accidental interior designer’.
“I’ve been headed in this direction all my life. Being an interior designer wasn’t an accident because there was a lot of thought behind it… Design and design curation, I think, came naturally for me,” Khan said in an interview with Gulf News.
On May 26, his 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, says her course will help anyone who wants to better understand how to spruce up their spaces without the help of a professional.
Excerpts from an interview strictly limited to questions of interior design where she talks about her latest adventure, her love of travel and her artistic sensibility…
Are you a self-taught designer, do you think design can be learned or is it a skill you have 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 learn more. But you must have a passion for design and for creating beautiful spaces or experiences with products. While some people are born with a talent for design, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it. With design, it’s important to be disciplined, resourceful and have that constant focus. And remember, we’re not talking about becoming an interior design professional here. So no one can get up one day and become a designer. But when I say “design is for everyone”, it means that [masterclass] is for people who can’t afford designers or professionals, but want to create a beautiful, comfortable and inviting home. All I’m saying is you don’t necessarily need to hire someone professional. For example, if you like neutrals or reds, we can tell you how to go about it.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your design?
A: Over the years I started with spaces that were all about glam and OTT [over the top]. When I was younger, I loved bright colors and bling. But, as you age, you retreat to neutral tones and quieter spaces. We are starting to turn to plants and organic or sustainable materials and this is what appeals to me the most at this stage of my life.
Design trends are constantly changing and as you age, your design sensibilities change with the times. I grow every year. When you go to Milan [Furniture] Just you will see more trends, colors and styles. I like to soak up all this in my current projects.
You have also traveled a lot and you know the architecture of the whole world. Do you integrate them into the spaces you design?
Absolutely. Travel is one of the key elements that helps you create new spaces. I tend to soak up everything around me when I travel. I take everything and when I return to my country, I use everything I have observed during my travels. Having traveled a lot and being exposed to different types of architecture has helped me tremendously. I capture it in my thoughts and in my head… I like to capture ideas from the West and use them in my country. It’s a huge plus if you can travel to different countries. It adds to every project you take on… My designs are always a mix of what you have in your country and stuff I picked up on my travels.
The pandemic has pushed us towards virtual classes. Do you think the world has shrunk and masterclasses like the one you are planning are the way to go?
A: Yes, 100%. Virtual classes and masterclasses were a great way to learn, especially during our lockdown times. They helped us use our time properly even though we were at home. It has now become a way of life. If you need inspiration and/or take a certain course, these courses and online courses have helped you get inspired. There are huge benefits to any digital platform learning.
What were your thoughts when the masterclass was presented to you, and do you consider yourself an excellent teacher?
This project is instructive. I don’t consider myself a great teacher, but I do think I am a great informant. I will give you a lot of information that I have seen and absorbed on different trips. Try to absorb it all as I give it all away and share it with the world.
You have worked with famous clients all over the world… What is your process?
First of all, I understand what my clients really want, because they are the ones who will end up living in this space. I always jot down dots on what they want and then try to incorporate them into my design sensibility. But the customers 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 impose your sense of design on them. I give them my concepts based on what they like and I like collaborating on that level. Ultimately, I should be happy with my design sensibilities and they should be happy with their home.
What kind of design moment are we having in India right now?
The design sensibility of those in India is very different from the West. there is no doubt. Our homes are different from the West. For example, when I travel to LA [Los Angeles], the houses are minimalist and follow straight lines. There is a lot of glass due to the weather and the seaside. They are all large houses done up in neutral tones. But when it comes to England or France, you see a lot of traditional houses, old buildings and their interiors reflect that. They haven’t changed over time. Each country has its own pulse and design strengths.
Would you describe yourself as an accidental designer?
A I have always had a fondness for arts and crafts. I had done my master of arts in college. I have always been interested in charcoal drawing and graphic design. All this is related to the interiors. I’ve always been fascinated by color schemes and palettes. All those years of doing arts in school and college and gaining knowledge has really paid off. I am an artist myself and I like to spend time drawing. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, in fact it’s been two decades. I’ve been headed in this direction all my life.
So it’s not a vanity project…
When you design someone else, you need to know who the end user of that project is. You cannot design a restaurant with materials that are neither resistant nor durable… Practical design knowledge is important
– Gauri Khan
Here are Gauri Khan’s four best simple tricks to beautify and transform your home:
1. Statement Wallpapers
2. Paintings and works of art
3. Chandeliers – small or large
How to join the online course:
Go online to register for Gauri Khan’s interior design course, which goes live on May 26. The courses, depending on the modules you choose, range from Dh130 to Dh480.
Quick take with Samarth Bajaj, the mastermind behind “The Gateway To Interior Design” course with Gauri Khan:
Q: What gave you this idea and how would you describe the platform?
A: I’ve always found happiness in something creative. Design as a concept fascinated me and education is also something I am passionate about. I have long thought that India needs 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 studied the idea of a design institute, but traditionally it had to be a brick and mortar structure and in my opinion brick and mortar has its limits as to how many of people to whom you can add value. Over the past two years, however, the world has changed dramatically. As is known, the desire and acceptance of online education has grown exponentially. Through our investigations, we realized that there are many platforms catering to traditional forms of education in the online world, but no one is doing anything in the area of design, while the issues around design education were more important. We also realized that design as a career choice is viewed differently today than it was ten years ago. Today, design is a legitimate career choice with good earning opportunities.
Q: What are your own metrics and criteria that you use to select celebrity mentors for the platform?
A: We wanted to involve industry stalwarts and those who have broken glass ceilings and redefined the world of design. We wanted people who had the courage to take uncharted paths and have something to teach. They can offer students perspectives that no traditional university or academic system can. The second criterion was the designer’s willingness and enthusiasm to teach and give back to design companies that help them become who they are today. All of the faculty members we currently have on board were enthusiastic about teaching. They were actively involved in the course building process from the start. The third criterion was the ambitious value of the faculty we had on board. The one challenge the design world has consistently faced is the perceived inconsistency of revenue. This inconsistency no longer really exists, but the perception of it must change at a much faster pace. An ambitious person has the charisma to convince you to try your luck.